"What I remember about Princess Diana’s death is not caring about it at all. I was theoretically old enough to understand, but I didn’t," says Lili Loofbourow. "Instead, I was a baffled alien trying to comprehend the shock and mourning around me. Diana, to my eye, was a perfectly ordinary-looking human woman who for celebrity-worshipping reasons was splashed across the covers of every tabloid while people took intense positions on everything from her curious outfits to her beauty to her divorce. She seemed to distort the discourse around her into bizarre exaggerations; news about her wavered between gushing adoration and condemnation via gotcha photographs. I couldn’t understand why she was so wildly overpraised for doing things like hugging a sick boy, or why her being on a boat with a man was fascinating. It took The Crown—a show I have mixed opinions about—to help me finally 'get' the Diana thing. Before watching it, despite my very best efforts, my position (snobby dismissiveness, as The Crown itself amply illustrates, is how one copes with feeling like an alien) was that the monarchy seemed pretty dumb, and fangirling over a princess—vastly exaggerating both her qualities and her struggles—was even dumber." Loofbourow adds: "Biopics are acts of cultural and temporal translation, and while I sometimes resent its extreme lack of subtlety, I want to give The Crown its due in this respect: Emma Corrin showed me what Diana means to a lot of people, and how she charmed them, in ways that footage of the woman herself has not. I see now that I missed Diana’s beginning, and maybe that’s what you need to appreciate her story. Growing up, I’d missed the whole fairy-tale phase of the prince and princess of Wales. Corrin expertly captures how tragically young she was when she made some of her biggest decisions. Her coy relation to stardom is believable, and so is her somewhat baffling approach to her husband’s increasing resentment of her fame."
Is it wrong for Prince Harry to have a Netflix deal when The Crown is making his family look bad?: “The fact that Meghan and Harry have forged a deal with Netflix, who broadcast The Crown, is irrelevant—like saying the queen should not use the BBC for her Christmas broadcast because they broadcast the Panorama interview with Princess Diana,” says Princess Diana biographer Andrew Morton. “Netflix is a broad church that broadcasts a kaleidoscope of shows, from fiction to factual.” However, other royal biographers, like Sally Bedell Smith, are disappointed that Harry would align himself with a company that streams critical, if lavishly produced story lines about his own family members. “It is an egregious conflict of interest for Harry and Meghan to have a highly lucrative deal with Netflix, the very same producer of a television series that passes itself off as fact but is a highly fictionalized version of Harry’s own family,” said Smith, who has studied the royal family for over 20 years in her work on Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Charles. “The Crown portrays some actual events, to be sure, and tries to prove its credibility with little details like the toys in the royal nursery, but nearly all its dialogue, and most of its scenes and plotlines are pure invention—often maliciously so."
The Crown's portrayal of Diana feels personal to many African women: "Diana’s poise, care for her children, charity work and devotion to the African continent, which she visited several times, all appeal to women — and their daughters — who still feel a strong connection to the princess," says Tariro Mzezewa. "Some African women even bear her name. A search for African mothers and Diana on social media yields hundreds of posts. Many of the women who adored Diana come from countries that were colonized by the British, and grew up during or soon after a time of oppressive colonial rule — which might make positive associations with the royal family hard to understand. But all the women interviewed for this story said that they and their mothers viewed Diana as an individual, not tainted with the colonial past. My own mother, who spent most of her life in Zambia and Zimbabwe and has been a loyal Diana fan since the 1980s, said that the new season confirmed much of what she believed about the royal family — particularly that their coldness toward Diana left her depressed. She paused watching halfway through the season because she found Emma Corrin’s performance as Diana to be all too real."
In Season 4, The Crown became a horror show: "The first three seasons now seem like prequels because something has changed," says John DeVore. "The sleepy drama I’ve come to love mutated into a completely different show: a horror. In this season, we meet Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the legendary conservative with a spine of steel and lump coal for a heart who is played with vampiric elegance by Gillian Anderson and the future Princess of Wales, the mother of the next-in-line to be king and his brother, Meghan Markle’s husband. I have spent most of Season Four of The Crown screaming, 'Run, Diana, run!' whenever Emma Corrin, a fine actor who is also a mirror-image of Diana Spencer, appears on the screen. Suddenly, this nutty family of powerful, insanely rich, milk-fed veal calves comes off as monsters who play games with visitors who stumble into their fabulous prison the way a cat tortures a mouse. Diana was a teenage girl when she met Charles. She thought was going to live a fairy tale—but the truth is she wasn’t Cinderella, she was a human-sized glass slipper that fit the foot of a philandering prince whose primary life purpose was to sire an heir to the throne."
The Crown has found its scoundrel in Prince Charles: "As far as I can tell, the central question The Crown asks is: Should we feel bad for these people? What about poor Princess Margaret, the shinier star of the two Windsor sisters, always shoved into the background despite her flair for party tunes and witty repartee? Or Prince Philip, a man forced by rank to scrabble for any semblance of equality in his marriage? Sure, Camilla Parker Bowles actively works to disrupt the entire English monarchy, but she’s also decidedly not Diana, Princess of Wales, and she knows it — which would be a real blow for any woman in a love triangle. (Though let it be said that you are gorgeous, Emerald Fennell.) Only the Queen Mother, with her insistent, oblivious grin, expects no pity; she moved ranks from a Meghan Markle to a Kate Middleton, and she’s just happy to be along for the ride. Of the whole sorry lot, Charles is the whiniest, the least self-aware, and the most openly cruel."