“If you have a complaint about not being loved or appreciated in this marriage, I suggest you take it up with the people who arranged it”.
The line that says it all. In the fourth season of Netflix‘s The Crown, there is zero doubt that you will be reminded of someone you know or have heard of, who is currently suffering in an arranged marriage. Which is why when Prince Charles (Josh O’ Connor), the future king of England complains about his arranged marriage to his incredibly sad wife Princess Diana (Emma Corrin), it really hits home.
The Crown, a series on the popular streaming site Netflix, is based on the lives of the ruling royal family in England. It follows the life of Elizabeth II, who is the current ruling Queen of England, her journey as Queen and also gives insight into the private lives of the royals. Although it is based on true events, the producers have said that artistic license has been taken while filming the series.
The most-awaited royal story was the one of Prince Charles and the iconic Princess Diana and the depiction of the two in season four does not disappoint. You will literally watch this season with your phone in hand, googling to see if the events that made you cringe are actually true – and be shocked and saddened that they indeed are.
Diana and Charles’ wedding was a fairy tale – one that even if you weren’t old enough to see it when it happened, there is zero doubt that you have seen images of how perfect it actually was. Their divorce shook the world and Diana’s death had everyone mourning. There was and most likely will never be a more iconic and charming royal than Diana. Pakistanis, in particular, are drawn to her even more after seeing pictures of how much she enjoyed visiting Pakistan with a handsome Imran Khan and his then-wife Jemima Goldsmith.
This was the first time I learned about how Diana had an eating disorder and was bulimic. After Googling, I discovered that she had spoken about it in an interview, about how after marrying Prince Charles, eating a lot of food and then throwing up somehow became therapeutic for the emptiness she felt in her life. The series shows how a very young Diana gets married at the age of 19 years in a whirlwind marriage to a prince who is in love with someone else. Prince Charles had been seeing a married woman – Camilla Parker-Bowles who he is currently married to – and continued to see her after he was married. Charles wanted to marry Diana and thought she was sweet, but not before she was ‘approved’ by his ‘ex-girlfriend’ Camilla. According to Google, Camilla had approved Charles’ marriage to Diana, thinking she could control her in the future but hadn’t realise how popular Diana would become.
We are also introduced to a Diana who tries very hard to make Charles happy – and a Charles who tries somewhat but is unable to let go of his affair. What makes one hate Charles even more in the series is that it’s not that the dull and arrogant Charles doesn’t have the capacity to love – he loves Camilla so much he tells Diana after years of their marriage that if she hurts Camilla, she hurts him – but that he loves the wrong person. He can’t stand how popular and loved Diana is, how she shines, how people love her and how wherever she goes – excitement follows. He is not strong enough to let her shine – and in turn, his lack of compassion for her – ruins her life.
Discussions about the royal family being the first and ultimate joint family began soon after people finished the season – discussions about how arranged marriages can ruin lives and how people need to spend time together to find out if they really get one another. If Diana had not been so young and had grown into her personality and understood what she wanted out of life, maybe she would not have picked Charles or been besotted with the thought of marrying a prince. Maybe Charles, who gave into his family’s pressure of marrying a girl who had a similar background as him, would’ve held strong and said he wouldn’t marry if he couldn’t marry whom he wanted. But it seems painfully obvious that Charles was pressured into marrying Diana and Diana fell for the fairy tale love story that Charles represented.
What’s more painful is to see how Diana tries to make Charles happy. She knows from day one that Charles has not left Camilla – even goes out for lunch with Camilla (yes, that’s true!) – and tries her best to make her marriage work. In two very painful parts of the season, Diana plans a dance with the famous rockstar Billy Joel, for Charles’ birthday and after seeing the performance, Charles tells her how horrified he was to see her performance and how she made his birthday about her (she did do a performance for him on his birthday at the theater, that is also true) and then for their wedding anniversary she tries again and films her singing a song for him with a live orchestra (wasn’t very good and also true). He makes fun of her both times, showing that no matter what she tried, nothing was going to work.
We all have that one friend or family member stuck in a marriage that is not of their choosing. Having issues with in-laws is so common that it’s scary at times. Diana also has a difficult time with her in-laws and tries to reach out to her mother-in-law, the Queen who is very distant from her. Charles’ sister, Princess Anne, also resents Diana for being more popular than her and they too, don’t seem to get along. The only person who does seem to like her is her father-in-law Prince Philip but near the end, that also changes. So we see Diana fairly alone throughout the series, clinging onto her children to feel whole. Until it seems she can’t do it anymore.
The ending scene of the series finale is one of a family photo being taken for Christmas and Diana is standing at the edge of the photo, away from the others. The camera zooms into her, showing how alone she is and I didn’t have the heart to Google if the picture was real – because it so obviously must be. What is more devastating is that it feels like such a big loss. We know that Diana finally breaks free and most likely, finally finds happiness and then dies in a fatal car crash. She never really gets her fairy tale and as we see people around us going through the same, we feel the same pain. Maybe if they break free – if she had broken free earlier – they might be happier.
Despite being such a difficult season to watch, season four is the best season so far. Other than the stellar performances given by both Connor and Corrin, the role of Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is played so brilliantly by Gillian Anderson that it is a true pleasure to watch. She literally captures the essence of one of England’s most controversial rulers and it is a delight to watch the minute she comes on screen. The minute you see Thatcher on screen, you can’t wait to see what she will do next. And you also cannot help but compare.
Margaret Thatcher, raised to be brilliant by her father, supported by her husband who is totally at ease with his wife’s success, pushes her to be the absolute best that she can be – the leader of a superpower for eleven years. The support she gets and her own brilliance make her shine in ways that have changed the course of history. And then we see a parallel with Diana – a woman absolutely phenomenal in her own right – but pushed down by the people around her, never realising her full potential.
Makes one think how different life can be if you can manage to convince yourself that you need some iron from the British PM famously called the Iron Lady and also realise that it is finally time to break free before it is too late, like the tragedy that was Diana.