The Crown season 4 episode. “Terra Nullius” chronicles Charles and Diana’s tour of Australia. Here’s why the Princess was more popular than Charles.
In season 4 of The Crown, the Prince and Princess of Wales travel to Australia – and it’s Diana the people adore, not Charles. The Crown, created by Peter Morgan, chronicles the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The latest installment spans 1977-1990, a time of political unrest due to the policies of the UK’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson). The people found the courtship and marriage of Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) a welcome distraction, thanks in large part to the beauty and charismatic personality of his wife, Diana (Emma Corrin).
Episode 6, “Terra Nullius,” focuses on Charles and Diana’s royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. The trip was an important one for Charles, who was representing an increasingly unpopular monarchy. The country’s prime minister, Robert Hawke, wanted Australia to stand on its own as a republic – an agenda that had growing support from the general public. The trip gets off to a rocky start as the couple is having marital problems, rumors of Diana’s bulimia are circulating both in public and among members of the Royal Family, and Diana insists on bringing Prince William. During an unplanned detour to a sheep station to visit William, Charles and Diana discuss their shared unhappiness, which marks a turning point for the couple. As the trip wears on, Diana’s popularity eclipses her husband’s, and when the time the couple return to England, Charles goes to Highgrove and Diana to Kensington Palace.
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Morgan’s historical drama takes a certain amount of creative license when it comes to what happened behind closed doors with the main characters, so how accurate are the events that transpired during Charles and Diana’s trip? According to an article in Vogue, the Queen was concerned about how the 21-year-old Diana would handle her first overseas tour given her inexperience and shyness. In the beginning, Diana suffered from sunburn and fatigue. In The Crown, Charles complains to Camilla Parker Bowles about Diana’s frailty after their trip to Ayers Rock (Uluru). In reality, Diana’s hesitation was due to her outfit, which wasn’t practical for the outing. After overcoming jet lag and her sunburn, Diana found her footing. She was more personable and eager to interact with the massive crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of the couple than her husband. The series emphasized that the people of Australia found Diana relatable and a breath of fresh air.
In Tina Brown’s book The Diana Chronicles, Brown wrote that Charles’ popularity suffered by comparison. “Victor Chapman, the press secretary on the tour, got used to late-night phone calls from Charles complaining about the scant coverage of himself in the press compared to the hagiographic acres accorded of his wife.” In The Crown, Prime Minister Hawke tells Charles that if he had traveled to Australia alone, it would have furthered his cause, but Diana set back Republicanism in Australia for “the foreseeable future.” Brown wrote that by the end of the tour “… a poll in Australia found that Monarchists outnumbered Republicans two to one.”
In the series, Charles, whose insecurities almost rivaled if not surpassed his wife’s, throws a tantrum over Diana’s attention-grabbing antics. While the show is a dramatized version of events, the resentment felt by Charles was real. In a 1995 interview, Diana told the BBC:
“We’d be going round Australia, for instance, and all you could hear was, ‘oh, she’s on the other side.’ Now, if you’re a man—like my husband—a proud man, you mind about that if you hear it every day for four weeks. You feel low about it, instead of feeling happy and sharing it.”
Ultimately a trip that was a triumph for Diana, Charles, and the monarchy looked like a fairy tale on the outside, but was a disaster for the doomed marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, who will finally separate during season 5.
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