One interesting thing about getting older is that we see books, movies and TV series portraying historical events and realize “I was alive back then and remember experiencing this the first time around!”
At no time is this feeling more evident to me than when watching season four of ‘The Crown’, along with what appears to be most of the rest of the English-speaking world! In case you have been living in a cave and are unaware of this phenomenon, ‘The Crown’ is a high quality, Netflix dramatization of the British royal family. It is based around the lifetime of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain who was born in April 1926 and is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She became Queen in 1952 and was crowned the following year. At the age of 94 she gives no sign of abdicating the throne to the heir to the throne, her 72-year-old eldest son Prince Charles, or to her more popular 38-yearold grandson, Prince William.
The current season of ‘The Crown’ begins in the late 1970s and continues into the 1980s – a period I remember very well as a schoolgirl growing up in London, England. The program is based on factual events in history, but the writers must of course invent a lot of the personal responses and conversations of the royal family to make it a compelling drama. This season and time in history includes news events and politics with the relationship between the Queen and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher but it also focuses heavily on Princess Diana.
‘The Crown’ in general and this season in particular has generated much debate and controversy both here and back in the land of my birth. Princess Diana was five years older than me and during her courtship and marriage to Prince Charles in 1981, when she had just turned 20, my friends and I were fascinated by her story. Of course, none of the negative aspects of this doomed relationship were known to us at the time and we all believed the “fairy tale” romance of her story. Rumors of her bulimia, her husband’s and later her own infidelities and their growing dislike of each other did not come out until much later. We all wanted to and did believe in the ‘happy ever after’ aspects of their story, through their courtship, marriage and birth of their two sons - Prince William in 1982 and Prince Henry (Harry) in 1984.
By 1992, when they announced their separation, the world was well aware that the marriage had not worked. From their separation to their divorce in 1996 and her tragic death at the age of 36 in 1997, there was a constant media frenzy about anything Princess Diana did – from her relationships to her wardrobe and everything in between.
Back in the UK, it has been reported that Prince Charles and his current wife – the former Camilla Parker-Bowles – are today receiving a great deal of abuse, mainly via social media, from the British public who have always been sympathetic to Princess Diana, who was known as ‘The People’s Princess’. The current series of ‘The Crown’ portrays Diana as the young ‘victim’ of the royal family and reminds us that Prince Charles’ with Camilla (who was married to someone else at the time) overlapped with his relationship with Diana, and that Diana was not happy about it.
I can only imagine how the royal family, and Prince Charles in particular, feels about ‘The Crown’ as he and Camilla, who carries the title The Duchess of Cornwall, have worked hard for the past 25 years to live down the battering his reputation took after he and Diana divorced. In a major nod to public sentiment, Camilla has never been given the title of Princess, and will not be Queen when Charles ascends to the Throne.
With hindsight, it is obvious why the marriage of Charles and Diana failed. He was 13 years older than her and the conventions of the time meant that he should not marry someone with any sort of a “past” with other men. This immediately disqualified Camilla. The young Diana was regarded by pretty much everybody as “perfect” – pretty, innocent and sweet. She was considered the ideal match for Charles, who at that time was under great pressure from his family and the nation to produce “an heir and a spare” – which he and Diana did within three years of marriage. Charles loved the countryside, is educated having graduated from the University of Cambridge, enjoyed intellectual pursuits and classical music. Diana loved to dance and pop music, did not get any qualifications at school – not even the British equivalent of graduating high school – and described herself as “thick as a brick”, which is a British expression for being very dumb. She quickly tired of the Royal Family’s lifestyle and country pursuits, instead enjoying city life much more.
There is a lot more information about these historical events at www.history.com and ‘The Crown’ is available at www.netflix.com Challenging times are not new to her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has guided Britain and the Monarchy through many trials and tribulations. She once said “When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.”
God Bless America and The Royal Family! Stay safe, stay well, stay positive.