After three seasons of unbound splendor, “The Crown”’s fourth installment brings in a contemporary grit that has caught the attention of new audiences in love with the Diana saga of the House of Windsor.
Introduced to the audience as a plucky young woman (played with grace and devastation by Emma Corrin) with a possible tactical mind (as she uses an excuse of “no other way” to get to another room for a chance encounter with Prince Charles whilst dressed in a body-hugging ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ ballet outfit), the Diana of “The Crown” is much the same as the Diana of Andrew Morton’s seminal work and of tabloid fodder, but this time, she is surrounded by the figures, more sympathetically portrayed after three seasons, originally blamed for her demise.
Young Diana, with her whimsical, country-girl sweaters, is far in style but not in spirit of the whirlwind, compassionate figure she eventually becomes. “The Crown” writer Peter Morgan puts a pivotal second meeting between Diana and Charles after his beloved Uncle Dickie is killed by an IRA terrorist attack at a rural country fair, where a passing Charles, in a swanky Aston Martin convertible, happens upon a painfully adolescently dressed Diana. She offers him the most comforting words of solace about the death of Uncle Dickie, a compassion severely lacking in his own family, and he grows a tender heart for her, as much of the world does later on with her undying kindness to those in strife.
Camilla Shand, the reviled “Rottweiler” (as Diana referred to her in her revealing 1995 “Panorama” interview), introduced in the third season as a comedic, devoted seductress with the gnawing ex Andrew Parker Bowles, takes on the roles of confidante and psychologist to Prince Charles, in addition to her traditional one of mistress.
While die-hard Diana fans have still pledged hatred of Camilla, even with this sympathetic and flattering portrayal by the luminous Emerald Fennell, she is written as one of the proponents of the match, urging Charles to marry the perfect young lady and move on.
In what must have been the most tense and dishiest of real-life scenes, Diana and Camilla go out to lunch, where the naïve Diana is sullen and perplexed by Camilla’s broad and intimate knowledge of Charles, to which Camilla states, “I’m always one for sharing!” There is a deep-abiding sense of an all–too-adult arrangement that the young Diana was never cut out for, even if she were magically complicit.
In a piece by Vanity Fair, royal biographers, including Sally Bedell Smith, were upset by Morgan’s portrayal of an ongoing affair between Charles and Camilla from the engagement through the beginning of the Prince and Princess of Wales’s marriage, saying that in real life, the physical affair had ended with the engagement and did not pick up again until after 1986 when Diana “irreparably broke the marriage.”
Actually true to her portrayal, Camilla, the now Duchess of Cornwall and possible Queen consort, has been reported to be one of the few royals watching “The Crown,” and with great amusement at her character.
While the superb acting and seemingly true-to-life sets are enticing to a viewer—especially a non-royal watcher—to be accepted as a factual portrayal, it must be noted that Morgan is a masterful character writer and that the narrative is all too perfect to be real.