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The Crown: Fairytale

Lord Chambarlaine: “It is with the greatest pleasure that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh announce the betrothal of their beloved son the Prince of Wales to the Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the Earl Spencer and the Honorable Mrs. Shand Kydd.”

Prince Charles proposes, but his heart isn’t in it.

Everyone — or all of Prince Charles’s female relatives, anyway (mother, sister, grandmother, aunt) – is sitting around, apparently in Buckingham Palace, waiting for Prince Charles to propose to Diana, which he does. As I embarrass easily when forced to watch romantic scenes, I was happy to see the reactions and not the reality.

As Diana makes her entrance into the family, she messes up by curtsying to people in the wrong order. I find this faintly ridiculous, but without protocol and precedence the monarchy pretty much has no raison d’être, so Diana has to master all the rules.

We see Diana being moved into the Palace, and the announcement of the engagement – a really grand occasion, which would have been lovely if we didn’t know the sorry end – is made. Being in Buckingham is safer for her, but lonely, and she roller skates and dances to cheer herself up. She is busy with piles of post and with her grandmother, Lady Fenroy, training her in what needs to be done, including using a rope to tie down Di’s hands as she practices a speech (a useful technique, but full of symbolism). The pressure is severe and Diana relieves her tension with secret eating and secret vomiting.

The core of the episode is when Diana meets Camilla and when Diana discovers how little she knows about Prince Charles. She doesn’t know about the soft-boiled egg with every meal rule, the no garlic rule, the no lunch rule. She learns Camilla and Prince Charles speak nearly every day, and later she finds out that her fiancé is having a bracelet made with his and Camilla’s names. Prince Charles is returning a day earlier than she expected, but it is in order to see Camilla.

Interestingly, Prince Charles redeems himself a bit in this episode. He does go to see Camilla, and he does give her the bracelet, but he tells Diana that it was in order to say good-bye to her. He also retrieves a signet ring for Diana, for her new position as Princess of Wales. I expect the scenes didn't happen as shown, but I expect there’s truth in the emotion, if not the words and the events. Prince Charles probably did try to make a go of the marriage, or at least he tried to try. Even if he was more mature than Diana, he was still young in many respects (not that everyone matures anyway), and certainly his situation made normal romance challenging.

One thing I appreciated were all the different points of view with respect to the wedding, given the basic fact of Charles being in love with another. Princess Margaret, who was forced to break up with the man she loved, says the wedding should be called off. She is the most adamant.

Calling off the wedding, however, would be extremely inconvenient. The cathedral is booked. It is also unlikely that Prince Charles, who is getting older, will be able to find another suitable young virgin (and letting him marry Camilla, now a wife to another man, as well as a mother, is out of the question). So it is not surprising that others in the family rationalize going ahead with the wedding.

Prince Philip, the only one in the room with a Y-chromosome, gives the male point of view. He thinks Charles will grow fond of Diana over the years, because she was going to be extremely beautiful (certainly true). The Queen Mother is not especially disturbed by the idea of Charles having an affair, because that was a basic fact in many royal marriages.

The Queen actually goes to speak to her son, and tells him a story of her grandmother, who was forced to trade in Prince Charming for Prince Charmless, but how that couple made it work through a sense of duty. The scene is one of the best in the episode; The Crown usually does well when Queen Elizabeth acts as a monarch and wields some of her immense power. (Wikipedia says it didn't take long for Prince Charmless to fall in love with Mary, so the story may have been exaggerated.)

It is telling that no one bothers to speak with Diana. In fact, the only person who was candid with her was Camilla.

Title musings. “Fairytale” is the title of the episode, and many of us – thanks to Disney – were brought up with fairytales with happy endings. In fact, the end of the episode reminds us of that, with an announcer talking about how fairy tales end with, “And they lived happily ever after.” However, many of the original fairy tales had less pleasant endings, such as Hans Christian Andersen’s version of “The Little Mermaid”, in which the mermaid doesn’t get the prince.

Bits and pieces

I liked seeing the animals in Buckingham Palace – a mouse running across the carpet, and the large dogs near Princess Anne.

The restaurant at which Diana meets Camilla is called Ménage à Trois, which is really on the nose.

I found it interesting to learn more about bulimia.

Camilla Parker-Bowles sure smokes a lot!

We still haven’t seen any acknowledgement of the two younger princes. Well, many shows have to reduce the number of characters.


Royal Family: What did she say?
Prince Charles: That it was the happiest moment of her life.

Lady Fenroy: The one thing I hate is when you go into a restaurant and the waiter attempts to memorize the order without writing it down.

Diana: I get letters from all over the world, but nothing, not a squeak from the man I’m supposed to marry.

Camilla: Darling, you really know nothing, do you? You need a proper Fred tutorial.

Princess Margaret: Charles loves someone else. How many times can this family make the same mistake? Forbidding marriages that should be allowed, forcing others that shouldn’t. Paying the consequences each time.

Overall Rating

This episode was so much stronger than the last one! I appreciated the different points of view. Three and a half out of four of Lady Fenroy’s ropes.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.


  1. I'm enjoying these reviews! I found this episode to be very affecting - the way it closed in on Diana in an almost suffocating way really helped get a sense of her experience moving into Buckingham Palace. For what it's worth I thought the Menage A Trois name was ridiculously on the nose too, but apparently it was real and Princess Diana was known to eat there. (It has unfortunately since closed, however.)

  2. I am so glad you are enjoying the reviews. We love to hear that, hungryandfrozen.

  3. Victoria, the scene you thought was strongest -- the Prince Charmless one -- affected me the most, too. What really bothered me was Charles turned to his mother and there were tears in his eyes. And she didn't even acknowledge those tears, much less hug him. So wrong. And of course, we all have 20/20 hindsight so we know what a mistake they pushed Charles into.

  4. I thought Menage à Trois had to be real because they couldn't possibly invent something so on the nose.

    Trigger warning: mental illness, eating disorders

    I'm curious about my fellow viewers' thoughts on the show's depiction of Diana, in particular her mental health issues. Her ED is prominently displayed but I don't see much of her alleged borderline personality disorder. I wonder if they skipped it. Or maybe I just need to finish the season. Also, it's worth noting that Diana herself said her bulimia didn't start until the engagement and was triggered by Prince Charles himself calling her chubby, which seems like an odd thing to have left out. Not as odd as leaving out Princess Anne's near kidnapping, but odd nonetheless.


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