‘The Crown’: The History Behind Season 4 on Netflix


In 1985, Diana surprised Charles for his birthday by dancing onstage to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” at the Royal Opera House. “The audience gasped when Diana appeared, as if they’d all taken one huge breath,” her dance partner, Wayne Sleep, remembered in the British newspaper The Guardian in 2017. “At one point, I pirouetted and she pushed me down; then I carried her across the stage. I remember thinking, ‘Don’t drop the future queen of England.’”

We do not know how Charles really felt about the performance, but in the episode, he is horrified, calling it a “grotesque, mortifying display.” At the time, rumors were already circulating about their marriage. The same year, The New York Times said there were “rather unkind” reports “that the royal couple argues a lot, that he is eccentric and henpecked, and that she is obsessed with clothes and diet.”

The BBC called it “the resignation that toppled Thatcher.” In 1990, Geoffrey Howe, Thatcher’s longest-serving cabinet member, stepped down with a speech encouraging others to break ranks with the prime minister.

The Times obituary for Howe in 2015 described him as “a roly-poly avuncular man with shaggy white hair” and “little charisma or flair for public speaking.” But Howe’s resignation did huge damage to Thatcher, and she was out within weeks.

The episode also shows a solo trip to New York that Diana took in 1989, which included a visit to the pediatric AIDS unit of Harlem Hospital. In real life, Diana changed public attitudes toward the disease, touching AIDS patients at a time when many people were afraid to do so. In the Harlem hospital, she hugged a little boy who had the illness, as she does in the show.

A Times article about the trip quoted Dr. Margaret Heagarty, pediatric director at the hospital, who told Diana, “Your presence here and in Great Britain has shown that folks with this disease can be hugged, can be cared for.”