In perhaps the cruelest artistic choice ever made by the creators of The Crown, the wedding episode—season 4, episode 3, “Fairytale”—ends with a dramatic build-up up to…the back of Princess Diana’s dress. That’s right: You just watched 54 minutes of Diana and Charles’s cringe-y engagement, including that interview, and were denied the payoff of the wedding of the 20th century. Viewers didn’t even get to see the front of Emma Corrin’s bridal look, though it was shared on Netflix’s social accounts.
The Crown purports to show us each member of the royal family as they (allegedly) really are, rather than their public images. Many of us think of the moment Diana exited the Glass Coach at St. Paul’s as a touchstone not just for the royal family but the 1980s as a whole. It was a moment so publicized—a TV audience of 750 million watched on July 29, 1981—that fans of The Crown were likely expecting something a little different when they tuned into season 4.
Still, the choice to completely skip over the main event is a shock. The Crown has never shied away from depicting romantic royal moments in detail, both private and public. Throughout three seasons, the series recreated Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s wedding, detailed Princess Margaret’s doomed love story with Captain Peter Townsend, and looked back at that whole love quadrangle involving the queen’s elder children. Sure, the show occasionally skips over pivotal personal developments (especially when it comes to Princess Anne, #JusticeForAnne), but I’ve always been able to write that off as the writers having too much to cover, what with having to cram in politics and world events and all.
But when the screen cut to black and Stevie Nicks started belting “Edge of Seventeen,” my first reaction was: What gives? Why would the season that gave us a deep-dive into royal moments of the 1980s skip over the royal moment of the 1980s? And how did the season wind up with positive reviews to boot?
Since creator Peter Morgan hasn’t officially explained himself yet, please allow me to wildly speculate with five practical theories and one existential spiral.
It wasn’t a queen-centric event.
If you ask stars Corrin and Josh O’Connor (Charles), Morgan chose not to show the event because it didn’t have enough to do with the show’s main character, Queen Elizabeth II.
“Diana’s plotline, it’s all about what she’s doing and the effect that that’s having on the Queen,” Corrin told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s why it’s called The Crown. It’s the same for why the James Hewitt relationship is alluded to, but I think they cut a lot of scenes with Hewitt because they didn’t want it to turn into the Diana Show, I suppose.”
The wedding would have been expensive to shoot, for sure. But given that the series shelled out the money to recreate Diana’s iconic wedding day look, gave us a peek at St. Paul’s Cathedral during the rehearsal, and even threw in a fireworks show, I think we can safely deem this explanation unlikely.
I mean, the best way to avoid letting everyone down with a sub-par wedding ceremony is to…not show a wedding ceremony, am I right? Plus, as Corrin pointed out, there’s not much reason to recreate the wedding when you can find the real thing online with a quick YouTube search.
Was it COVID-related?
Star Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip) confirmed the show wrapped filming early due to the coronavirus, but we don’t know which scenes were skipped. If production was unable to shoot their most pivotal scene and wound up with a final cut that elicits this kind of reaction, they deserve every Emmy from now until eternity.
When was the last time you watched a TV moment that left your jaw on the floor and didn’t immediately pull up Twitter? This ending was ripe for rage-tweeting, and thus, free publicity for the show. But if it was truly Morgan’s intention, I’d be surprised if he ever admits it.
To make casual royals fans question everything.
I was fully expecting this to be the biggest moment of the season. I’m not a huge romantic, but I love a good wedding, and I’ve always thought of royal weddings as bringing the feelings and emotions associated with such happy occasions to the world’s largest stage. Two billion people reportedly watched Harry and Meghan tie the knot on May 19, 2018. There’s no denying people want to see the royals in love!
That season 4 of The Crown fails to portray this love when fans want it most is perhaps the point. So many people are keen to tune into a royal wedding, but only a portion of those realize the extent to which Charles and Diana’s wedding was anything but, as the episode is so pointedly named, a “Fairytale.” For those of us only tuning in for the weddings, The Crown forces us to divert our attention. We have to think about what we just saw, and what we saw was messy, human and heartbreaking.
If this is the first time you’re absorbing the sheer volume of sad details that marked Diana and Charles’s earliest days together, the episode’s abrupt ending will leave you brimming with questions. It leaves you curious about how much of it is fictionalized. It makes you wonder if things would’ve turned out better if everyone had, as Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) suggests later in the show, thought about what was best for everyone and called it off. It brings up questions about the emotional toll that fame takes on the royal family. Heck, it might even make you rethink your feelings about Meghan and Harry’s decision to distance themselves from “the Firm.” And it made me, at least, question why my preconceived notions of this family left me feeling cheated as the credits rolled.
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