By Christa Protano
Nine years ago, Netflix’s The Crown premiered and fans of the British monarchy have been captivated ever since. From the moment we were introduced to a 25-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, The Crown has fueled America’s obsession, myself included, with the royal family for better or worse. What makes the series so successful is the delicate way it juxtaposes moments in history with all of the family drama that the House of Windsor prefers to keep under wraps. But what’s also intriguing about The Crown is that it dives deeper into the lesser known scandals that occurred way before the 1981 marriage of Lady Diana and Prince Charles.
And while some say that The Crown’s timeline is not always accurate, it sure has been fun watching this award-winning drama packed with plenty of star power the likes of Olivia Coleman, John Lithgow, Josh O’Conner, Helena Bonham Carter, and more.
That’s why we are counting down some of our favorite episodes before the final season premieres on November 16th. While “Aberfan,” “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” “and “Vergangenheit” may be the series’ highest-rated installments, our list has a more fashionable take. Courtesy of the tony new tome The Crown in Vogue, we are sharing exclusive photos depicting the real-life looks of the British royal family for each of our favorite episodes.
See for yourself if The Crown's timeline checks out. Learn about the monarchy's 1,500 years of history, starting from the 5th century all the way up to today’s Carolean Era!
Hyde Park Corner (Season 1, Episode 2)
Though only the second episode of the series, the top-rated “Hyde Park Corner” hooked viewers as it follows a newly married Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip on a Commonwealth tour in Africa. The newlyweds traveled in place of King George VI who was experiencing health issues at the time. Throughout the episode, Elizabeth is under the impression that her father’s condition is improving. She even suggests to her husband that he should resume his naval career. But the king ends up dying days later, and because they are in such a remote area of Kenya, Elizabeth and Phillip are one of the last to know. At just 25 years of age, Elizabeth (played by Claire Foy) finds herself the nation’s new sovereign. The phrase “Hyde Park Corner” refers to the code given to the media in regards to King George VI’s death, which we hear Winston Churchill say to authorize the newsbreak.
RIGHT PHOTO, from The Crown in Vogue: Beaton described the Queen as looking ‘minute’ beneath the heavy crown and robes of state in this official photograph. ‘Queen Elizabeth is young, ardent, with a shining sincerity of character and deep reserves of faith to give her strength for a task to which she is not only called by history, but to which she has expressly dedicated herself,’ commented Vogue.
Beryl (Season 2, Episode 4)
Personally, any episode featuring Princess Margaret is one of my favorites. From early on in the series, the actress Vanessa Kirby commanded attention for her glamorous portrayal of the queen’s younger sister. She even won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for the role in which she embodied all of Margaret’s pain and heartbreak that resulted from living in the confines of the monarchy. In “Beryl,” we see the young adult having a formal birthday portrait taken by the royal photographer, Cecil Beaton. Afterward, she finds herself sitting for Tony Armstrong Jones, who takes another portrait of the fun-loving femme, this time of a more intimate nature. Margaret herself sends the racy portrait to the papers, causing one of many scandals for the monarchy. In later years, Princess Margaret went on to marry Tony who eventually became the new royal photographer and was given the title Earl of Snowden. His rival Beaton was not too pleased.
LEFT PHOTO, from The Crown in Vogue: Exquisitely lovely, with (in the words of her photographer Cecil Beaton) ‘ice-cream pink cheeks and intensely blue, cat-like eyes’, the tiny, curvaceous Princess loved fashion. The embroidered butterflies on her gown symbolize her emergence as a beautiful young woman.
Dangling Man (Season 3, Episode 8)
When I first started watching The Crown, I was shocked to learn that history does indeed repeat itself. The story of Her Majesty’s uncle, the dashing Duke of Windsor, and his romance with the fashionable Duchess of Windsor sounds awfully familiar. You see, while he was next in line to inherit the crown from his father, King George V, he abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson. The monarchy did not approve of this marriage because Ms. Simpson did not have the proper pedigree—she was not only American, she was a twice divorcee. In “Dangling Man,” we find the Duke near the end of his life, living in exile in France with his longtime love by his side. A young Prince Charles is shown visiting with the Duke throughout the years, paralleled by his first date with Camilla Shand, whom the monarchy also didn’t approve of: the future Queen Consort was perceived as not aristocratic enough.
RIGHT PHOTO, from The Crown in Vogue: Along with pugs, jewellry and parties, a love of fashion was among the many tastes the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had in common.
Fairytale (Season 4, Episode 3)
This episode opens with Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, and the Queen Mother all eagerly waiting by the phone for news of the imminent engagement of Prince Charles and Diana. The episode ends with the aforementioned getting dressed for their royal wedding, all exhibiting anxious looks coupled with dramatic music and voice over by the Archbishop of Canterbury proclaiming, “Here is the stuff of which fairytales are made…the Prince and Princess on their wedding day…but fairytales usually end at this point with the simple phrase ‘They lived happily ever after.’”
With Emma Corrin’s performance, we are given an insider look into the loneliness and insecurity Diana faced once she became engaged and moved into Buckingham Palace at just 19 years old. We also get to see her relatability via piles of fan mail and a scene in which she roller skates down the palace halls listening to Duran Duran. There’s also that cringeworthy lunch with Camilla Parker-Bowles…. Speaking of Camilla, we also see Charles’ own hopes for a fairytale squashed as he is reminded by his mother that he is bound by duty and must go through with the wedding to Diana to avoid another scandal.
LEFT PHOTO, from The Crown in Vogue: Vogue had uttered a note of caution early on: ‘To be royal in the 1980s is to accept increasing pressure and diminishing privacy… Earlier royal weddings happened in more innocent times when media and public kept their distance.’
The Way Ahead (Season 5, Episode 5 )
The phrase, “The Way Ahead,” refers to a crisis task force set up in the early nineties to safeguard the monarchy’s survival and help it stay relevant. At the time, the progressive Prince of Wales wanted “The Way Ahead” to be a bit more radical and include constitutional and educational reform, along with a focus on environmental sustainability. He wanted to reflect a modern Britain and for the monarchy to play a practical role in society. In the beginning of the episode we hear Charles, played by Dominic West, describe being the Prince of Wales “as a predicament… stuck in a waiting room.” He is expressing his frustration at not being able to go out into the world and make his mark. Fighting for his version of “The Way Ahead” seems to be his golden opportunity. Enter the Camilla Gate tapes.
Instead of shrinking from the spotlight during this embarrassing time, Prince Charles decides to give an honest BBC interview, resulting in Diana donning her iconic revenge dress and Camilla leaving her marriage to Andrew Parker-Bowles. While half of the episode does have the ick factor from the intimate phone call, it also gives off a sense of hope for Charles’ eventually reign. The episode ends on a positive note with a look at The Prince’s Trust, a foundation Prince Charles set up to equip disadvantaged young people with the skills and confidence to fulfill their dreams.
RIGHT PHOTO, from The Crown in Vogue: This photograph was intended for a special ‘Royal Issue’ of Vogue, published for Christmas the previous year. After several months of planning, the sitting was scheduled for 11 September 2001, but was overtaken by world events. It took place instead in November at Highgrove. Here, the Prince of Wales feeds his Maran chickens outside their beautifully constructed hen house. The Prince wears a woollen coat from Pakistan, part of a collection of similar coats that, he told Vogue, he often wears in the garden.