WThe Crown – or The Diana Show is now in its sixth series. For one, the 10-episode run can be expected to represent at least a decade of royal machinations, downplaying the political machinations of the time and exploring the development of palace etiquette, with the first three episodes of the latest installment covering the last eight weeks of Diana’s life, the fourth being The Crash and the funeral.
Those few months will be recreated in truly punishing detail, unless you’re reading this while staying at Diana’s shrine of your own making. From the beginning The Crown Prestige has been walking a tightrope between drama — capable of evoking a world of emotional struggle from a scene or queenly line — and soapy silliness. It started faltering in season three, completely lost its balance in the next two and is now plummeting into the abyss, despite uniformly brilliant performances from the entire cast — Elizabeth Debicki as the Queen of Our Hearts, in particular — playfully trying to arrest. its downfall. The way Imelda Stanton spins as the queen “Oh, that girl …” is a gift, but the crown no longer deserves it, or her.
In the manner of a Hallmark movie, Diana represents death at every turn — you know, the one where you don’t know the fate of the world’s most famous woman and then forget about the frenzy of grief that gripped the country. She’s a virtual hermit, says The Crown: Watch her talk about landmines! Watch her play casual middle class games with her beloved boys! Watch her fall in love with sweet Dodi Fayed! Check out her furrowed brow as she gets home from Paris, gets away from the villainous paparazzi following her down the subway, gets the sane advice of her therapist, and commits to starting a new life! And thus the post-mortem convulsion of an entire country was no more than she deserved. By the time she called William and Harry, the point was hard enough that this would be the last contact they would have with their mother, as well as a message ticker at the bottom of the screen saying “The tunnel is coming! She’s going to die very badly!”
And worse is yet to come: After her death, Ghost Diana appears to Prince Charles and then the Queen as a kind of angel, shining a light and a better way for them. People, to each of whose individual hearts he always had a direct hotline. When she saw her body, she thanked Charles for keeping her “so raw and broken and beautiful” at the hospital. “I carry it with me,” he adds. My notes at this point are indecipherable and, as it were, I doubt what they say will be unprintable. As Ghost takes Diana’s hand and softly whispers, “You’ve always shown us what it means to be British. Maybe it’s time to learn”, prompting her to request a headline “Show us your concern, ma’am.” I’m very experienced in physical space.
But Ghost Diana is now a crass, by-the-numbers piece of filmmaking, with a script that doesn’t aspire to craft, let alone art. “She can’t keep the man of her dreams,” Diana tells her ex-husband when they reach the detention center. “But she is the friend of dreams.” “Look what you’ve accomplished in the year since your divorce!” Toddy says at the beginning of The Last Knight. “A global anti-landmine campaign! Collect crores for charity! And yet you are not happy. “It’s the story of my life,” sighs Diana before the ghost. “Spinning around and losing sight of myself in the process.” This is the definition of typing-not-writing.
The emotions it evokes — at least in silence — fade from the power of small moments like watching the boys be told by Charles about their mother’s death, or Harry writing a “Mummy” card. They will sit on top of the coffin. But even this is little more than voyeurism.
Beyond all its formal failings, The Crown in the Late Period is improbable by being well set in living memory. Although there is something to engage with, the memories and resulting questions that flood the viewer’s mind at each stage make it impossible to do so. Was Charles really so careful about what his death meant so soon? From all we know then, and from the mountains we have learned from it, it seems impossible. We do know that Prince Philip didn’t mutter to Harry an explanation for the crowd’s behavior during the funeral (“They’re not crying for her. They’re crying for you”). Let’s see. Suspension of disbelief can never be established. The ghostly Diana dances among the ruins.