One note: I keep completely forgetting to look for the real Diana outfits that the The Crown is copying, and this episode is full of them, so I put a bunch in the slideshow for comparison. Also, be warned if you haven’t seen it yet: This is another hour that depicts Diana’s bulimia. We won’t feature any of those shots.
This episode covers Charles and Diana’s first royal tour together (on which they brought baby Prince William, which means we get to SQUEE in here about cute squishy cheeks). The backdrop is Australia’s election of PM Bob Hawke, who wants Australia to ditch the Queen; the tour, then, is meant to remind everyone that royalty is good for business. Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin come back up off the bench to enact what’s commonly considered the birth of global Dianamania, and at long last, it was an episode I thought was pretty compelling. It helps that it involved no Thatcher, and that the truly meaty Charles and Diana scenes were imaginings, so the actors had to dig in and do the work rather than simply mimic newsreels.
Though this tour did key a lot of things, Peter Morgan compresses a longer arc of events into one neat package, so that we get the full roller-coaster of Charles and Diana within one hour. It’s either a consequence of, or the reason for, The Crown choosing to leapfrog the events after Charles and Diana’s wedding. I suspect the producers thought treating it as it probably happened — small ups here and there, but mostly a death by a thousand cuts — might be arduous and make a sad story feel even worse, so they just skipped ahead and crammed a lot of exposition in here. But I do yearn for the richer version of this story. I would have been interested in Morgan’s idea of what their honeymoon was like, but here Diana merely yells specifics at Charles after the fact. I’d have liked to experience them trying to be happy, enough so to conceive William. Diana admitted to throwing herself down the stairs while pregnant, and yeah, something that dangerous might have been hard to depict, but holy shit, it’s illuminating. Leaving it out feels like omitting a very large part of Diana’s psyche, and one that she herself has acknowledged. Instead, we got her staring listlessly at the TV while pregnant, and experienced none of the emotion of William’s birth. Imagine Emma Corrin being handed that baby, and getting to play Diana’s dawning realization that she now has a guaranteed teammate.
At any rate: The Crown describes the tour as beginning miserably. Diana is cranky because they’re keeping William across Australia with a nanny for two weeks before they rejoin him, so she is tired and ill-prepared for press when they arrive. She can’t bear the heat and she repeatedly insists — correctly — that they should have William with them. The fuss leads to a cathartic argument, in which Charles complains she freezes him out and self-harms, and Diana makes it clear that she’s lonely, and can’t believe in their partnership because Charles still socializes so much with Camilla in a circle that doesn’t seem to want Diana in it. Charles chokes out that he wants her in it because he loves her, and Diana looks utterly astonished that he said it. She is quick to want to believe it, and crucially, so is he. It ends with the two of them understanding that what the other wants is to be seen, and valued, and flattered, and yes, loved, and that they can and should approach this as a team — something Elizabeth and Philip preached to them before they left. They giggle a little about throwing the size of the crowds in the Queen’s face, then turn this us-against-the-world moment into fuel.
For a time, this works: They’re an unstoppable duo, relaxed and charming and winning over the public — which is turning out in droves — and Charles even declines to return Camilla’s daily phone calls. They even get it on. Charles’s jealousy, though, rears up when it becomes increasingly clear that Diana is the draw. Crowds are disappointed when they’re “stuck with” only Charles, and make fun of him, so he throws tantrums behind the scenes. (It’s been rumored that William occasionally gets prickly about Kate’s popularity. I don’t know whether that’s true or not —- I hope for their sakes it isn’t —- but I do believe it was true of Charles at this time, so William certainly would come by it honestly.) Diana resumes bingeing and purging, they resume sleeping in separate bedrooms, and Charles resumes taking Camilla’s calls. In reality, Charles felt the sting because he’d been a Big Effing Deal on previous tours, but I also think there’s always been something to the British public (and beyond) never quite embracing him with the enthusiasm he expected — or what he felt would come automatically to the future monarch. The show suggests that this big tour was a watershed moment to frame him as more than just what Philip derisively refers to as “the B team.” He was to come into his own, but instead he went from being in the shadow of his mother to the shadow of his wife. And he couldn’t handle it. And I think there is a lot of emotional truth to what’s depicted here with regard to that.
When Diana gets back, she marches straight to an audience with the Queen and demands to be taken seriously. She airs some of their dirty laundry — desperately, not viciously — about Charles’s jealousy of her, and the Queen archly notes that she wasn’t born yesterday and they all know full well when they’re “playing to the gallery.” Di admits to appreciating the cheers but in the context of how lost she is elsewhere, and begs for Elizabeth’s support in using that popularity to be a team player: “You’re the captain of the team. If you show me love, and approval, everyone else will follow suit.” Galled, the Queen calls time on the meeting. Diana leaps up and hugs her desperately while Elizabeth’s arms flap uselessly at her sides, as if she’s never been embraced before and doesn’t know how to do it. (Please. Even if she hates this sort of thing, there’s no way the Queen wouldn’t have patted her awkwardly on the back in one of those fruitless “there there, dear” gestures.) It comes off as a desperate but calculated Hail Mary, especially when she calls the Queen “Mama” twice — which Elizabeth seems surprised to hear even though she supposedly told Diana she could do that.
Anne, Margaret, and the Queen Mother are horrified to hear of all this physical touching. The Queen does wonder aloud to Anne, Margaret, and the QM whether Diana IS poised to connect to the modern world better than they are. The QM insists that Diana is just being a baby, and that in time she’ll do as Philip did and bend to fit the mold of the royal family. And if she doesn’t, “She’ll break,” interjects Margaret. Poetic that the person from whose life the Windsors should have learned the most, is the one Peter Morgan chooses to give counsel that everyone again basically ignores. And we know how it goes.