The Crown, Season 4

Dept. of Flushed Royals


Season 4 of The Crown arrives on Netflix this Sunday, 15th November, but as Peter Morgan’s royal drama creeps ever closer to the present, can it maintain the magic of its earlier seasons?

There are a lot of reasons The Crown has been a success for Netflix, we even discussed many of them here, but one you can’t ignore is that the first two seasons were virgin territory for many viewers. The early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II weren’t covered in the media nearly as extensively, or as intrusively, as the last couple of decades have been. As the series marched ever closer to the present, there was always a risk that the show’s characters – which, lest we forget, is exactly what they are – would lose something in comparison to our own memories of these people and the events surrounding them.


Thankfully, this is not the case with Season 4, and the increased royal coverage just provides serial biographer Peter Morgan with more of a scaffolding upon which to hang his dramatic inventions of the royal’s private lives.

Season 4 continues the high quality, and enjoyment, of the first three seasons and even manages to throw in a few surprises, as the shadow of Charles and Diana’s relationship gathers on the horizon. 

Faces of History

The “new” cast of Olivia Coleman, Tobias Menzies, and Helena Bonham Carter are now firmly established in their roles, and in the mind as the same people portrayed by Claire Foy, Matt Smith and Vanessa Kirby. Foy even makes a nice cameo in a flashback to drive the point home. The internal dramas and squabbles of the royals, as imagined by Morgan, are still as fascinating as ever, with moments of drama and levity Morgan peppered with lines of genius and heartbreak.

I’m not sure Prince Philip has ever said anything as eloquent as, “Architecturally, there is nothing normal about this family,” but it plays beautifully in the scene nonetheless.

With the fourth season covering the years from 1979 to 1990, it’s the first that covers a period I was actually alive for, but the stories that Morgan chooses to dramatise in his 10 episode run, still leave plenty of room for surprises.


The saga of Charles and Diana was always going to take centre stage eventually, but Morgan spreads out the rise and fall of their relationship across the season, in between episodes on Michel Fagan, the Buckingham Palace Intruder, Princess Margaret’s search for the Queen’s hidden cousins, and the choppy relationship between the Queen and her Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

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Gillian Anderson might have been an odd choice for “The Iron Lady” but as with John Lithgow as Winston Churchlll, she is an inspired one. Anderson nails that tricky line between interpretation and imitation. Like high definition remasters of movies from your childhood, her performance may not be exactly match how Baroness Thatcher was, but it’s true to how you remember her.

She also forms an unlikely comedy duo with Steven Boxer’s Denis Thatcher, refusing to relinquish duties she sees as hers, such as unpacking his luggage, or cooking dinner, even if it’s for her cabinet. Her frosty relationship with the Queen, rivals that of Winston Churchill’s as a highlight of the series.

Inside Number 10

When it comes to Charles and Diana, Emma Corrin’s performance as may initially come across as parody, but a quick glance at any video footage of the Princess of Wales, highlights just how much she gets right.

On the other hand, Josh O’Connor absolutely demolishes the sympathy his performance built up as of Prince Charles over the previous season. With his continuing relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennell) he becomes the villain of the piece. Morgan leaves no doubt as to who he blames for the failure of the royal marriage. The truth behind their relationship is sad enough, but the dramatisation here is devastating as a vulnerable Princess Diana is abandoned by most of the royal family. Their family motto really should be “be patient and everything will sort itself out eventually,” only it never does.


These new developments don’t overshadow the central trio of Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, and Helena Bonham Carter who, along with Marion Bailey’s Queen Mother, continue their often hilarious depiction of one of the most dysfunctional families on television. Their total obliviousness to just how far their idea of normal is from everyone else’s, is a frequent source of mirth that can turn in a moment as some new indignity is meted in the name of propriety and service. Helena Bonham Carter’s Princess Margaret bears the brunt of much of this as her life is robbed of purpose by her official role in the family.


Thankfully plans to end the series after just one more season have been scrapped in favour of another two full seasons with a new cast featuring Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, and Lesley Manville.

With the third and fourth seasons, Morgan has proven that he can completely change his cast without any impact on the quality of The Crown – even though I will really miss Helena Bonham Carter. The only concern now is that we’ll have to wait until 2022 to watch him do it again.

The Crown
Netflix, Season 4, 10 episodes
Showrunner: Peter Morgan
Cast: Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson, Josh O’Connor, Emma Corrin, Erin Doherty, and Emerald Fennell

Seasons 1 thru 3 of The Crown are currently streaming on Netflix, with Season 4 arriving Sunday, 15th November.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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