|Country of origin|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Original release||15 November 2020|
Olivia Colman stars as Elizabeth, with main cast members Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Josh O'Connor, Marion Bailey, Erin Doherty and Emerald Fennell all reprising their roles from the third season. Gillian Anderson, Emma Corrin and Stephen Boxer are added to the main cast. Additionally, Charles Dance returns in the season's first episode and Claire Foy reprises her role as Elizabeth in a cameo flashback scene.
The fourth season covers the time period between 1979 and 1990, is set during Margaret Thatcher's premiership, and introduces Lady Diana Spencer. Events depicted include the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, their 1983 tour of Australia and New Zealand, the Falklands War, Michael Fagan's break-in at Buckingham Palace, Lord Mountbatten's funeral, the Princess of Wales's appearance at the Barnardo's Champion Children Awards, and Thatcher's departure from office.
The following actors are credited in the opening titles of single episodes in which they play a significant role:
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|31||1||"Gold Stick"||Benjamin Caron||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Charles meets Lady Diana Spencer while picking up her elder sister Sarah for a date. The Conservative Party wins the general election and Margaret Thatcher becomes the country's first female prime minister. Elizabeth is surprised when Thatcher expresses contempt for their gender during their first audience. In Iceland, Charles, who is on holiday with friends, receives a phone call from Mountbatten, who criticises his ongoing affair with Camilla. The royal family later learns Mountbatten and three other people were killed by a bomb planted in his fishing boat. The Provisional IRA takes responsibility for the attack, and Thatcher vows to defeat them. Charles receives a letter Mountbatten wrote the day he died, urging him to find a suitable wife. After seeing Diana again at a showjumping event, Charles asks Sarah's permission to start dating her.|
|32||2||"The Balmoral Test"||Paul Whittington||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Thatcher pushes through significant spending cuts in her first budget, against opposition from some colleagues. The Thatchers spend a weekend with the royal family at Balmoral, having been warned about "the Balmoral test". The Thatchers do not get along with their hosts, and leave early using the excuse of state business. Charles continues to confide in Camilla; she encourages him to pursue Diana. Diana is invited to Balmoral. She passes ‘the test’ and impresses them by spotting a stag for shooting. The family push Charles to think about marrying her, despite his reservations. Thatcher reshuffles her Cabinet to dismiss her opponents.|
|33||3||"Fairytale"||Benjamin Caron||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Charles proposes to Diana, and she accepts. Diana moves from her London flatshare into the palace, amid a media frenzy. She is tutored in the ways of the palace by her grandmother, who is formal and unsympathetic. Diana begins to have episodes of an eating disorder due to the stresses she is now feeling. While Charles is abroad, she meets Camilla for lunch and realises that she hardly knows Charles at all, while Camilla knows every detail about him. Distressed, she thinks of calling the marriage off. Meanwhile, Charles returns from his trip and sees Camilla before returning home; he tells Diana he had visited her to end their relationship. Margaret tells the Queen and Philip that Charles still loves Camilla and that the marriage will be a mistake, but Philip says that Charles will grow to love Diana. The Queen tells Charles to focus on his duty, and happiness will follow. The marriage goes ahead amid huge public celebrations.|
|34||4||"Favourites"||Paul Whittington||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Thatcher breaks down during an audience with Elizabeth, confessing her son Mark went missing while competing in the Paris–Dakar Rally. Philip and Elizabeth discuss favourite children; Philip says he favours Anne, but won't say who he thinks is hers. Elizabeth has her secretary arrange for her to meet each of her children separately, and to give her details of their likes and dislikes so that she should not appear remote to them. Each of her children expresses dissatisfaction with their lives and reveals information Elizabeth did not know. Argentina invades the Falkland Islands, and Thatcher demands action to recover them. Mark Thatcher is found in Algeria. Diana is pregnant, while her relationship with Charles appears to have deteriorated. He tells Elizabeth that he is still in regular contact with Camilla. Elizabeth shares her concern about their children's lives with Philip.|
|35||5||"Fagan"||Paul Whittington||Jonathan D. Wilson & Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Thatcher tells the Queen about the recapture of the Falklands. Meanwhile, unemployment is rising, and Michael Fagan goes to see his MP to complain about the economy and the money spent on the war. The MP sarcastically suggests he should raise his concerns with the Queen. Fagan’s life contrasts with that of the Queen - his cramped rundown squalor of a high-rise council estate, and the spacious luxury and wealth of the Palace. One evening, Fagan climbs over the palace railings. Inside, he is spotted but makes his escape. After being denied contact with his children by social services, he returns and breaks into the palace again, finding the Queen in her bedroom. Fagan talks with the Queen and asks her to save the country from the PM. After Thatcher and the Queen discuss their different social outlooks, the PM leaves to attend the Falklands victory parade.|
