In its fourth season, the introduction of Diana, Princess of Wales changed everything. With this 20-year-old commoner stepping into British royal family, "The Crown" took a new direction in its development.
From a technical and cast perspective, "The Crown" has excelled in every aspect. However, the real allure of the show lies in Peter Morgan's script. His writing isn't merely about nostalgia; it goes beyond revealing royal secrets. It also aims to connect with contemporary society and the modern monarchy.
The connection with the present is perhaps the most important consideration for any historical drama. Before a historical series goes into production, there's always the question of how it relates to today's audience. Creating historical dramas tailored for niche history enthusiasts may not necessitate immediate concern about audience connection. However, for `productions intended for a broader public audience, establishing a meaningful link with contemporary viewers is of utmost importance.
Some shows take significant risks. It's rumoured that the team behind "House of Cards" was prepared for a Hillary Clinton presidency and planned to explore the theme of women in politics. Nevertheless, reality took an unexpected turn, surpassing any scripted drama with the election of Donald Trump. While the show faced other challenges, such as the Kevin Spacey controversy, it illustrates the unpredictability of real-life events.
Though there's no concrete evidence, it's hard not to wonder if Peter Morgan had some premonitions when Prince Harry announced his engagement to American actress Meghan Markle in 2017. Morgan may not admit it, claiming that he's just telling a historical story. Yet, viewers who immerse themselves in these narratives tend to draw similar conclusions. They perceive the royal family as exceptionally conservative and idiosyncratic, upholding age-old traditions and formalities, despite the prevalent modern ideals of equality deeply rooted in people's hearts.
Moreover, the royal family members are subject to a class-based hierarchy. The queen's firstborn son is designated as the future king, while her other children are destined to be secondary figures. Yet, being born into such a position, they face immense pressure, and those who can never ascend to the throne are still compared to their elder siblings. In this unique circumstance, no one has an entirely unclouded self-identity.
"The Crown" is fascinating because it portrays a young queen who, after ascending to the throne, navigates the challenges of dealing with people like Winston Churchill. She remains strong-willed, avoiding the pitfall of becoming a mere decorative figure but instead learns to wield and exert power to stabilize the nation and win the hearts of her subjects.
However, apart from these positive portrayals, Peter Morgan introduces subplots in each season, such as the involvement in Princess Margaret's private life. This emphasizes the queen's unwavering commitment to royal values, which can border on obstinacy. Such unwavering conservatism might eventually backfire.
In the backdrop of the first three seasons, covering primarily the 1940s to the 1970s, there were numerous hints at forbidden romances within the royal family. However, since the royal family effectively managed public perception and paparazzi were not yet prominent, these stories remained largely confined within palace walls. Furthermore, most individuals connected to the royal family during that period were from the aristocracy. Although the series occasionally alluded to marital challenges between the queen and Prince Philip, he was initially a Greek prince and not entirely unfamiliar with the intricacies of royal life.
In the fourth season, Diana, Princess of Wales's arrival changes everything. While her family had some connections with the royal family, she had lived a life not much different from an ordinary person before her marriage to the Prince of Wales. What we had seen in previous seasons mostly revolved around conflicts among royals of similar backgrounds. However, the entrance of a 20-year-old commoner altered the course of the story.
Diana, Princess of Wales enters the narrative at the beginning of the fourth season, marking the commencement of her marriage to the Prince of Wales. On one hand, the royal family welcomes a beautiful and young princess who enhances the image of the prince and princess. They are portrayed as a fairy-tale couple for the public, boosting the royal family's image. Yet, at the same time, the traditional and conservative establishment remained steadfast, insisting that Diana adhere to royal protocols and customs. Even the queen, usually unyielding, struggles to understand what Diana truly desires.
In real life, divorce is an option for strained marriages. But in the context of the British royal family, a royal divorce is a major taboo, as it disrupts the perceived distance between the monarchy and the public. The royal family, with its lavish attire and palaces, symbolizes the stability of the nation. While prime ministers come and go, the royal family remains constant, serving as the bedrock of national stability. Divorce would only serve to bring the royals closer to the commoners, which the institution staunchly resists.
It was no surprise that Oliver Dowden, the UK's Culture Secretary, last year requested that Netflix place a disclaimer on "The Crown," emphasizing that the series is "fictional." After all, "The Crown" does indeed rock the boat, challenging the status quo of the monarchy. As for the parallels with reality, fans of the show are likely well aware. Why did Prince Harry decide to step back from royal duties? Why do we often hear about Meghan Markle's struggles with royal life? All the answers can be found in the fourth season of "The Crown." Is it all mere coincidence, or did Peter Morgan anticipate these events?
Within these changes, it seems that he saw a pattern. While others saw a raging fire, he recognized where the spark came from. Yes, the series is largely fictional, but there is nothing arbitrary about it. If you think of it as just a show, you might be underestimating Peter Morgan's grand vision and ambition.