SEX, war, adultery and terror attacks – the eagerley awaited new series of The Crown enters the Eighties and delivers its most explosive storylines yet.
With the Queen’s four children grown up, they start making their way in the world just as the country undergoes a revolution under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher.
But the biggest revelation in the drama, which starts on Sunday (Nov 15) is the introduction of Princess Diana to the story of The Windsors, who’s played by newcomer Emma Corrin.
ROD MCPHEE looks at the show’s ten most shocking moments – and whether they’re more fact or fiction…
1 – DICKIE’S “DYING” WISH
The series starts in Ireland in 1979 where the IRA carry out an horrific bomb attack on Prince Charles’s beloved great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten
Minutes before his death he writes to his great-nephew, scolding him for his ongoing fling with Camilla and says he must marry: “Some sweet and innocent well-tempered gal, with no past and who knows the rules…one that people will love as a princess and in due course, as queen.”
It’s not clear if Mountbatten, known to the royals as “Dickie”, wrote the prince this letter before his assassination, or if it actually provided the motivation to find another woman.
But he had always pleaded with Charles to forget Camilla and wed an aristocratic virgin – and Diana fit the bill perfectly.
2 – PRINCESS DI’S BULIMIA
Three of the ten episodes begin with warnings about scenes featuring the princess suffering from bulimia, which starts when she’s left alone by Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor) just before their 1981 wedding.
A reaction to the most stressful moments of her rocky relationship with Charles, for the next nine years she is seen gorging on food then making herself sick.
They are truly upsetting, but a necessary reflection of how deprived of love the princess was as her husband continued his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Di spoke of the eating disorder in her famous Panorama interview she confirmed: “It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help. It’s like having a pair of arms around you, but it’s temporary.”
3 – MAGGIE’S ROYAL CLASH
After being swept to power, the Queen (Olivia Colman) tries to get to know her first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) by inviting her to Balmoral Castle.
Once there the eccentric Windsors sneer at the grocer’s daughter, but the experience makes Maggie realise she needs to overhaul British society “from top to bottom.”
In The Crown she tells husband Dennis: “I’m struggling to find any redeeming features in these people at all. They aren’t sophisticated or cultured or elegant or anything close to an ideal.”
Maggie really did experience a clash of cultures when she visited Balmoral, and her time with the Queen partly fuelled her disdain for privileged upper classes – including the posh “Wet” ministers in her own cabinet.
4 – THE QUEEN’S VISITOR
A whole episode is dedicated to Michael Fagan, the man who Her Majesty woke to find in her bedroom in 1982 – and single handedly created one of the greatest royal security breaches in history.
The then 32-year-old Londoner broke into Buckingham Palace, twice, by scaling the barbed-wire-topped, 14ft wall of the building and shimmying up a drainpipe.
His first attempt failed, but his second saw him get an audience with the Queen, who was left unprotected as her police guard swapped shifts and alarms malfunctioned.
The Crown claims he wanted to warn her that Maggie was ruining Britain, but Fagan later admitted she instantly called security and bolted for the door.
He said: “She went past me and ran out of the room – her little bare feet running across the floor.”
5 – ANDY SHOWS HE’S RANDY
The Crown makes a dig at Prince Andrew’s recent link with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, by referencing Koo Stark, the US actress he dated from 1981 to 1983.
During one scene, Randy Andy – who’s just done active service in the Falklands War in 1982 – tells his mother about the 17-year-old girl she plays in the racy movie, The Awakening of Emily.
He said: “She meets several twisted and perverted older predators who seduce the vulnerable, helpless, young Emily as we follow her induction into sensual pleasures.”
The Queen asks if it's legal and he replies: “Who Cares?”
Later Her Majesty laments how lost her children seem. She tells the Duke of Edinburgh: “As for Andrew, I’m shocked. If he doesn’t change…”
Andrew, now 60, has since been mired in the scandal surrounding Epstein. American Virginia Roberts Giuffre claims Epstein, who died in a jail cell, trafficked her for sex with the prince when she was 17 and he was 41.
6 – THE ARCTIC HUG
At the end of a turbulent tour of Australia with Prince Charles, an increasingly desperate Diana goes to visit the Queen and pleads for help.
As Her Majesty brings the uncomfortable meeting to a close the teary princess throws her arms around her mother-in-law in a bid to show how desperate she is.
But the Queen simply freezes, sticking her arms out like a scarecrow and is left dumbfounded by an act of heartfelt affection which is alien to her.
Although it's not clear if this ever happened, it’s believed Diana did make several cries for help to the Queen as her marriage crumbled in the late Eighties, but most went unheard.
