*Warning. This recap/analysis contains spoilers for season four, episode four of The Crown.*
I did not know that Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) had a son and daughter and, to be frank, I often forget that Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) has other children in addition to Prince Charles. Let’s explore how the kids factor into episode four, season four of “The Crown.” How much of the episode’s plot actually occurred in real life?
Margaret Thatcher breaks down during her private audience with Elizabeth. Thatcher’s only son Mark Thatcher has gone missing, leaving Margaret Thatcher understandably distraught. One thing I loved about this moment was the fact that Elizabeth serves Margaret a whiskey. Was it considered proper to allow the monarch to serve you a beverage if she offers? It’s unclear historically speaking, but it was a nice moment of empathy from Elizabeth for her prime minister whether it was based on a real moment or written in for the show.
Mark Thatcher did go missing while participating in the Paris-Dakar rally of 1982. In the episode Margaret makes it clear that Mark is her favorite child, leaving an aghast Elizabeth confused. Phillip (Tobias Menzies) is quite amused by Elizabeth’s shock over Margaret’s declaration, and confirms that the Princess Anne is his favorite. He challenges Elizabeth to determine which of their four offspring is her favorite.
So Elizabeth plans meetings with Edward, Andrew, Anne and Charles.
Prince Edward is Elizabeth’s youngest child. He was third in line for the throne when it was just him, Anne, Edward and Charles, but is now eleventh in line for the hot royal seat. Prince Edward also holds the titles of Earl of Wessex and Earl of Forfar.
Edward is played by Angus Imrie in The Crown. In the show-verse, Edward is somewhat skeptical of why he’s meeting with mummy the queen, and seems very concerned when he asks if he’s still getting his 20,000 pounds in civil list money.
What is civil list money? It’s a sum paid for by the English government to the monarch to cover royal expenses. This was replaced in 2012 with the Sovereign Grant, which is supposed to be more streamlined, but still costs the average taxpayer. So basically, Edward wanted to make sure he was still getting his royal allowance from Elizabeth.
Edward also sarcastically notes that royal meals always seem to include poached salmon, and the mother-son lunch only gets more awkward from there.
Edward gleefully tells Elizabeth how he had a fellow classmate at Gordonstoun sent home after he caught said classmate smoking. But didn’t Edward also smoke? Elizabeth asks. Edward basically responds with the classic, “Yes, but I didn’t get caught.” The scene presents this as revenge from Edward for all the bullying he had to endure. He is determined to use his royal influence to get into the college of his choice. Edward’s attitude is a big privileged, “Well why not?”
Princess Anne is Elizabeth’s second child and, at the time of her birth, was second in line to the throne. She is now fourteenth in the line of succession. As demonstrated in the series, Anne is an incredibly proficient horseback rider, winning gold medals in equestrian competitions. Anne was even the first royal to compete in the Olympics.
Anne (Erin Doherty) is deeply unhappy and she’s not afraid to tell Elizabeth about it. Anne’s jealous of the kind treatment ‘she’ gets from the press in reference to Diana. The parallel between Anne’s unhappiness and Diana’s is sad. Both women are told that they should be happy even though they’re clearly miserable. Elizabeth fails the mom test in this regard. When Anne clearly craves sympathy, Elizabeth only offers platitudes. Just wait it out! It’ll get better! Elizabeth tells her daughter these platitudes after informing her that Anne’s bodyguard may be sent to a different post, due to the rumors of his affair with Anne. She did really have an affair with said bodyguard, Peter Cross.
Don’t send him away, Anne pleads. He’s the only person who makes her happy. Elizabeth can’t even get a smile out of Anne. Two children out of four aren’t exactly making Elizabeth want to put a “Proud Parent” sticker on the back of her Land Rover Defender.
Yes, the queen is actually quite fond of Land Rovers. Onward to adult child number three!
Yes, Prince Andrew is that royal, the one who was friends with infamous pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew is Elizabeth’s third child and father to Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice.
There’s something to be said about how each of Elizabeth’s children greets her. Edward with sheer precociousness, Anne by anger, and Andrew certainly taking the cake for the most grandiose entrance, arriving where Elizabeth is by helicopter. If Edward is precocious, Andrew is downright pompous. He tells Elizabeth about an erotic film that his newest girlfriend, Koo Stark was in that was called The Awakening of Emily. Elizabeth asks if the film about a seventeen year old girl discovering sex through “perverted older predators,” is even legal, and Andrew is basically like, so what?
The show clearly reduced Stark’s character as a means to a pointed meta jab at Andrew’s disregard for legality and ethics. In real life, Koo Stark actually had quite the interesting career that included being considered for the role of Princess Leia herself for A New Hope. Stark even won a libel lawsuit after a magazine incorrectly labeled her as a porn star. She’s definitely an interesting lady but sadly she’s not a royal so Elizabeth and the show moves on to her last child, Charles.
Prince Charles, Elizabeth’s eldest, is still first in line to the throne of England and is currently married to Camilla. As portrayed in this episode, Charles did hop on the environmentally friendly train before it was cool. He shows Elizabeth around his Highgrove home in Gloucestershire, and explains how he wants to have an organic garden. Elizabeth’s eldest son is clearly passionate about the renovations, but sadly Charles’s relationship with Diana isn’t thriving as well. A heavily pregnant Diana refuses to leave her room to meet with Elizabeth, clearly depressed.
Elizabeth calls Charles out on the fact that he’s neglecting Diana, and Charles responds by continuing to neglect Diana. Later on Elizabeth laments how lost her children are to Phillip and doesn’t seem to be able to pick a clear favorite. Olivia Colman does a spectacular job in the scene, showing the audience that she thinks she’s a bad mother without outright saying it.
This was a bit of a slower episode but it was an interesting way to humanize Elizabeth. Stay tuned for next episode, where an intruder breaks into Elizabeth’s bedroom and lives to tell the tale!