‘The Crown’ brilliantly portrays the decline of the British monarchy

Analyzing the success of the show’s fourth season amid controversy 

The show is a creative portrayal of an outdated monarchy.

I swore I would never be one of those people who watched The Crown. From the outside, it seemed like another series about the uptight British monarchy, layered with dry political humour and hidden history lessons in every episode.

Then I saw the trailer for Season Four. I don’t know exactly what draws me to Princess Diana, especially in the digital era of celebrities everywhere, but she remains an ethereal symbol of beauty and striking tragedy. When her name comes up, I often think of what it would mean to marry into the monarchy at 19—barely old enough to drink, let alone understand the incredibly complex role of being a royal.

I decided to watch it and—to my surprise and embarrassment—ended up binging the entire series.

The Crown is a brilliant exemplification of the outdated monarchy’s inevitable decline. One of the key themes in the series is the monarchy’s struggle to stay relevant in our changing society, a theme that is extremely prevalent in the real world. Portrayed by seasoned actors and adorned with stunning sets, the show portrays just how out of place the Royal Family is in a post-colonial world.

To be blunt, the role of this family is rooted in an image rather than real purpose. Queen Elizabeth’s defining struggle is learning how to do nothing but present the appearance of a God-like leader. Other members of the family are forced to suppress their individuality for the sake of public image, often forsaking love and happiness to do so.

As the Western world looks back on the era of colonialism and Eurocentrism with criticism rather than praise, questions of why the British monarchy is still functioning and living in such a lavish manner are undeniably present.

Controversy surrounding the show is rooted in the artistic portrayal of very real, living individuals who have been dressed up in metaphor and warped by reimagination for the purposes of the show. Despite backlash, the creators of The Crown refuse to add a disclaimer about factual inaccuracy and departures from reality at the beginning of each episode.

This very controversy, along with the intricate crafting of the show, is arguably the most relevant the British monarchy has been in years.

The Crown doesn’t back away from delving into the flaws of members of the Royal Family, imagining crucial conversations in Buckingham Palace behind closed doors and even, at times, critiquing the performativity of the monarchy.

Season Four’s highlight was the story of Charles and Princess Diana; Peter Morgan, the creator and showrunner of the series, made the choice to portray Diana as innocent and naïve on all matters of love and crown.

Princess Diana’s family, along with new documentaries on her life and legacy, have disputed the idea that she acted like a child once she entered the royal family. These alternative sources describe her as a deeply intuitive and emotionally intelligent woman, capable of resilience in the face of cruelty.

Prince Charles, on the other hand, plays into the arc of a victim becoming an abuser. His love for Camilla Parker-Bowles and his fragile ego prevents him from emotionally supporting Diana, leaving her to grapple with her eating disorder alone. The series shows him cheating on her with Camilla from the very night of their engagement, abandoning Princess Diana for months, and there is a particularly intense scene where Charles screams at Diana. 

However, the relationship between Charles and the audience is complex and layered with moments of empathy and admiration.

We understand why he is the way he is—how the waiting game of being in line for the crown has impacted his icy relationship with his mother, and how deprived of unconditional love he has been from a young age.

Charles was undoubtedly the black sheep of his family before Diana took his place in the wintry tundra of the Royal Family.

The Crown is so successful because it shows the declining relevance of the monarchy through the characters’ inability to conform to unrealistic standards. For Diana, a modern, grounded woman who was in touch with the real world, her wedding was essentially the kiss of death.

Though the series does not overtly criticize the monarchy, viewers are able to do so themselves as they watch intrinsically flawed characters struggle to have a place in the world as we know it. 

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