The Crown season four: what really happened and what’s invented for drama?

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Spoilers for the first four episodes of The Crown season four
Last night I started The Crown season four, expecting to watch the first episode. I absolutely loved it and ended up watching four! It’s so trashy in a good way, the costuming and sets are amazing and there’s enough history that you don’t feel guilty binging it. This post covers some plot points that I googled during those episodes. Overall it’s riveting and the performances are excellent, particularly by Olivia Colman and Gillian Anderson. Before this I’d only seen the first two episodes of season one, found it a little stodgy and gave up. I might even go back and watch the rest.

Here are the things I wondered about. I’m not mentioning obviously true historical events, like Mountbatten’s assassination, the Falkland War or Margaret Thatcher’s son’s rescue. (It’s unknown whether she cried in front of The Queen but that’s doubtful!) While I have followed the royals through Kaiser’s posts over the years, I haven’t read royal biographies and am not as informed about royal history as many of you.

Mountbatten’s posthumous letter to Charles telling him to stop seeing Camilla
The Independent reports that there’s no record of Charles ever receiving such a letter from Lord Mountbatten. However Mountbatten was like a father figure to Charles. On The Crown podcast [via The Independent], series creator Peter Morgan defended including the likely nonexistent letter. “What we know is that Mountbatten was really responsible for taking Charles to one side at precisely this point and saying, ‘Look, you know, enough already with playing the field, it’s time you got married and it’s time you provided an heir… I think everything that’s in that letter that Mountbatten writes to Charles is what I really believe, based on everything I’ve read and people I’ve spoken to, that represents his view.”

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Princess Diana’s hunting outing with Prince Philip
Diana Spencer’s willingness to go on an early morning hunting expedition with Prince Philip is shown as a turning point in the family accepting her. She’s charming and helps Philip bag a wounded stag by being the first to spot him and by calling the direction of the wind. Although the “Balmoral test” was real, and did involve outdoor activities, this likely never happened and is an invented scene. Diana did pass The Balmoral test with her easygoing nature and love of the outdoors though. While at Balmoral, Diana stayed with her sister, Jane, and Jane’s husband in a cottage on the estate. Diana’s strict grandmother was an invention.

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Margaret Thatcher’s hunting excursion with The Queen
Where Diana’s upper class upbringing helped her impress the royals at Balmoral, Margaret Thatcher’s working class ambition had her failing the Balmoral Test at ever turn. Thather is useless at parlor games and shows up too early for dinner, breaking royal protocol. Plus she turns up to hunt in a smart suit and pumps, making The Queen take pity on her by lending her a pair of boots. These scenes made Thatcher look sympathetic, like she was being forced to work under rules that were unknown to her. Thatcher and The Queen had an acrimonious relationship and Thatcher really did hate visiting Balmoral, calling it “purgatory.” The hunting trip isn’t known to have happened. Likewise Princess Margaret probably didn’t tell The Prime Minister not to sit in Queen Victoria’s chair, but she did scold one of Prince Charles’ girlfriends for that.

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Diana’s lunch with Camilla
This really did happen! Diana was one of us, she liked to dish the dirt as you know. She talked about the letter Camilla sent her and the lunch where Camilla quizzed her in footage that’s in the Diana: In Her Own Words documentary, now on Netflix. That’s next on my list! Diana did discover that Charles had a bracelet made for Camilla, but she didn’t confront him about it at the wedding dress rehearsal. That scene happened in Charles’ office.

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Princess Anne’s affair with her bodyguard
During a picnic lunch with Princess Anne, The Queen tells Anne that she knows about her affair with a protection officer and that he’s being reassigned. Anne did have an affair with a bodyguard during her first marriage, to fellow equestrian Mark Phillips. That bodyguard, Sergeant Peter Cross, was moved from Anne’s protection team after a year. Anne and Mark separated in 1989 after 16 years and two children together. They divorced in 1992 and Anne married her second and current husband, Timothy Laurence, an equerry to The Queen, later that year.

This was fun! I can’t believe how many rabbit holes there are to go down on The Crown. Now I understand why you’re all obsessed with it. I may learn a lot more about royal history once I’m finished.

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Photos credit: Netflix Press and Avalon.red

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55 Responses to “The Crown season four: what really happened and what’s invented for drama?”