7 – THE HIDDEN COUSINS
Perhaps the most shocking revelation in The Crown is the story of the Queen’s cousins, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, who were hidden from the public for decades due to their learning difficulties.
Officially registered as dead, Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) is seen uncovering the Queen Mother’s nieces, who had been in the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Mental Defectives, at Redhill, Surrey, since 1941.
In fact Nerissa didn’t die until 1986, aged 66, and Katherine died in 2014, aged 87. And both were aware of their royal connections, always curtseying when they saw Her Majesty or her relatives on the TV.
The story, tragically is entirely true, and they were hidden from the public because it was feared their condition might lead people to question the legitimacy of the royal line.
It’s unlikely, however, that Princess Margaret only discovered this in the Eighties – it was a well-known secret among the Windsors.
8 – QUEEN GETS POLITICAL
After pledging to protect the Commonwealth as a 21-year-old, an older Queen asks Margaret Thatcher to agree to pressuring South Africa into ending apartheid.
When the PM doesn’t comply, the Queen demands her press secretary, Michael Shea, allows a leak to a newspaper highlighting the strained relationship between monarch and first minister.
Maggie reacts furiously, and the Queen realises she has to act to save face after appearing to act politically – a huge taboo for a royal. So she makes Shea her scapegoat, forcing him to take the blame and resign.
The palace have always denied this story, and the ex press secretary has always maintained his departure from the palace was nothing to do with the scandal.
9 – CHARLES SLATES SIBLINGS
In a nod to how arrogant Prince Charles was becoming, he is seen taking a swipe at Prince Andrew on the day of his wedding to Sarah Ferguson.
When Randy Andy grumbles about the lack of media coverage of their big day, Charles says: “You can hardly blame the newspapers for wanting to write about something other than a fringe member of the family that will never be king.
“You’re fourth in line now, and by the time William’s had children, and his children have had children – fringe.”
Prince Edward, who witnesses the slight, remarks: “That was impressively c***y!”
But Prince Andrew is far from humble and is seen telling the Queen how much better he would be at being the "heir" and how jealous Charles is of Andy's close relationship with the monarch.
10 – PHILIP’S DI-RE WARNING
One of the greatest conspiracy theories surrounding the 1997 death of Princess Diana in Paris is that it was orchestrated by the Duke of Edinburgh.
Mohamed Al Fayed claimed he took the drastic action as she was having the child of his son, Dodi, who was also killed in the infamous car crash.
And this series of The Crown ends with a sinister scene where Diana tells her father-in-law that she plans to leave Charles if they can’t patch up their marriage.
He responds in a menacing way saying: “I wouldn’t do that if I were you…let’s just say, I can’t see it ending well for you.”
Diana asks: “I hope that isn’t a threat, sir?” Ominously, he doesn’t reply.
Though there’s no evidence that a conversation like this took place, it is known that the duke wrote to Diana asking that she “help maintain the dignity of the Crown” warning her “fit in or get out”.
But an inquest into the death of Diana concluded there wasn’t “a shred of evidence” that Philip had ordered the “execution” of the princess.
IF the first three series of The Crown were uncomfortable viewing for the royal family, season four will be excruciating.
They are portrayed as cruel, neglectful, unscrupulous hypocrites who are not only disloyal to one another, but also terrifyingly out of touch with the country.
But what makes the latest installments disturbing is what makes them the most sensational. By comparison, the first three seasons feel like prequels that were just building up this moment.
And the whole whirlwind inevitably revolves around the arrival of the late Princess Diana who is almost brought back to life by brilliant newcomer Emma Corrin.
From the shy smile, to the cocked head and whispered voice, the actress has perfectly captured the mouse that eventually roared. As for the heartbreaking bulimia scenes, they’re explicit without being gratuitous.
Josh O’Connor plays second fiddle to her as Prince Charles, but he’s still impressive as her selfish, insensitive husband who can’t help but return to his mistress and true love, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Meanwhile, the Queen desperately tries to keep their crumbling marriage together – not for the sake of love but the sake of the family’s reputation and the future of the Crown.
After an uncertain performance in series three, Olivia Colman really embodies Her Majesty this time round and, at times, is shockingly cold and intimidating.
That leads to some spectacular clashes with her Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, which sees Gillian Anderson deliver a passable Maggie, and a more human version of the ex-PM.
In one row the Queen tells the PM that she’s worried her harsh policies may combat inflation and interests but says she’s worried about Britain’s “moral economy”.
But on the basis of her own family’s behaviour – particularly their treatment of Diana – it’s the Windsors who are left looking morally bankrupt.
The Crown season four premieres on Netflix on Sunday, November 15.
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