Diana Passes the Balmoral Test in Episode Two of The Crown Season Four

Published on November 24, 2020

*Warning. This review/recap contains spoilers for The Crown*

Confession. It took me the longest time to realize that the woman Charles was calling in this episode for advice was none other than Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennel.) Yes, I skipped straight from season two to season four, but at least I would know to bring outdoor shoes to a stay at Balmoral Castle. In other words, Margaret Thatcher was woefully out of her element in this episode. That is, until she fired her entire cabinet because they trash-talked her to the press.

Two men shoot and wound a beautiful stag in the beginning of “The Balmoral Test.” The stag lingers through the episode fighting to live, yet yearning to die. Of course this could be seen as a heavy-handed metaphor for Diana later on, but for now all of the royals, save for Charles, adore her. The same cannot be said for Margaret Thatcher.

Both women are invited out to Balmoral, the Scottish holiday home for Queen Elizabeth II and her family. For recapping purposes I’ll be referring to the queen as Elizabeth. Thatcher isn’t thrilled about having to take time off to politically canoodle with Elizabeth and the family. Thatcher and her husband are aware the they’re being tested by the royals, and fail every test miserably.

It is important to keep in mind that this show is a dramatization. However, the Balmoral Test is a legit thing. Kate Middleton and Megan Markle had to go through it. But moments like Elizabeth failing to meet Thatcher upon the PM’s arrival to Balmoral appear to be added in to add more sympathy for Thatcher (Thatcher was a controversial figure in real life during her tenure as Britain’s prime minister).

Thatcher and her husband continue to embody the definition of trying way too hard when they show up for dinner dressed to the nines way too early. They don’t say just the right things at dinner that night and Thatcher’s attempt at participating in the after-dinner parlor game is sadly awkward. Elizabeth speaks for the entire audience when she wonders what Thatcher actually does for fun.

The next day is even more of a cringefest. The outdoorsy Elizabeth invites Thatcher to go out stalking, which is a method of hunting. Thatcher arrives for the adventure dressed for a day at the office.

Some people just aren’t outdoorsy Elizabeth. (Source: Netflix)

Thatcher can’t get out of the excursion fast enough. She gets permission from Elizabeth to go back to Balmoral and change. Needless to say, Thatcher uses this prime moment to stay inside and work. Of course Thatcher can’t end her faux pas streak yet, and commits the terrible gaffe of sitting in Queen Victoria’s chair.

Queen Victoria is not amused. (Source: Royal Collection Trust)

Not only that but she addresses Elizabeth as Margaret’s sister, which is a big no-no when you’re a prime minister peasant in royal land. Needless to say Thatcher quickly exits Balmoral, stage left. She’s got to take care of her sexist cabinet after all!

Elizabeth is left rather perplexed by the first prime minister that couldn’t leave her holiday home fast enough. Meanwhile the stag is still out in the country, dying. (For such an opulently decadent show, the CGI stag stood out a bit to me and not in a good way. It’s not that the CGI was bad but I could TELL it was CGI, and therefore the shots of the animal staggering around in the beautiful Scottish countryside lost a bit of the emotional wallop I felt like the episode was going for.)

Enter Diana

A lot of this episode was intertwined with Charles whining about Diana to Camilla. “She’s a child.” He tells his controversial lady-love. It’s obvious who Charles really wants, but Camilla acts a lot more realistic about the situation. What good will Camilla acting jealous of Diana do for anybody? (It will be interesting to see how this plays out later.)

Poor Diana. She’s doing everything right and is clearly so excited by Charles showing interest in her. However, the show is currently playing her off like a pawn in the royal chess game. Phillip (Tobias Menzies) takes Diana out on a solo stalking mission to nab the stag when Diana visits Balmoral. Not only did Diana bring the right shoes, but she’s a country girl at heart. At least that’s what she tells Phillip when he asks her if she’s bothered by the mud. (Emma Corrin really plays Diana well, particularly in her nonverbal mannerisms.)

Papa Phillip approves. (Source: Netflix)

There was that shining moment where Diana told Phillip the wind was coming in from the left when he was prepping to shoot the stag. Phillip insists the wind is clearly coming from the right, aims, and shoots his target. Diana cheekily asks Phillip after if she was right, in a charming way. It’s a flash of Diana’s burgeoning independence and I am here for it.

Needless to say, Diana passes the Balmoral Test with flying colors. Charles has family members left and right telling him to marry Diana. Thatcher fires her original cabinet and hires a new cabinet full of slightly younger white guys. The paparazzi start to follow Diana, who smiles shyly at the flash of cameras.

The wheels of history are turning.

This episode seemed a bit slow initially but I see it as the bridge to what’s to come. The Crown has a lot of ground to cover with Charles and Diana. In a way, “The Balmoral Test,” felt like the calm before the storm. Onward to episode three!

Katherine Stinson is an award-winning journalist and Staff Reporter at Grit Daily News, where she covers Texas and Southern states' startup and entrepreneurship news. Based in San Antonio, Texas, she also contributes to ScreenRant, Outlander TV News, and San Antonio Magazine.

Read more

More GD News