  1. TeamAwesome says:

    For more behind the scenes info and interviews with Peter Morgan, the research staff, and the actors, I highly recommend the official podcast!

    • Maxime duCamp says:

      @TeamAwesome, I highly agree with your recommendation. For anyone else interested it appears that they started the podcast with season 3. They publish one episode based show per week and right now they are only up to S4 ep 03.

      I found the explanation about why certain events/people weren’t covered at all or in more detail was because the story didn’t directly relate back to the queen. So at this point, there is focus on Charles and Diana because the queen got involved in their relationship but there’s barely a glimpse of Sarah Fergusen although they do include the references to the wedding.

      • Other Renee says:

        The less seen of pedo Andy, the better. As for Fergie, no one really cares about her story, which is comprised of one toe-sucking scandal and a whole lot of grift.

      • Maxime duCamp says:

        @OtherRenee, I agree that Fergie on her own, especially knowing what we know now about her being a grifter isn’t worth a major storyline, But, there was a brief period that she and Diana seemingly close and I think exploring their friendship and what it was like for Diana to finally have an ally within the BRF might have been interesting.

  2. Becks1 says:

    Ive seen all four season (finished season 4 last night) and while Season 3 was a little dry, this season makes me want to go back and rewatch the whole series.

    Thanks for the background on some of these stories – to me it shows what Kaiser and several of us have been saying, each incident may not be historically accurate but the broad strokes are – Thatcher hated Balmoral, Anne’s affair with her bodyguard, etc.

    • Seraphina says:

      Correct, that is my take away as I continue to watch – the broad strokes is what I focus on and not the details. And add that this season is ruffling feathers, just adds to it.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      “each incident may not be historically accurate but the broad strokes are – Thatcher hated Balmoral, Anne’s affair with her bodyguard, etc.”

      Anne’s affair with Andrew Parker-Bowles, Pedo’s affair with Koo Stark and Diana’s bitchy grandmother….etc…etc…etc…

    • Vera says:

      season 3 was a real slog for me to watch, especially the second part. I’m on e3s4 and so far it’s better.

  3. smegmoria says:

    Gillian Anderson had a great interview with Terry Gross on NPR this past weekend. They talked about The Crown and Sex Education.

  4. Pop says:

    Timothy Laurence is the most attractive spouse. I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

    • And yet it is said that he and Anne live pretty much separate lives now, even though they live in the same house. Reading that was a real disappointment to me.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      @Pop – I must agree with you as “look wise” Anne has the same taste in men as I do. I find Timothy Laurence, who is very distinguished looking, and Andrew Parker-Bowels, who was very sext in his day, extremely attractive.

  5. Kalana says:

    The parts Charles is upset about are all true. He neglected Diana and cheated on her either emotionally or physically through the entire courtship and marriage. He did gaslight her, belittle her, and become jealous when the public loved her. The full story is even worse.

    Diana is represented as quietly hurting which isn’t fully true. She did take her anger out on staff and did inappropriately lean on William. I think they left out everything about William deliberately because it makes both parents look worse and Peter Morgan didn’t want the controversy.

    Both Charles and Camilla were genuinely shameless about their affair. The BRF is really that cold and snobbish and difficult.

    • Tessa says:

      I think Charles’ camp goes on about how she “burdened” William. If anything, Diana was tougher with William than Charles is. She told him to work for his allowance by washing cars and also encouraged him to be more interested in charities. Charles IMO did worse by using William to promote Camilla. A show was banned by the Palace which talked about this and how William was angry at his father for blasting his private tea with Camilla to media outlets. Diana would warn William if a TV show were on. She also reassured William and Harry after Charles 1994 confessions that he never loved Diana by telling them that she and “Papa” loved each other but could no longer live together.

      • tcbc says:

        She did parentify William. She alluded to it, and he has said it. That was wrong, and a huge failure on her part. Charles also failed William, but that doesn’t excuse Diana.

    • Tessa says:

      I also think Diana concentrated on her charity work and it was her salvation. She did not just sit home and sulk but put her energy into charities and causes.

  6. Sofia says:

    Another historical inaccuracy is Martin Charteris. He retired in 1977 yet he’s still around in the 4th season which is set in the 80s.

