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‘The Crown’ never stood a chance.
For the Duke and Duchess of Montecito just can’t help hogging the spotlight. And this long-anticipated final season, with its surprisingly compassionate depictions of Charles and William, hasn’t had a moment to land.
‘Prince Harry ‘Completely by Himself’ amid Queen Elizabeth’s Death.’
So read the screaming headline in People magazine on the eve of the sixth series’.
What follows is an extract from the upcoming book ‘Endgame’ by H&M-cheerleader Omid Scobie, with whom Sussex sources have since denied any affiliation.
We’ve read it all before, of course: the valorized victimhood and grudge-holding that has come to define Harry and Meghan’s story.
Here’s ‘Endgame’, sourced by people ‘close to the Sussexes’, on the couple’s most intimate thoughts and feelings as the Queen lay dying, what they said to each other when totally alone, how Charles called with the sad news, and Harry’s unanswered texts to William as the family rushed to Balmoral.
No, not sadness at the end of a life well lived, nor admiration for an enduring legacy of stoicism and service, but how it affected them.
‘[Harry] was completely by himself on this,’ says a source.
‘William ignored him. He clearly didn’t want to see his brother,’ another adds.
Meghan, according to a ‘friend’, ‘could sense she wasn’t wanted.’
Transpose this seeming utter lack of class and discretion with ‘The Crown’ taking its final bow.
Right away, this initial four-episode instalment of season six makes one thing clear: This series, despite what’s come before, is unabashedly pro-monarchy.
How could it be anything but? Its central crown-bearer, the not-long-departed Queen Elizabeth (played by Imelda Staunton) is very much alive throughout.
As for all the worries about Diana (the impeccable Elizabeth Debicki) and a potentially violent recreation of the crash that killed her, it is as tastefully done as possible — we see a speeding black Mercedes but the impact itself is off-screen. Charles (Dominic West), meanwhile, is gifted a newfound hero narrative.
And unlike his living, breathing inspiration, our fictional 12-year-old Harry has little dialogue and never steals the scene.
That said, these episodes aren’t without teeth.
An apparent smattering of well-aimed barbs at our wayward royals are especially curious given Harry and Meghan’s lucrative Netflix deal.
We see a divorced Diana lobbying then-Prime Minister Tony Blair for an official role, despite no longer being a working royal (ahem).
Queen Elizabeth’s blistering response: ‘I always say it’s hard to be half-in anything… You’re either in or you’re out.’
Subtle as an anvil, that dialogue.
As Harry said in his six-part Netflix docuseries last year, he and Meghan asked the Queen for that very arrangement — the freedom to live in America, monetize their titles and cherry-pick their royal duties.
‘It became very clear very quickly,’ Harry said, ‘that goal was not up for discussion or debate.’
Part of the problem, he implied, was that Meghan, alas, was Diana 2.0.
She is the Paul to Kate’s Ringo, the diamond who shines too bright, Kate the mere cubic zirconia.
‘The issue,’ Harry fumed, ‘is when someone who is marrying in, who should be a supporting act, is then stealing the limelight or is doing the job better than the person who is born to do this.’
But as the final season of ‘The Crown’ makes clear, there was only ever one Diana. So much so that her death and the ensuing fallout consume the entirety of these four episodes. In fact, such is her centrifugal force that showrunner Peter Morgan can’t let her go. Even after death, Diana’s still the star of the show!
As Charles retrieves her body from Paris, she pops up as a ghost on his private plane.
Truly, we have entered soap-opera-ville, Charles and Diana having a tete-a-tete though her body is sealed in that quarter-ton lead-lined casket.
Charles: ‘Paris. One of the busiest cities in the world and you brought her to a standstill.’
Ghost of Diana: ‘Ta-daaaa!’
Charles: ‘It was ever thus. You were always the most beloved of all of us.’
It’s hard to interpret that as anything other than Morgan showing his fealty to Diana, the royal family and the monarchy itself.
Charles and Camilla are depicted as true love, the real endgame, the best thing for the future of the crown and its subjects.
Charles toasts Camilla at a grand 50th birthday he throws for her, quoting Captain Wentworth’s letter from Austen’s ‘Persuasion’:
‘Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman. That his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been. Weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.’
Wow. Contrast that with Diana at loose ends, conducting an ill-advised romance with middle-aged playboy Dodi Fayed — depicted here as singularly weak — courting the paparazzi while bouncing all over St. Tropez and Monte Carlo, her childish lover all-too-often qualifying every plan with that unsexiest of lines: ‘I just need to run it by my dad.’
Diana and Dodi’s fling was barely one month old when they died. She had no plans to marry him, as she told the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay in one of the final calls made before her death.
‘I’ve just got out of one marriage,’ she said to Kay, ‘and I need another one like a hole in the head.’
That declaration is ratified in episode three, when Diana tells William over the phone that ‘I’m emphatically not going to marry Dodi’, and later tells Dodi himself, after he presents her with a diamond engagement ring: ‘I can’t make your father love you more by becoming your wife… Marriage is a serious and painful business.’
This is meant to be the show’s zenith, its narrative crescendo. Yet it rings false.
A supernova like Diana would never have wasted her stardust on an aimless layabout.
It’s also strange to see Morgan cannibalize his 2006 film ‘The Queen’. Really, this final season of ‘The Crown’ is a regurgitation of everything from the famous deer motif — a fawn at Balmoral used as a symbol for the hunted Diana, reanimated here — to the film’s central conflict between Elizabeth II and Tony Blair as he pushes her to adapt after Diana’s death: to mourn as the public demands, to modernize and, in effect, preserve the monarchy.
Except here it’s Charles who is that advocate, not Blair. He gets all the muscular dialogue, making the case for Diana’s legacy to the Queen and Prince Philip.
‘It’s always been hard,’ he tells them, ‘for us to understand the connection that Diana has with people, but the fact that it’s inexplicable shouldn’t lead us to deny it.’
That connection abides. Why else would ‘The Crown’, an otherwise prestige drama, turn Diana into a ghost moments after her death? It simply can’t survive without her presence. Debicki’s Diana is the single most compelling figure here and will doubtless haunt the remaining episodes.
After all: What else is there? William and Kate’s burgeoning romance lacks much in the way of real conflict. Charles and Camilla live happily ever after. The monarchy is saved.
And we end well before the ongoing churn in Montecito.
So as ‘The Crown’ concludes not with pomp and circumstance but camp and revisionism, our eyes avert to some real-time melodrama: Following a ‘warm’ phone call between Charles, Harry and Meghan on the King’s 75th birthday, this most fragile of steps toward reconciliation has likely been torched by Scobie’s new book.
Poor Charles. If he is Charlie Brown, then Meghan and Harry are Lucy, holding the football and pulling it away, despite promising that this time, really, they won’t do it again, would never make him look like a fool.
If the Netflix doc couldn’t lay waste to any remaining goodwill, if ‘Spare’ couldn’t do it — by God, this yet might.
‘The Crown’ may end ignominiously with the ghost of Diana. We, however, remain exhaustedly haunted by Meghan and Harry, who will never lay old bones to rest.