The Crown: Avalanche

Princess Anne: “No one wants your marriage to end, not a single person. Not Diana, not your children, not your mother or father, not me, not a single one of your friends, and, most importantly, not even the woman you think loves you.”

An avalanche makes Prince Charles reassess his marriage.

Charles is off skiing in Klosters, Switzerland. An avalanche – don’t ski off-piste, there’s a reason it’s not recommended! – puts his survival in doubt. Word is brought to the Queen and Prince Philip, who don’t show much emotion. We notice, not for the first time, that Prince Charles is not the favorite child. I have to think Prince Philip would be much more troubled if Princess Anne’s life were in question.

Prince Charles has survived, but it was close; a friend died and another was injured. This type of event – and we see a great scene of the snow coming down – is enough to make anyone question their current life path. But unlike the episode, “Terra Nullius,” in which Charles puts some effort, albeit briefly, into his relationship with his legal wife, the Prince of Wales chooses to go in the opposite direction. The avalanche makes him comprehend the fact that one can be snuffed out at any moment, and he doesn’t want to spend any more time being miserable. He loves Camilla, not Diana. Furthermore, he practically hates Diana, as the press loves her more than him.

The Queen, who has been ignoring this problem for years – her hands-off approach to her family is the same she applies to government, but of course they are not the same - finally takes steps to address it. She begins, quite sensibly, by going to Princess Anne to get the deets. Princess Anne says the Waleses’ marriage is not in good shape, and never was, because Charles has always been in love with another. Princess Anne also has a heart-to-heart with her brother, letting him know that Camilla may care for him, but that she is married too, and may not be as willing to abandon that situation as Charles may assume.

At the funeral for the friend who died, both the Waleses are summoned to an intervention by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen asks them frankly if they want to remain married. Prince Charles glances down at his notes, preparing to speak. Diana, recognizing the danger to her situation – after all, she is not the one with royal blood and will certainly lose in a divorce – jumps in and says she’s ready to give it another go. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh don’t even listen to Prince Charles, which strains credulity. I read a long time ago that Prince Charles promised his father that he would give his marriage a go for a certain number of years, but after those years had passed, he was free to do what he wished. On the other hand, the Palace did seem to ignore the Waleses' marital problems for a long time, so maybe The Crown's interpretation is valid.

I don’t blame Charles for not wanting to be married to Diana. It’s what he does with his feelings that makes him so repulsive. Instead of being forthright, which perhaps his mother has made difficult, he attacks Diana for being different. He’s angry with her for stealing the spotlight, for dancing, for singing. He is trying to make her as unhappy as possible, so that she breaks and he has the excuse he needs to divorce her. It’s the nastiest of passive-aggressive approaches. How valid is it as a reading of the real Prince Charles's character? I don’t know.

Emma Corrin does an amazing job as Diana. She obviously has more than a passing resemblance to the physical appearance of the late Princess of Wales, but this episode, with the dancing and the singing, whether you appreciate them or not, called on the actor’s talents. Furthermore in this episode, Diana does make an effort to salvage the relationship, visiting Highgrove, bringing presents and the boys. But in her husband’s eyes, she can do nothing right, and Charles’s treatment – he even refuses her phone calls – sends her back into the arms of her lover. As the Prince of Wales has spies watching, this information reaches him immediately.

Title musings. “Avalanche” is the title of the episode; obviously it refers to the actual avalanche. But it also refers to the feeling of being overwhelmed, as both Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales obviously feel. Prince Charles especially feels as if he is being snowed under by the fact that, as his sister says, everyone but he wants his fairytale marriage to continue.

Bits and pieces

I live in Switzerland, and although I have never been in an avalanche, I have seen the devastation caused by slides of snow and slides of mud. Really, we need to have respect for Mother Nature, because she can crush us like bugs.

The times were still old-fashioned enough that it was OK for Prince Charles, as the man and the one with the royal blood, to have an affair, but Diana could not.

Menai Bridge, the code name for the death of the Prince of Wales, refers to a bridge that is, naturally, located in Wales. It connects the island of Anglesey with the mainland and was constructed in 1826.

The idea of reconciliation might have seemed possible to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, because they went through their own problems when Prince Philip was infatuated with a ballerina.

Some research shows that the avalanche was a turning point for the Waleses' marriage. However, it may have been because Diana turned against Charles and not the other way round. Although she was also at Klosters, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York (Sarah Ferguson was two months pregnant) did not ski that day. Diana thought Charles was responsible for going off-piste into dangerous conditions, leading friends to death and injury.

Quotes

Diana: I never thought you’d manage this, but you’re really succeeding now.
Charles: And what’s that?
Diana: I’m starting to properly loathe you!

Martin Charteris: We have contingency plans in place for all members of the royal family. “Menai Bridge” is no exception.
Queen Elizabeth: It’s the code name for the death of the Prince of Wales.

Princess Anne: Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl who fell in madly love with a handsome prince. Unfortunately, the prince was already in love with someone else, who was herself in love with someone else, and they all lived unhappily ever after.

Prince Charles: In the moment the avalanche was bearing down on me, in that ghastly moment where I was sure I was going to die, I had a profound realization.

Queen Elizabeth: Your marriage, all our marriages, are a reflection on the integrity of the Crown. And if they show cracks, that they cannot be relied upon, then the constancy and the stability that the monarchy is supposed to represent is called into question too.

Camilla: What we both want and what we can both actually do are not the same thing. It’s important we remain realistic, sir. But you have my word. My love for you is real.

Overall rating

An unpleasant episode, perhaps because we’re used to the happily-ever-after ending in stories. It also retreads much old information, that we have seen in prior episodes and in the tabloids if you were alive during those years. Nevertheless, these were the events, and The Crown does a good job of dramatizing them. Three out of four unanswered phone calls.

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

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