    • tcbc says:

      But that’s probably so the audience does not have to be introduced to another new side character. It makes sense narratively.

  7. julia says:

    This season is infinitely better than season three. I felt like Emma Corrin was over acting in the first couple episodes, but she started to grow on me by the third episode. Half way through #4. I might not sleep tonight.

  8. Snazzy says:

    I ended up binging the whole season in two days, and will probably re watch! It was just so well done

  9. Elizabeth Regina says:

    Thankfully google is our friend. My Gen Z niece is absolutely horrified with the RF after looking things up. I am so proud she is not taking my word for it. Words like coercive control, gaslighting and knowing your worth are being exchanged with her friends as we speak.

  10. vertes says:

    Yes, Mountbatten told Chuck to suck it up & marry someone who’d produce the required heir & a spare. He also told him that he could still continue the side bangs, as has been a traditional privilege of royal males forever.

    • Elizabeth Regina says:

      Yes you are right. Didn’t he tell Diana that he refuses to be the first POW not to have a mistress?

    • Ainsley7 says:

      Mountbatten wanted Charles to marry his granddaughter Amanda Knatchbull. So, I can see him having a problem with Camilla. Camilla wasn’t just a mistress to Charles. It was one thing to have affairs, but it’s assumed that your loyalty should be to your wife. He wouldn’t have wanted Amanda disrespected like that.

      • Vera says:

        I find it interesting that Mountbatten’s granddaughter (Amanda Knatchbull) is/was a social worker specialising in children’s services and child protection. While her granddad was a pedo whose crimes were covered up by the secret services.

    • Of course, Mountbatten was talking about his granddaughter. She has revealed that Charles did propose to her after her grandfather’s death but she convinced him that though they were good cousins, they would not be a good marriage. Charles supposedly also proposed to Anna Wallace, but she wasn’t having it with Camilla as the third. It was only then he started focusing on Diana.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        Anna ‘Whiplash” Wallace told Charles where he could go and what he could do when he got there after attending a party as Charles’s date given by the Queen Mother where he spent the whole evening dancing and chatting with Camilla.

      • Myra says:

        That explains why he went after a naive teenager, all the grown ass women with their own minds were turning him down

    • Tessa says:

      the young girl Mountbatten was promoting was his very own granddaughter Amanda Knatchbull. It is a matter for speculation if had Mountbatten lived he could have gotten his granddaughter to agree to the marriage with Charles.

  11. My3cents says:

    Also real,Diana and Camilla meet for lunch at the Menage a trios restaurant. I guess that’s Camilla’s dark sense of humor.

  12. Jilly. says:

    I must be alone. I love GA but thought her acting was horrible. Over the top. Just awful. That said loved season 4!

    • a reader says:

      I’ve finished 4 episodes as well and GA – whom I ADORE _ is so grating! I feel her portrayal of MT is very one dimensional. To me it reads like a caricature….

    • Lizzie says:

      Agree, her voice sounds too forced.

    • Mumzy says:

      Totally agree—I think she’s a great actress, but this portrayal was too much of a forced impersonation … and not a good one because it quickly felt like an unfunny parody.

      We just finished the season last night and I just felt very sad and heavy about it all at the end. So much damage, sadness, and despair.

    • JRL says:

      HUGE fan of GA so I am completely shocked by her laughable portrayal of Thatcher. I don’t think I have ever felt embarrassed for her in a role…there’s always a first time. Could it be GA’s husband’s involvement in the series? Did he feel he couldn’t comment on her gross overacting/cartoon voice because they share the same bed? He couldn’t be objective because said actress was his wife?

  13. Harper says:

    Diana was not dressed in costume from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, tiptoeing across the Althorp entry hall when she first met the prince. According to DIana, they first met at a shooting party at Althorp when she was 16 and then again a few years later at a friend’s house party. There, she said she sympathized with him over the death of Mountbatten and the next moment “he lept on me, practically.”

    • BeanieBean says:

      Yep, she said that in her engagement interview–’we sort of met in a plowed field’. And at the friend’s house party, she showed Charles how to tap dance.

