5 Royal Family Scandals We'll See Exposed in 'The Crown' Season 4

Louisa Ballhaus
·7 min read

The upcoming season of The Crown is set to premeire on Netflix Nov. 15 — and season 4 promises to be the most dramatic of the Netflix series yet bracing itself for the turbulence of the ’80s and ’90s. And by turbulence, we mean (not exclusively, but primarily) Princess Diana, née Lady Diana Spencer, the doe-eyed 19-year-old who swept into the people’s hearts and Prince Charles’ wedding bed (in that order). Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles marked the end of his bitter campaign for childhood sweetheart Camilla Parker Bowles to be his bride, though the years that followed proved that flame never truly went out. And between Diana’s declining mental health, the infidelity and public indiscretions that plagued their royal marriage, and the ascent of domineering new Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose radical approach puts her at odds with Queen Elizabeth II.

By the time that Charles and Diana divorced in 1996, it was by the Queen’s own suggestion, who wrote a handwritten letter reversing her former hard stance against the dissolution of a royal marriage. Even the monarch could not take any more chaos — and season 4 of The Crown will show us all the events that led her to her breaking point.

Here are just a few of the royal scandals you can expect to see played out in the next season of The Crown.

Prince Charles’ Campaign to Marry Camilla Parker Bowles

We’ve already seen the first blushes of Charles’ romance with longtime acquaintance Camilla Shand (the Parker Bowles comes after her marriage to Captain Andrew Parker Bowles, whose hand was forced by Camilla’s family running a wedding announcement). We know that they were once deeply in love (as they are again now today), but that they ultimately said “I do” to other partners and not much else about what came in between.

While the circumstances of their breakup have always been murky — and as Crown creator Peter Morgan always reminds us, he’s not trying to re-enact history — it seems season 4 will shed more light on Charles’ attempts to marry Camilla instead of Diana, and paint a picture of the future monarch as a man who firmly knew his heart was set on Camilla from an early age.

“Charles’s campaign to make Camilla queen is as passionate and as committed and as ruthless, in many ways,” Morgan tells Esquire UK, “as was Henry VIII’s campaign to make Anne Boleyn his queen.”

Charles & Diana’s Marriage — and Divorce

Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles, also spoke to Esquire about what he expected to be the royal’s most dramatic time on the show: “Seasons 3 and 4 will follow some of the most turbulent events in the Prince of Wales’s life and our national story and I’m excited to be bringing to life the man in the midst of it all.”

While there’s plenty to “ooh” and “ah” at about the marriage itself (including Diana’s famous wedding gown, which the Crown designers recreated in exacting detail), the glamour and romance are only skin-deep. Diana and Charles’ marriage is a story of duty, loneliness, and intense claustrophobia under the microscope of the paparazzi and royal family at once.

Each resenting the circumstances the other had brought them into, these royals lashed out at each other and themselves and sought the comfort in the arms of lovers. For a moment when media attention had never been higher, the details of their marriage had also never been gorier.

“I was so pleased that most of the feedback has been people saying, ‘Oh my God, I feel so sorry for Prince Charles, that poor boy,'” O’Connor told InStyle after season 3. “Because I’m now going to strip that right away.”

Prince Charles’ Affair With Camilla

While there was infidelity on both sides of this marriage, Diana notably having an affair with former army captain James Hewitt, we can only confirm that this season will look at Charles’ affair with Camilla in detail — one the timeline of which royal historians have been squabbling over for decades. Charles maintains that he had years of complete fidelity to Diana before his affair with Diana began — but in Robert Lacey’s royal biography Battle of Brothers, he recounts Charles wearing cufflinks given to him by Camilla on his wedding night, and Diana finding photos of her in his wallet on their honeymoon.

We won’t just see how things play out between Camilla and Charles, but between Camilla and Diana too, who was famously well aware of what she called the “three of us” in the marriage. In fact, a still from the show looks as though they include a specific moment Lacey also recounts between the two women shortly after Charles’ proposal when Camilla requests to see Diana’s ring — and Diana sees through her faux-friendliness rather quickly.

She had already worked out the truth about Mrs. Parker Bowles from a pre-wedding lunch à deux that Camilla herself had proposed to celebrate the engagement and to ‘look at the ring’ — an oddly proprietorial suggestion to make,” Lacey writes. “Camilla had posed one strangely repeated question about whether Diana was planning to join her husband with the Beaufort Hunt — and Diana, no great horsewoman, deduced that hunting was an activity in which Mrs PB was hoping to keep the prince to herself.”

Princess Diana’s Battle With Bulimia

Diana first spoke openly about her struggles with bulimia in tapes to Andrew Morton, who went on to write her explosive biography Diana: Her True Story. And while we don’t know the details of what will be shown on the Netflix show, they’ve confirmed to Hello! that there will be a content warning before any depictions and that they worked with specialists to ensure it was sensitively handled.

The Crown producers worked closely with the eating disorder charity BEAT to ensure that their portrayal of Princess Diana’s bulimia was both accurate to the disorder and sensitively handled,” Netflix told the outlet. “When viewers watch the series on Netflix they will see warning cards at the beginning of the episodes and details of how to seek help if required.”

Emma Corrin, who plays Diana, also spoke briefly to the issue: “You can’t do justice to everything she was experiencing without including that,” she told Variety. “It was so symptomatic of the emotional turmoil and all the suppressed emotions that she was feeling.”

Margaret Thatcher’s Stormy Relationship With the Queen

With Gillian Anderson taking on the role of Margaret Thatcher opposite Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth II, we’re planning on getting out the popcorn for any scene these two have together. But it doesn’t hurt that Thatcher’s relationship with the Queen was famously thornier than most of the monarch’s dealings with prime ministers.

Per HistoryExtra, Thatcher’s enormous respect for the royal family and the Queen’s unwillingness to make her feelings known beyond a stony silence kept their relationship at a simmer for the first seven years of Thatcher’s term. But in 1986, the Sunday Times ran an article claiming the Queen found Thatcher’s approach to be “uncaring, confrontational and socially divisive,” per royal press secretary Michael Shea.

The Queen called immediately to apologize — but forgiving and forgetting has never been Margaret Thatcher’s strong suit.

Tune in to see all this and more on season 4 of The Crown, premiering November 15 on Netflix.

Click here to see the 100 best photos of the royal family from the past 20 years.

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