The Crown season 4, episode 10 recap – the ending explained

By Daniel Hart
Published: November 15, 2020 (Last updated: November 29, 2023)
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Netflix series The Crown season 4, episode 10 - War


“War” is a sensational ending — it commemorates the incredible performances by presenting the end of Thatcherism and the tragic traps Charles and Diana find themselves in. Regardless if you are interested in the Royal Family or not, this is a dramatic story that cannot be ignored by those who are interested in quality storytelling.

This recap of Netflix’s The Crown season 4, episode 10, “War” — the ending explained — contains significant spoilers.

We recapped every episode — check out the archive.

The opening

The finale begins with Sir Geoffrey Howe going to parliament to resign which is not a good moment for Prime Minister Thatcher. Geoffrey’s speech does not put her in a good light, stating that there is a conflict of loyalty between him and the Prime Minister. This is a damning blow to Margaret, as she was a close acquaintance to the minister. “War” shows the burning embers of Thatcherism.

Charles is not heard as news spreads about Thatcher’s incoming downfall

Charles visits Elizabeth, and he tells her that Diana is cheating again and he wants a formal separation. But Philip interrupts the conversation to put the news on; they are reporting that Margaret Thatcher is on edge to losing her government after a royalist resigns. Thatcher returns to Downing Street and sobs on her bed. Diana meets Charles at the back of a car so they can arrive at Ludgrove School to watch William play Rugby together. On the way back, Charles does not want to talk but then brings up how Diana is going to New York for her own self-advancement and also discusses how she’s having affairs. The conversation goes silent again. There are so many contradictions in every conversation they have — each sentence they throw at each other deepens the issue and has become the centerpiece of the series.

Is there a leadership challenge?

The Queen and Prime Minister Thatcher have their routine talk. Elizabeth talks about Sir Geoffrey Howe resigning, but Thatcher downplays it — Elizabeth asks Thatcher if she expects a leadership challenge. Thatcher puts it down to an internal party squabble. When Philip hears about the conversation, he’s flabbergasted that Thatcher tried brushing it off.

In the leadership challenge, Thatcher does not get enough votes to stop a second ballot. Margaret wants to speak to each minister, one by one — she refuses to beg. When she meets her party, they tell her that the numbers are against her leadership and that she is vulnerable, exposed, and isolated. The consensus is that there needs to be new blood. The Crown season 4, episode 10 shows how Thatcher is trying to hold on to power as much as possible as her emotions start to subside at the thought of losing her government — this is an ending for Margaret’s story that speaks volumes.

Schedule planning

Charles, Diana, and their teams talk about schedules. New York is brought up, and Charles’ advisor talks about Diana’s mental health. When they raise her mental health, Diana is struck by those words — she knows she is not doing well.

Asking the Queen for help

After a day of feeling betrayed, Denis Thatcher tells Margaret that the Tory party is full of bast*rds. Thatcher asks the Queen for help to dissolve parliament because they are on the brink of war. The Queen brings wise words and asks if it is correct to exercise power simply because it is there to use and reminds Thatcher that her party and the country are against her. The Queen tells her that it’s time to do nothing and to pursue other passions. Thatcher tells her that the Prime Minister job is her one true passion — she gets emotional because she felt she was close to finishing the job for the country. The conversations between Elizabeth and Margaret continue to be fascinating in the finale — it shows one woman with assumed, long-lasting power while the other woman has dwindling power.

The People’s Princess

Diana’s mental health is not in good stead, but she goes to New York City anyway. The Americans love her as she drives through the city. However, her unhappiness is causing her to throw up again forcefully. She visits a children’s hospital, which is praised by the media, and Diana’s solo visit makes her the People’s Princess. Camilla watches the American’s positive response to Diana and tells Charles he needs to let go of the idea of them being together. She doesn’t want to be pitted against Diana and be embarrassed; she knows it will not be a fairytale. “War” shows how this is the true pivot to the entire story; Charles does not want Camilla to feel hurt by his wife.

Thatcherism is over

Thatcher leaves Downing Street after she is voted out — 11 years of Thatcherism are over. As she gets in the car, she breaks her stony face and starts crying. The Queen asks Thatcher to come to see her. She offers her sympathy, and that media has overlooked what both women have in common, including their devotion to this country. Elizabeth awards Thatcher the Order of Merit for her service. The Queen reminds the Prime Minister of her accomplishments. It’s a strangely emotional moment that is captured well by both actors—two women who have faced the world of men by their sense of duty.

An explosion of emotions

Charles visits Diana, and she wants an apology and congratulations on her solo trip. Charles calls out her self-delusion, selfishness, and grandstanding — he then references her photo with the children in the hospital and states it is opportunistic. And then Charles explodes, shouting in Diana’s face, explaining how much he cares about Camilla — he accuses Diana of hurting her. Charles then reveals to Diana that Camilla is who he wants to be loyal to. When Diana fights back, stating she is the mother of their children and his wife, Charles begins to cry and states he wants to wash his hands of it as his face fills with fury. This scene is indicative of a ticking timebomb, and it hits the audience like a brick. Everything Charles kept to himself all spills out in this one moment. It’s brilliantly performed.

Ambushing the Queen

Diana tries to speak to the Queen in private; however, Elizabeth quickly brushes her off because the dogs need feeding. Charles then tries to ambush Elizabeth. Elizabeth tells him to keep it brief. Charles tells her he is suffering and he’s tried his best with his marriage. Elizabeth reminds him of their privilege and that the family is all sick of it — he tells him to behave like a future King and that they will not be getting a separation or divorce.

There are two angles to this; Elizabeth is absolutely right to call out their privilege because millions of people would love to have the life they have — this shows how the Queen is aware of their standing in the world. On the second angle, the traditional values that are forced on the married couple show how the crown’s views are outdated and do not work practically in the modern world. The Queen is trying to hold on to a world that does not exist — where unhappy marriages can maintain bloodlines. Charles and Diana are a product of cruel governance and procedures in a lonely world where the only priority is duty. If anything, The Crown season 4 ending amplifies the reasons why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle disconnected themselves from the crown because there’s no life outside of duty if you stay in line.

Did Philip make a threat?

And then the finale shows Philip getting intensely involved for the first time in Season 4.

The Royal Family enjoy Christmas celebrations, but Diana stays in her room. Philip visits her room to check up on her. He admits that this family can be rough. He asks how she feels, and at one point, it looked like Philip was nice and sympathetic. Diana talks about having no hope. Philip tells her that Charles will come around eventually and that the whole family thinks he’s mad. Diana tells Philip they are passed that point, and if the family does not show her the love she deserves, she will be breakaway officially and find it herself. Philip advises against that because he can’t see it ending well for her. Diana asks if this is a threat and it sure does sound like one.

The ending

Diana notes that both Philip and she were outsiders, but their scenarios are entirely different. Philip tells Diana that everyone in this system is a lonely, lost, and irrelevant outsider apart from the one person that matters — the Queen. The essence of their duty is what is important. He believes Diana is confused and forgotten who that person is. As Philip voices his opinion, it becomes a narration, showing the other family members that are feeling lost.

Eventually, Diana arrives downstairs to join the others. Christmas songs murmur in the background as she hears all the chatter which amplifies her loneliness even more. Diana joins the family photo, but her face says it all — she is done. Her eyes well up with tears. This is the most significant ending of The Crown since it began.

The Crown season 4, episode 10 is a sensational ending — it commemorates the incredible performances by presenting the end of Thatcherism and the tragic traps Charles and Diana find themselves in. Regardless if you are interested in the Royal Family or not, this is a dramatic story that cannot be ignored by those who are interested in quality storytelling.

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