    • Becks1 says:

      That was clearly artistic license but I liked it because it was such a pretty scene, I felt there was a tension to it because as the viewer, you know that’s Diana and you know what’s going to happen. As these shows go, I thought it was a good way to introduce the character of Diana – shadowy, glimpses, in costume. Clearly it didn’t happen, but it made for a good scene.

    • Tessa says:

      That scene with 16 year old Diana in costume and Charles was rather weird. And it never really happened. They should have shown a scene of what really happened. at that house party, Charles asked Diana if she would leave early with him and drive back to London with her. Diana said no saying it would not be polite for her to leave early.

      • Thirtynine says:

        I thought so too. A house party is a common place for people of that class to meet and mingle. Doing it in costume at Althorp hinted that Diana was being deceitful and sneaky in making sure she met the POW as Sarah stated she was dying to meet him, and sort of highlighted a manipulative side to her character right from the beginning. C and D meeting was inevitable considering their social circles. She looked charming, though.

  14. SpankyB says:

    Do go back and watch the first 3 seasons. As an American and not that educated on the politics, it was a little hard to figure out who’s who, I did a lot of Googling the first season. But I enjoyed watching the relationship between Betty and Philip, and watching her figure out her role as queen. It was worth getting through the politics and I eventually caught on to it all.

  15. Mimi09 says:

    Lady Fermoy testified against her own daughter during divorce proceedings. Frances lost custody of her children because of her own mother. Later, she turned against Diana as well. She was a vile woman by all accounts.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      Lady Fermoy was a snobby elitist royal-ass-kissing BITCH!

    • CoKatie says:

      That’s what I was so horrified about. That grandmother. What a completely awful person. I felt so bad for Diana who had absolutely no one in her corner and no one to lean on. I thought back to when I was 19 and realized how lucky I was that I had a Mom and a core group of really good friends (who are still there for me 30 years later). It was TRAGIC watching how isolated she was. Total cruelty.

    • twoz says:

      Also, the bit about Lady Fermoy actually warning Diana off marrying into the Royal Family is I suspect a bit of CYA on the Spencer’s behalf – there are other contemporary bios pointing out that she and the Queen Mother did a bit of plotting there.
      I also remember a story on the grapevine that Diana went to her father prior to the marriage saying she wanted out, she couldn’t go through with it and he ordered her back saying she ‘had to do her duty’, but it was more on radio i.e. not in print.
      Yes, I’m old enough to remember ’92-’93 very well indeed.

  16. RoyalBlue says:

    i loved the episode called Fagan. wonderful. i remember that incident where he broke in the queen’s room and had a conversation sitting on her bed vividly and there is even a calypso about it. this season is really holding my interest because it occurs during my formative years in the 1980s when i was in high school and university

    • tcbc says:

      That was my least favorite episode. Morgan does not have the depth to deal with anything beyond drawing room gossip stories.

  17. Skylark says:

    Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher is so farcically bad. To the point where I’m seriously embarrassed for her and have to fast-forward pretty much every appearance of hers.

    The Charles character is also well beyond parody at this stage.

    The one and only bright light in this new series is what Emma Corrin, so far, is bringing to the young Diana.

  18. Marigold says:

    I couldn’t believe how nasty the royals were at Balmoral. Completely snobby and mean. But I do want a pair of those ugly brogues the queen was wearing. Why? Idk. I just do.

  19. Vera says:

    I’m on e3 of s4 right now and my biggest gripes with the Crown:
    1. Making Thatcher sympathetic with the Balmoral test. She was a horrid person, who destroyed communities and as such so much of the compassion of society on the UK was lost. She was a friend of dictators and believed in the Reaganomics. She wanted to destroy unions and public sector, she called Mandela a terrorist…
    The list goes on and on. There is a reason why people were cheering when she finally died.
    Thatcher the milk snatcher
    2. Making Mountbatten a decent person and his death tragic. He was a pedophile (there are FBI files on him) and the secret services likely killed/made disappear people and possibly children to cover it up.

  20. yinyang says:

    Gillian’s transformation is so good. They’re being nice to Charles, his actor is handsome he isn’t.

  21. Thirtynine says:

    The most curious thing to me was the video of Diana singing a ballad from Phantom of the Opera as an anniversary gift for Charles, to make up for the embarassment he felt at her dancing for him. I had never heard of this. Is it based on any fact, or is it pure invention?

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