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Review: Spoiled Royals conjure a mess in 'The Crown'

Fourth season of Netflix hit follows disastrous marriage of Charles and Diana

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

Prince Charles is a world-class jerk.

That’s the major takeaway from the fourth season of “The Crown.”

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in "The Crown."

Oh, sure, there are other issues. It’s the '80s, so Margaret Thatcher (a wonderfully stiff Gillian Anderson) — a woman in power who didn’t believe women should have power — is prime minister.

There’s her exorbitantly expensive war in the Falkland Islands and a nice episode about a down-and-out bloke who broke into the Queen’s bedroom to have a chat. The issue of income equality hovers over everything as the point of having a coddled family of Royals becomes ever more fuzzy.

But really the focus is the disastrous marriage of Charles to Princess Diana, which in itself is a perfect example of how divorced from the modern world Buckingham Palace is.

In the third season it was made plain that Charles (Josh O’Connor) would not be allowed to marry the love of his life, Camilla (Emerald Fennell). By the time he’s in his 30s — and still carrying on an open affair with the married Camilla — the family is desperate for him to produce heirs.

Which is when he notices the beautiful younger sister of a woman he once dated. The most striking thing about Diana initially is how young and naïve she is — 13 years younger than Charles, she’s charming but empty. As played with marvelous physical authenticity and vulnerability by Emma Corrin, she’s truly a child.

But a child the Royals initially adore — lovely, spunky, well-bred. Charles proposes, she accepts and then he promptly ignores her and carries on with Camilla. To his dismay, though, she becomes the most popular royal by far; he looks diminished next to her.

Actually all the Royals are diminished this season. One episode finds the Queen (Olivia Colman) purposely meeting up with her four children and they’re all, well, jerks. Even the sourly humorous Anne (Erin Doherty) has become more sour than humorous.

The dissonance between spoiled Royals and the modern world has turned darker, and the nobility seems a lot less noble. But it’s still a fascinating mess for us mere mortals to watch.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'The Crown'

GRADE: B+

On Netflix