Whether you’re an avid royal watcher or can’t name of the Queen of England during a hotly contested round of 30 Seconds, chances are pretty high you’ve heard about the new season of the Netflix series, The Crown. After its surreptitious debut back in 2016, The Crown has been somewhat of a slow burn in terms of popularity amongst the history docu-series genre. To fair, unless you’re vaguely interested in Queen Elizabeth’s early years or the political landscape of post-war Britain, it’s unlikely this series appeared high up on your binge watch list. Until now that is, thanks in most part to the shimmer and shine that is Princess Diana.
The Crown Season 4
Release Date: November 15th 2020
Cast: Oliva Coleman, Emma Corrin, Gillian Anderson, Josh O’Connor
Creator: Peter Morgan
I count myself as fortunate to have grown up in a household that considers royal watching as entertaining as any other highly regarded national past time. A Christmas Day lunch is not complete without watching the Queen’s national address, we’ve popped our own bottles of bubbly for royal weddings and birth announcements alike, and there isn’t a documentary that hasn’t been scrutinised or dissected amongst our dinner table. So it’s no surprise that we successfully binged all 10 episodes of the latest season on release day. The anticipation for The Crown’s new season was at an overall high, due most in part to the introduction of Princess Diana and the subsequent repercussions of her arrival within royal circles. I was excited and a tad nervous to witness the creative imaginings that fill the historically accurate mould of this series but unfortunately I’m sad to say I was left feeling disappointed, more than anything else.
The standout stars of season 4 are without a doubt Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor for their portrayals of Diana and Charles, along with Gillian Anderson who shines as Margaret Thatcher. All I know of Britain’s first female Prime Minister was that her steely resolve gave her nickname ‘The Iron lady’, and that she did not necessarily see eye to eye with the Queen for various reasons. I enjoyed getting to know more about her contribution to history through the eyes of Peter Morgan and Anderson was a spot on casting. The way the series covered her first visit to Balmoral Castle was a real highlight for me (note to self: don’t forget your wellies).
Emma Corrin has finally put to rest the terrible flashbacks I’ve suffered since watching the train-smash performance of Naomi Watts in the bio-pic ‘Diana’. At long last I feel there has been an accurate recreation of a cultural enigma in cinema. Emma not only brings a very close likeness to her role, but the same sense of innocence and naivety that became synonymous with the early years of Diana. She has managed to do what no other actress has done before in portraying the world’s most beloved woman – win our hearts all over again. This is no more evident than in the recent turning off of comments on the Twitter page for the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. Watching Corrin’s performance is bittersweet though, as she will not be returning in season 5 – that honour has been bestowed upon Elizabeth Debicki. It will be interesting to see how the she follows on from such an excellent performance.
Overall, what left me most disappointed is the steady, rushed pace of season 4 and the lack of other key moments in history being featured. I’m not sure if this cautionary stance is because the series is now venturing into historical events so recent, most of us have fresh memories of them in our minds or if they’re in hurry to conclude the series in the revised 6 seasons previously mentioned. The reasons for not covering the wedding of Charles and Diana was flimsy at best (they could’ve stuck with creative license and included some behind closed door scenes on the day), the blatant lack of acknowledging the birth of Prince William (the show is called ‘The Crown’ after all and he will be King one day) and only adding a sprinkling of the Queen’s other two children (yes she did have four of them) meant this season fell short in achieving what it set out to do from the very beginning. The season was owed at least 15 episodes in my opinion, rather than the 10 they produced, to give enough coverage to the variuos mosts of history that occured (Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s wedding was totally overlooked!).
In any case, we now face another long drought before the arrival of season 5 and we’ll have to make do with rewatching some of the royal documentaries to fill in the gaps. One of my personal favourites is the recent documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, which uses the secretly recorded tapes used in the writing of Andrew Morton’s book, ‘Diana: Her Story’ to give a real inside look at the life of the People’s Princess. Be sure to leave any other recommendations in the comments below. While we wait, I guess there’s no better time to practice our curtsies, consume copious amounts of tea and polish our tiaras.