The Crown’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Beyond the fairytale
Note: Originally written November 2, 2020
Fair warning: The bottom half of this article contains spoilers for Netflix season 4 The Crown’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana. If you know your British Royals history, then technically it contains no spoilers at all. 😉
If you are Gen X like me then you probably watched at least some of the wedding of Charles and Diana (if you didn’t find a way to watch the whole thing.) You grew up with the fairytale of boy meets girl, prince and princess riding off into the sunset in their horse-drawn carriage.
You were heartbroken when you heard the news of the fatal car accident. It was one of those “where were you when…” moments like when Kennedy was shot or, more likely, when you heard Kurt Cobain had died. Where were you? I was living in an apartment with a roommate on Hermosa Beach, California. I called my mother immediately. It was 3 hours later on the east coast and my parents were asleep. My father answered and basically said “so? Go back to bed.” Men… Then my mom got on the phone and we talked about it.
There were always rumblings of extra-marital affairs with the famous pair but mostly they were dismissed. Certainly not our perfect Lady Diana and how could Prince Charles do something like that to her? When we started hearing more and more about this Camilla Parker Bowles woman we hated her, didn’t we? What a vile homewrecker. How angry we were when Charles actually married her.
The third season of The Crown sets us up for a different story. We see a young Charles, still hopeful and not yet completely beat down by the duty of his family and the position in which he was born. Charles was always in love with Camilla, always wanted to marry her. The family did not deem her appropriate to be queen and therefore forced another marriage upon her to keep the two apart.
In The Crown’s fourth season, we are shown just how much of a farce the marriage between Princess Diana and Prince Charles must have been. So much so that you feel sad for all parties involved. Diana was so young when they first met. Charles clearly liked her as a person and found her amusing but did not have the capacity to love her romantically (nor should he have as young as she was then.) His heart belonged to someone else. For her part, the teenage Diana was completely enamored by the Prince.
A couple of years go by and, pressured to choose a bride, Charles calls on Diana. The family is completely behind this union as Diana would make the perfect princess. Beautiful and as yet untainted in any way by life, she also already travelled in the appropriate social circles as she had been born into them. We are shown what looks like a very business-like courtship devoid of any kind of romance which is very different from what the media showed us as children. At least from Charles’s perspective. Still pinning for Camilla Parker Bowles, Charles is seen crying in the days leading up to the wedding and we feel for him (unless we are heartless…)
Diana starts off as the happy bride-to-be celebrating with her girlfriends and prancing around the palace where she has been moved into her own apartment. Clearly a smart girl though, it doesn’t take her long to realize just how alone she is in this endeavor. Charles embarks on a six week journey prior to the wedding leaving her at the palace with barely a goodbye. He doesn’t even bother to call her although, as she finds out later, he still talks to Camilla every day. Not only that but it seems that no one else in the family is interested in spending time with her.
The writers of Netflix’s hit show The Crown do a great job making us feel the weight of the decision that is put before the young Diana. She can stop the wedding, saving herself from a loveless marriage and life of loneliness but creating mass embarrassment and a huge media nightmare in her wake. Alternatively, she can go ahead with it knowing that she is entering into what boils down to nothing more than a job. She can publicly play the role of princess knowing that behind closed doors she is far from a “happily ever after.” Well, we all know what happened.