After a two-year wait, The Crown has returned for an explosive season 5, with Elizabeth Debicki, Imelda Staunton and Dominic West among the new cast taking the dramatised take on the royal family into the 1990s.
Season 4 of the Netflix series, which dropped on the streaming platform in November 2020, spanned the time period from 1979 to 1990, following Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister as well as the tumultuous relationship and marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Behind the scenes, Charles was also pursuing a romance with Camilla Parker-Bowles, despite being encouraged to forgo the relationship by his family, while the Queen faced a break-in at Buckingham Palace from a member of the public.
Despite the programme having been around since 2016, this year The Crown has been facing a significant amount of backlash from critics calling for the show to make it clear it’s a fictionalised take on the royal family, with Netflix later adding a disclaimer to a teaser.
‘Inspired by real events, this fictional dramatisation tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and the political and personal events that shaped her reign,’ the disclaimer read.
Here’s a handy recap of some of the most significant moments from the fourth season.
What happened in The Crown season 4?
In season four of The Crown, viewers saw Charles and Diana meet for the first time, before they began courting officially.
Having previously dated Diana’s sister, Charles was shown giving his ex a ring to find out more about Diana, before his family became involved and started pushing for the match.
In 1979, Margaret Thatcher made history as the first woman ever to become Prime Minister in the United Kingdom, having already been leader of the Conservative Party for four years.
From their very first official audience, there appeared to be some tension between the PM and the monarch as depicted in the scenes in the drama.
Against the backdrop of Charles’ courtship with Diana, he was also embarking on a relationship with Camilla, who – in The Crown – his mentor and great-uncle Lord Mountbatten dissuaded him from seeing.
However, in the series, Charles and Camilla’s connection was prolonged, with Diana becoming disturbed after finding out that Charles gave Camilla a special bracelet engraved with a secret message.
In season four of The Crown, the death of Lord Mountbatten marked one of the historical moments shown on the programme.
The Queen’s cousin was killed in 1979 while on a fishing trip off the coast of County Sligo, Ireland on his boat, with the IRA later claiming responsibility for the four fatalities among the group of seven.
It’s been alleged over the years – although the royal family is yet to verify the claim – that when guests are invited to stay at the royal estate in Balmoral, they can be subjected to the so-called ‘Balmoral test’.
In The Crown, Ms Thatcher was shown failing miserably, while Diana passed with flying colours, resulting in the royal family informing Charles that they believe she would make a suitable wife for him and future Queen.
Charles and Diana had only been seeing each other for around six months when they became engaged, with the drama depicting the moment the bride-to-be picked out her famous sapphire and diamond ring.
However, their engagement was rocked when Charles gave an awkward answer to the question of whether they were in love – replying: “Whatever in love means” – before the couple wed at St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29 1981.
The Crown didn’t shy away from depicting Princess Diana’s eating disorder, showing the royal suffering from bulimia behind closed doors.
Charity Beat has urged people with experiences of eating disorders to avoid watching season five due to the scenes set to refer to the late Princess of Wales’ battle with bulimia nervosa and her mental health.
The fourth episode of The Crown season four covered the real-life incident when Ms Thatcher’s son, Mark Thatcher, went missing during an off-road motor rally in the early 1980s, the route of which began in Paris, France and ended in Dakar, Senegal.
Mark was later found ‘safe and well’, with his father flying out to Algeria to be reunited with him.
While one would expect the security at Buckingham Palace to be of the highest calibre, in 1982 a man named Michael Fagan not only managed to get into the Palace, but snuck straight into the Queen’s bedroom.
The monarch and Fagan did speak, but their conversation on The Crown was fictionalised. In real life, the unemployed painter and decorator remained in a mental health facility for three months after the break-in.
From the early stages of their courtship, there were fractures in Charles and Diana’s relationship, but their official tour of Australia in 1983 placed them under the spotlight in a unique way, as Diana won the hearts of the public with her natural charisma.
They did share some sweet moments on the trip, including when they took to the dancefloor during a ball, but the drama also conveyed how jealous Charles apparently was of the positive attention his wife was receiving.
In episode seven of the fourth season, viewers learnt about the lives of Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, first cousins of Queen Elizabeth II who were living in a mental health institution, apparently ‘hidden’ from the public.
Nerissa and Katherine were both born with developmental disabilities, with Helena Bonham Carter’s Princess Margaret also discovering three more relatives called Idonea, Rosemary and Ethelreda who were also born with developmental disabilities and were being taken care of at the same facility.
One of the most complex relationships explored in The Crown’s last season was that of the Queen and Ms Thatcher, with the series depicting the pair sharing a fair amount of tension between them.
While the Prime Minister is shown seemingly failing the Balmoral test set by the royal family, a month after she ended her tenure in Downing Street, she was appointed to the Order of Merit by the Queen.
The new season of The Crown is set to feature scenes inspired by true events including Charles and Diana’s split and a fire that took place at Windsor Castle.
The drama will return for a sixth and final season.
The Crown season 5 premieres on Wednesday November 9 on Netflix.