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'The Crown' Series 4, Episode 2- 'The Balmoral Test'

The second episode of The Crown starts with Prince Charles’ gentle ‘wooing’ of the then Lady Diana at a performance of one of Verdi’s works- with chaperone between them and apart from showing his superior cultural knowledge over her, things looked promising for a while.

The real highlight of ‘The Balmoral Test’ is how strongly Gillian Anderson is growing into the shoes (and the helmet hairstyle of ‘The Thatch’) of Margaret Thatcher. The Crown is doing for Mrs T what rarely happened during her premiership which is to create great sympathy for her. She and Dennis are dispatched to Aberdeenshire to take part in what is known as the informal ‘Balmoral Test’ to see how any PM gets on with the Windsors.

Mistake No 1 for the Thatchers was going down for drinks before dinner at 6pm in full dress (tut tut), No 2 was in not bringing outdoor shoes or clothes when invited to stalk an injured deer. Parlour games finished off the  rather brutal test and in the end led to them leaving early doors. Now the test is not mere fiction as biographers of Margaret Thatcher have talked about her problems adapting to how the Windsors lived at Balmoral during the holidays and it is said that Cherie Blair also failed the test when she and Tony Blair stayed there.

What it did allow Gillian Anderson to say as the PM was that the Royals were a part of the general malaise in the UK at that time as she saw it with a class problem that she needed to address “from top to bottom”. She showed that she was not interested in partying or relaxing whilst on holiday but to work, and to work hard. She talks about “God needing no faint hearts for ambassadors” and the strong medicine she felt the country needed at that time. There is some very heavy handed barbed confrontations betweens The Queen (Oliva Coleman) and Margaret Thatcher, that you simply cannot imagine having taken place in reality, but it does allow creater Peter Morgan to play up the different backgrounds and attitudes of the two women, and allow the viewer to be understand what makes them individually tick.

One person however who passed  the ‘Balmoral Test’ with flying colours is Diana- she was happy to get up at 5.30am and follow Prince Phillip to take out the injured deer even guessing in what direction the wind was coming for, to allow for a better shot. This however just allows Phillip and especially Princess Anne (the wonderful Erin Doherty) to encourage/instruct Charles to marry Diana. However, it is clear that in his regular calls to Camilla Parker-Bowles, that he questions if Diana is ‘the one’ for him. Camilla clearly encourages him to find someone like Diana to settle down with, but he lacks the backbone or personal willpower to marry who he thinks he would be happiest with, rather than what his family wants -even if she is already married to someone else!

As the episode ends we see the start of the press’ hounding of Diana, whilst Mrs T gets rid of the ‘wets’ in her Cabinet…..

Tags: The Crown, Netflix, TV Reviews, Gillian Anderson, Margaret Thatcher, The Queen, Lady Diana