‘How many times can this family make the same mistake?’ implores Olivia Colman as the Queen in the trailer for the greatly anticipated fourth series of wildly popular Netflix series The Crown. It is this continual mistake-making, and failure to achieve the apparent imperturbable perfection that the royal family exhibits, that makes The Crown such compulsive viewing – and why, after four years, we still cannot tear ourselves away.

The upcoming series promises to focus especially on the relationship of Charles and Diana, a love story immortalised as one of star-crossed tragedy, and which, essentially, is one we all know – except that, in actuality, we don’t. Nina Gold’s casting of Emma Corrin, an actor relatively new to the professional scene, means that the presentation of Diana will be unmarred by established preconceptions or recognitions, of both actor and character. ‘This is the Diana no one knows about… there’s so much, too much, footage of her when she’s older’, Corrin told ‘Variety’, and it is this concept that encapsulates the fascination with the series as a whole.

We think we know the royal family; they are, after all, ubiquitously considered to epitomise British culture, but what The Crown offers up is the chance to enter the most private of worlds which, despite its confidentiality, undeniably makes up part of our own national identity. The chance to delve into the facets of the family that have remained undisclosed is certainly an appealing one.

“The Crown is unflinching in it’s dealing with the intricacies of royal life, both internal and external”.

If anything, The Crown engenders the vulnerability of the royals, and the fragility on which the family – or, as they are at times referred to, ‘The Firm’ – hangs. In one of the most memorable scenes of the third series, Prince Charles cites his ‘beating heart’ as being what differentiates him from the relative ineffectuality of his predecessors, and he vows to lead, when his time comes, ‘by showing people who I am’.

O’Connor’s portrayal of this raw, frustrated emotion is a distinct digression from the emotional conservatism that we typically associate with the royal family, and in this way The Crown serves to remind us that, despite an untouchable image, this family is like any other in that they remain deeply affected by the good, the bad, and the unfailingly catastrophic.

“There is something at play here that is demonstrative of human nature in its purest form”.

We must remember, however, that this is a dramatization accompanied with a generous helping of Netflix glamorisation (each episode reportedly costs over £10 million). Nevertheless, the production is not overly stylised, and the plot’s rooting in true history gives it an irrefutable credibility. The series is also heavily researched, and endorsed by those with direct links to the royal family – Corrin met with Diana’s private secretary Patrick Jephson before filming, for instance – and so this is no parody or satire.

Neither does the series romanticise history. A whole episode in series three was devoted to the Aberfan tragedy, which elicited what was widely considered one of the Queen’s most major missteps as she failed to respond until over a week later: something which, in 2002, she admitted to have been her biggest regret while on the throne. In doing so, The Crown is unflinching in it’s dealing with the intricacies of royal life, both internal and external.

We approach the release of the fourth series, then, with interest that remains unabated. Frequently victim to tabloid scrutiny, quite apart from unfettered international fascination, the royal family are unlikely to ever evade curiosity, especially since so much about them is specifically withheld from public access. The trailer is brimming with lines that promise further permeation into the personal lives and hidden stories of these icons: ‘what does one have to do to get some kindness in this family’, Charles angrily demands, and Margaret ominously warns that Diana ‘will break’.

The series is hardly likely to be uplifting, and yet its imminent release is one of Netflix’s most anticipated of the year. There is, therefore, something at play here that is demonstrative of human nature in its purest form – enchantment with that which we are refused, and a need to realise that suffering is universal. As we spiral further into the complexities of this web of responsibility, power, duty, and public opinion, The Crown can only continue to unequivocally demonstrate, if anything, that money certainly cannot buy happiness.

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