|36||6||"Terra Nullius"||Julian Jarrold||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Republican Bob Hawke becomes Australian prime minister, raising the stakes for Charles and Diana’s impending royal visit. He hopes the high cost of the visit will provide the tipping point to public backing of a republic. Diana insists on taking baby Prince William, to the Queen's disapproval. Charles and Diana discuss the difficulties of their marriage; Diana complains about his continuing interest in Camilla; they agree to try harder and, after a shaky start, the visit turns into a success with huge crowds turning out to see the young Princess, and their relationship temporarily improves. The Queen rewatches film footage of her own and Philip's tour of Australia in 1954 and becomes unsettled at the thought that this new royal tour is proving more successful. At an official reception, Hawke tells Charles that Diana has saved the monarchy in Australia. Charles and Diana argue again, and her eating disorder worsens. Back in the UK, they return to separate homes. Diana sees the Queen and tells of their unhappy marriage, but Elizabeth is unsympathetic and, when Diana hugs her, she walks out.|
|37||7||"The Hereditary Principle"||Jessica Hobbs||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|With Edward coming of age, Margaret finds her public role reduced and she falls into depression. She travels abroad to recuperate from having part of her left lung removed, and starts seeing a therapist on Charles's advice. After the therapist inadvertently mentions her deceased maternal first cousins Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, Margaret learns that they are still alive and, along with three other cousins, in a mental institution. She confronts the Queen Mother, who claims the family had no choice as knowledge of the cousins' existence would have called the purity of the bloodline into question. Margaret confides her insecurities about becoming mad to her therapist, who reassures her she will not. Margaret reassumes her role yet broods in private.|
|38||8||"48:1"||Julian Jarrold||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Thatcher and the Queen clash over imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa. The Queen believes that the sanctions are necessary to fight racial segregation and bring the Commonwealth nations together, whereas Thatcher believes they would disproportionately hurt Britain's trade, and potentially decimate South Africa's already weakened economy. After a series of modifications, including changing the word "sanctions" to "signals", Thatcher signs the agreement to impose pressure on South Africa, but then gives a press briefing undermining the agreement. Back in the UK, the press claims that the Queen is "dismayed" with the prime minister's actions. When questioned about it directly by Thatcher, the Queen insists on her apolitical position, yet tells her press secretary to remain silent about rumours of a feud between the two women. With this rift putting the Queen in a less and less favourable light, they decide to scapegoat press secretary Michael Shea to deflect attention away from the Queen.|
|39||9||"Avalanche"||Jessica Hobbs||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|At a gala organised by the Royal Opera House in honour of Charles's birthday, Diana surprises the audience by taking the stage and performing a duet to "Uptown Girl", prompting Charles to resent her popularity. They both leave on a ski trip to Switzerland but return after surviving an avalanche that kills their friend Hugh Lindsay. When Elizabeth learns both Charles and Diana have been unfaithful, she and Philip attempt to get the couple to reconcile. At a meeting, Diana promises to remain faithful while Charles is not given a chance to speak. Anne later tells Charles he should not be delusional about his affair, and Camilla tells him they should be realistic about their relationship. As Charles keeps ignoring Diana, she resumes her affair with James Hewitt.|
|40||10||"War"||Jessica Hobbs||Peter Morgan||15 November 2020|
|Thatcher finds her leadership challenged after Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Howe tenders his resignation in Parliament. Determining to dissolve Parliament, she asks Elizabeth for her support but is advised to do nothing. Thatcher later steps down as Prime Minister and receives the rare honour of the Order of Merit. Charles, having learned that Diana is still seeing James Hewitt, plans to move forward with a separation while Diana, despite doubts about her capability to carry a solo trip, travels to New York on a Concorde and charms the public. Observing Diana's popularity via television, Camilla tells Charles she's afraid of being subjected to public shame if their affair is discovered. Charles then takes out his anger on Diana upon her return. When the family gathers for Christmas, Charles corners Elizabeth, who berates him for his immaturity and ingratitude about his privilege before forbidding him from going through with either separation or divorce. Philip tells Diana she is not the only one suffering, advises her to concentrate her efforts on serving Elizabeth, and warns her not to let her marriage fail.|
By October 2017, "early production" had begun on an anticipated third and fourth season, and by the following January, Netflix confirmed the series had been renewed for a third and fourth season.
