Just over a week ago Netflix released a teaser for its upcoming The Crown Season 4. Confirming its release date for mid-November, it also provides a tantalising sneak peek of Princess Diana and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The Crown Season 4 will take place from 1979 before concluding in 1990, and between these years, viewers will surely expect to see various significant events play out on their television screens, including the rather turbulent premiership of the first female prime minister, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage, and the birth of their two sons, as well as the 1982 break-in of Queen Elizabeth’s room at Buckingham Palace. Yet underneath the surface of it all, we should also keep an eye out for the various female power players ( added by the long-awaited appearance of Diana and Thatcher), who they are at the core of everything going on within and outside the walls of Buckingham Palace, how these different personalities will inevitably interact with each other, and what they can inspire within us at the end of the day.
(A teasing shot of the bride Princess Diana, played by Emma Corrin, and her long wedding train that viewers will see in season four of The Crown.)
Since The Crown first started four years ago, it is no surprise that everyone has been anticipating the arrival of Princess Diana. And now that time has finally come. Diana is formidable in her own way, and it is no secret that she later becomes a divisive figure among this royal family, to a greater extent ruffling the feathers of her mother-in-law who also happens to be the Queen of England (which goes to show how important impressing the mother is). Diana’s life was by no means easy as the Princess of Wales, even afterwards, but despite everything that she went through, she remained resilient; something that should be praised.
Formerly Lady Diana Spencer, we will meet her as such in the beginning of Season 4, where she comes to be engaged and married off to Prince Charles. In the last season, we know that Prince Charles held burgeoning feelings for Camilla Shandy, who does not become the Duchess of Cornwall just yet due to her marriage with her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles. Despite this significant obstacle, compounded by Charles’ marriage to Diana, this does not stop either Charles or Camilla from betraying the vows that they made, and continuing their illicit affairs. (We know through Diana’s famous televised interview later on that this clearly affected her, saying that three in a marriage “was a bit crowded.”) Although Season 4 will not cover this, as the interview was broadcasted in 1995, several viewers who already lived through these events in real-time already know of the forceful nature of the princess that Elizabeth Debicki will later display in Season 5.
As The Crown will ultimately cover the beginnings of Charles and Diana’s fractious marriage, perhaps even delving into the latter’s difficulties with fitting in at the palace and her developing mental health issues, what viewers should still be able to take away from seeing these events pan out is Diana’s resilience.
For one thing, we can sympathise that it might not be easy for some to feel comfortable with their in-laws, let alone with royalty, and all the while in front of the public eye. That Diana was able to navigate the new world she was suddenly thrust in; coping with the embarrassment of having a husband that dabbled with infidelity, and could not handle having the spotlight taken away from him; maintaining her composure and having to deal with the layers of royal protocol, is a point of admiration. While the Royal Family might seem at times as lofty figures who must not have a trouble in the world surely, we can take away from Diana that that is certainly not the case; everyone in the world has problems, no matter their status, and that despite it all, we can push through to the other side. Indeed, Diana and Charles later divorced, allowing her to truly embrace her individualism and tenacity that made her so beloved as “The People’s Princess”.
As Britain’s first female prime minister, it is unsurprising that Thatcher ended up as an iron-willed force to be reckoned with. For those who are aware of the type of prime minister she was, we can certainly agree that she qualified for the moniker, the Iron Lady. Like Princess Diana, Thatcher was also a polarising figure, except in her case she ended up dividing the people and, as a result, plunging the nation through a rather turbulent time. But perhaps, in a more positive light, we can take a page out of this prime minister’s book in terms of the self-confidence she held.
Seeing that Season 4 will trace the eleven years Thatcher was in power, viewers should anticipate seeing significant events that took place during, and as a result of, her premiership. Without a doubt, this includes the controversial economic policies she implemented in response to a period of strikes, the Winter of Discontent, that we briefly saw at the end of Season 3.
That “Thatcherism” was created to describe her policies already shows the kind of leader she was off the bat, as she went on to do something completely different than her predecessors in order to tackle the unemployment and recession; she privatised state-owned companies; reduced the authority and influence of trade unions that led to the miners’ strike; as well as centralised power to the government.
Thatcher’s handling of foreign matters on the other hand was no minor thing, for she produced the victory of the Falklands’ war and the negotiation of Hong Kong’s sovereignty after 1997. But what The Crown fans will probably end up remembering the most is the assassination attempt on her life in the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing. Conducted by the IRA, it transpired due to her handling of the Northern Ireland crisis.
With the upcoming season, we can predict that the show’s writers will show in many ways how the nation’s first female prime minister proved her ability to govern from 10 Downing Street, which that by itself, is inspirational on its own. Although the significant policies Thatcher implemented led to varying degrees of success and popularity, we can definitely take away from her premiership her uncompromising attitude, especially in the face of those who doubted her abilities as a woman, and as a leader.
Unlike Diana and the Queen, Thatcher rose through the ranks, investing the time and work to secure her position of power. She ascended the role of prime minister at a time when the nation had just endured the Winter of Discontent and attempted to navigate the waters through instilling policies she thought were best, despite a growing voice of blatant dissatisfaction. Thatcher not only did the best she could with what she was given at the time, but more importantly, left behind an impressive legacy. Gillian Anderson sums it best: “Whether loved, or despised, [she] defined an era.”
The Queen is last but certainly not least in proving her permanence as a female sovereign over the decades. Throughout all three seasons of The Crown, we have so far held witness as to the trials and tribulations that she has had to go through within her personal life, mainly with trying to be a good wife, mother, sister, and queen all at the same time, as well as her reign as a constitutional monarch, where she entrusts the governing of the nation to a long list of prime ministers who sometimes makes a botch of it all. With Thatcher, it is no different as Queen Elizabeth has certain misgivings about the way she runs the country – high unemployment, social divisions, and a refusal to punish South Africa’s apartheid regime, to name a few issues of concern. Were the Queen an absolute monarch, we can imagine that she would have veered down a different, less chaotic course for the country. Yet that is perhaps why she still maintains such authority to this day, because of her unyielding composure.
Now what can we expect for the Queen in Season 4? Numerous attacks on her person, no less the intrusion of Michael Fagan who managed to breach security and scale the palace’s walls. But apart from the palace break-in that happened in 1982, the Queen had in fact a year before endured two failed assassination attempts within months of each other.
It was also during the 80s that press coverage ramped up even higher, leading her and the rest of the Royal Family to be reported about in such a sensationalised, unapologetically false at times, way that by the end of the decade, she had become the target of satire. Early Modern times without question would not permit this treatment of a sovereign, yet times have changed and it is now allowed to poke fun at Her Royal Highness. Yet it is commendable that Queen Elizabeth has managed to maintain a stiff upper lip throughout, especially during in times of crises, such as the Second World War or the COVID-19 pandemic. “Keep Calm and Carry On”, as the saying goes, and it is the very thing that she has done throughout her entire reign up to now.
It might be assumed that being a constitutional monarch is easier, knowing that someone else is running the country for you, but if we think about it, how easy is it to relinquish control, let alone the running of a country to someone else? For the Queen, it could not have been easy not having control, knowing that the country was in turmoil many times because of another person’s obstinacy or folly, yet being unable to intervene due to constitutional constraints.
More than that, in spite of the many scandals that have plagued her and her family throughout the years, Queen Elizabeth has never once been anything but sangfroid in front of the public. And in current times where many famed individuals are so quick to use their tongue, she has held hers without fail, a discipline that we can all learn to possess.