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The Crown: Aftermath

Ghost Diana: Thank you for how you were in the hospital. So raw. Broken. And handsome. I'll take that with me. You know, I loved you so much. So deeply. But so painfully too. Well, it's over now. Be easier for everyone with me gone.

Episode description: “As the world mourns, the Queen's silence prompts ire and warnings from a grieving Charles. How will she rise to the occasion and mother her nation?” Also, the episode in which Peter Morgan rewrites history, including his own version of history.

My experience of this episode was strongly influenced by the fact that I watched The Queen. The movie was also by Peter Morgan, and focuses on the time after Princess Diana’s death and how the Palace coped. In the movie Queen Elizabeth was also reluctant to accord the woman who was no longer her daughter-in-law when she died any royal honors. In The Queen, Peter Morgan showed us how the new Prime Minister Tony Blair had to persuade Queen Elizabeth to take the death of Princess Diana seriously and to understand its impact on her people. In this episode, in what seems to me – and others – like an attempt to butter up King Charles III, that task is assigned to the then Prince Charles.

Some of Prince Charles’s concern seems natural. Diana was the mother of his sons, and they will mourn her deeply. He has to be worried about how her death will affect them. Furthermore, now that he is a single parent, he has to get that relationship right. It also makes sense that he is the one to go to Paris. Diana's next-of-kin are her sons, but they are minors, so the duty falls to him (he is accompanied by her two sisters, so the Spencers are represented).

In the episode, Prince Charles’s experience in Paris – the grief he sees everywhere – is what motivates him to press his mother to lead, or at least to participate in, the realm’s mourning for Princess Diana. At least there is logic in this motivation. And it’s true that he did go to Paris to fetch the body instead of sluffing it off on the Spencers (using a plane supplied by the Queen). It’s also true that he played a significant role in the actual funeral, walking behind her coffin with their sons, his father and her brother. So perhaps the tears he shows when he first learned of her death really happened?

I don’t think so. Despite the beauty and magnificence of much of the episode, it feels wrong. It feels like pandering to the current powers in the Palace. To give credit to Morgan, Queen Elizabeth pushes back on her son’s new attitude toward Diana, because it is so new and out of character with how he was the rest of his life.

Peter Morgan makes another bold move: the “ghosts” of Diana and Dodi come to talk to the people to whom they were closest: Prince Charles and Mohammed Al-Fayed, respectively. My initial reaction was that it just seemed like an excuse to bring back the actors for one more episode. But even though we know those conversations didn’t actually happen, we also know that in another sense, they did. Most mourners imagine conversations with those who recently died, and things they would like to say, things they imagine being said to them.

We also see some of Mohammed Al-Fayed’s reaction, who is convinced that Diana and Dodi were in love and even engaged and goes around telling people that. He goes to get his son’s body and buries it immediately in accordance with Muslim customs.

Morgan shows some of the reactions of Diana’s sons. I liked how Prince William went out for such a long walk that everyone was alarmed. I have no idea if this happened or not, but it’s reasonable.

Most of the rest of the episode covers ground that is familiar because so much of it was public: the royals’ initial reluctance to participate, Queen Elizabeth’s speech, the bouquets piling up everywhere, and the funeral. These things are well done but not that interesting.

Title musings. “Aftermath” is just what happens when the world learns about the deaths of Diana and Dodi. The title is adequate.

Bits and pieces

Getting the news of the death of Princess Diana is something you remember if you were old enough when it happened. I was living in Zurich at the time, but on a business trip in Kansas when it happened. Totally jet-lagged, I turned on the TV in the very early morning, to find them talking lots about Diana, Princess of Wales. I was confused until I learned she was dead, and then I was even more confused, because she was so young.

The episode doesn’t bother to mention the other two people in the car: Henri Paul, the driver who was too drunk to drive. He died. Then there’s the bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, who survived the accident. He does not remember what happened, which is not surprising after such a traumatic injury.

I always thought Rees-Jones survived because he was the only one wearing a seatbelt, but Wikipedia reports he was not. This makes him not such a great bodyguard.


Janvrin: To bring the princess back from Paris in accordance with arrangements set up under Operation Overstudy.
Prince Philip: No. No, no, those plans are for a royal death abroad. Diana was no longer royal, no longer HRH. We must be seen to be doing this by the book.
Janvrin: Indeed, sir, and I suggested as such myself to the Prince of Wales. To which he asked if we would prefer the mother of the future King of England to be brought back in a Harrods van.

Ghost Diana: Thank you for how you were in the hospital. So raw. Broken. And handsome. I'll take that with me. You know, I loved you so much. So deeply. But so painfully too. Well, it's over now. Be easier for everyone with me gone.
Prince Charles: No, it won't.
Ghost Diana: It will. Admit it. You've had that thought already.
Prince Charles: The only thought I've had since the moment I heard is regret.

Queen Elizabeth: And I'd rather not be lectured on how or when to grieve or show emotion. Particularly by the person who caused her the most pain.
Prince Charles: All right. All right. I admit, I let her down in life. But I will not let her down in death. We can't have it both ways. Haven't we learnt that yet? We can't be a private family when we want to be and a public one when it suits us.

Ghost Dodi: Exalted expectations are not fair. They can never be fulfilled.
Mohammed: Did I have unfair expectations of you?

Prince William: Why are they crying for somebody they never knew?

Overall rating

The conversations with the dead showed imagination, but too much was Peter Morgan cribbing from himself and then slanting it in the most pandering of directions. One and a half out of four wilted bouquets.

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


  1. Do you really suppose HM watches this series? I can't imagine it doing anything other than alternately annoying him or reviving bad memories, especially these last few episodes. (I only ever watched the first few episodes of the series, myself, and really don't have any desire to watch these recent ones.)

  2. Possibly HM doesn't watch, but I'm sure he is acutely aware of all press and he will get reports on whether the series is flattering or not. Apparently this is true for nearly everything, not just The Crown (Prince Harry has been ostracized for his tell-all book).

  3. Like you, I kept comparing this episode to The Queen which I preferred.

    One of the things I most admired about Elizabeth was her ability to listen to those around her (be it Blair or her son or both) and to pivot when she decided it was the right thing to do. Not always an easy thing to do.

    I got the news in a coffee shop. I was visiting my mother and had gone for a run. I stopped for a coffee on my way home and everyone in the place was deadly quiet staring at the TV. I'll never forget the feeling when I realized what had happened. Ran back home and spent the day in front of CNN.


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