The producers recast some roles with older actors every two seasons, as the characters age. In October 2017, Olivia Colman was cast as Queen Elizabeth II for the third and fourth seasons. By January 2018, Helena Bonham Carter and Paul Bettany were in negotiations to portray Princess Margaret and Prince Philip, respectively, for these seasons. However, by the end of the month Bettany was forced to drop out due to the time commitment required. By the end of March 2018, Tobias Menzies was cast as Philip for the third and fourth seasons. In early May 2018, Bonham Carter was confirmed to have been cast. The next month, Erin Doherty was cast as Princess Anne. A month later, Josh O'Connor and Marion Bailey were cast as Prince Charles and the Queen Mother, respectively, for the third and fourth seasons. In October 2018, Emerald Fennell was cast as Camilla Shand. In December 2018, Charles Dance was cast as Louis Mountbatten. In April 2019, Emma Corrin was cast as Lady Diana Spencer for the fourth season. In September 2019 Gillian Anderson, who had been rumoured since that January to be in talks to portray Margaret Thatcher in the fourth season, was officially confirmed for the role.
The fourth season began filming in August 2019 and completed in March 2020. The producers confirmed that filming was completed ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown; the release date was not delayed.
Rotten Tomatoes reported a 97% approval rating for the season based on 107 reviews, with an average rating of 8.62/10 and a critical consensus: "Whatever historical liberties The Crown takes...are easily forgiven thanks to the sheer power of its performances – particularly Gillian Anderson's imposing take on The Iron Lady and newcomer Emma Corrin's embodiment of a young Princess Diana". On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 85 out of 100 based on 27 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Writing in The Atlantic, Shirley Li describes the drama as "sharper than ever" and "splashy", but observes that, in contrast to the first three seasons, the fourth criticises the Queen for her "ignorance" and "stubborn devotion to tradition". In the Evening Standard, Katie Rosseinsky wrote that the season's episodes are "dizzyingly beautiful and staggering in scope", and highlights the outstanding performances of Anderson and Corrin as respectively Thatcher and Lady Diana. In The New Zealand Herald, university professor Giselle Bastin described the season as "a masterly portrait of the turbulent 1980s" and complimented the production standards, casting and acting. BBC's arts editor, Will Gompertz, gave the series a rating of four out of five, praising Corrin and Bonham Carter but criticising Anderson's performance for "forever craning her neck from side-to-side as if scanning for a tasty lettuce leaf, while over-egging her Thatcher impression to such an extent she is close to unwatchable at times".
In a critical review, Dominic Patten of Deadline Hollywood complimented the earlier seasons but said that the fourth had "substantially tweaked timelines" and was "sub-standard soap", and that, despite Colman's performance, some of the other characters were like "Spitting Image live-action caricature". Writing in The Guardian, Simon Jenkins described the season as "fake history", "reality hijacked as propaganda, and a cowardly abuse of artistic licence" which fabricated history to suit its own preconceived narrative. The season has reportedly received backlash from the British royal family and some royal commentators. Royal historian Hugo Vickers stated: "In this particular series, every member of the royal family...comes out of it badly, except the Princess of Wales (Diana). It's totally one sided, it's totally against Prince Charles". Royal biographer Penny Junor criticised the season as portraying the British royal family as "villains", stating that "The Crown's royals are wild, cruel distortions of the people I've known for 40 years".
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