The Crown season 4, episode 2 recap – what happened in “The Balmoral Test”?

By Daniel Hart
Published: November 15, 2020 (Last updated: November 29, 2023)
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Netflix series The Crown season 4, episode 2 - The Balmoral Test


The birth of Thatcherism and the origin of Princess Diana is the center-point of “The Balmoral Test”. Despite knowing the context, the series is doing a meticulous job in keeping it fascinating.

This recap of Netflix’s The Crown season 4, episode 2, “The Balmoral Test” contains significant spoilers.

We recapped every episode — check out the archive.

The opening

At Balmoral Castle, the Queen is preparing for Prime Minister Thatcher. Meanwhile, Anne is talking about how their neighboring state has wounded a grand stag. Philip believes it needs finishing off on compassionate grounds — the stag is worth fourteen points. All engagements have been canceled so they can hunt it. Oh, how the rich live.

Charles and Diana are dating

As for Charles, he is still dating Diana and taking her to opera and other events. Charles has a busy schedule, but Diana doesn’t want to wait long to see him again. The pair are progressing quickly — the series is detailing their early relationship comprehensively so far.

The Thatcher budget

Thatcher confirms the budget for the country to prevent inflation and to reduce debt. Some members of the party are reserved about the budget cuts. They feel that the country would turn against her if she went through with the budget proposed. Afterward, Thatcher tells her husband that some of the men in her cabinet are unimaginative and wet. Season 4 is quick to present Thatcher as if she was made of steel, unwilling to bow down to men in her cabinet.

Thatcher does not mingle well with the Royals

Margaret Thatcher visits Balmoral Castle to spend time with the Royal Family. Thatcher and her husband Denis are overwhelmed by the protocols and wondering what certain points of the schedule mean. They get dressed for dinner early, and the Royal Family are in a state of shock regarding the situation. This chapter is funny because we would never have assumed that Thatcher would have felt so awkward amongst the Royals. The Royal Family almost look normal in comparison to her; this is clearly directed with that purpose.

Dinner and games

Dinner and games begin, and Thatcher is struggling to mix with them all — she’s quiet during the games. She participates eventually, and afterward, Philip tells Elizabeth that Thatcher is incapable of having fun. Elizabeth feels sorry for her.

A bit of stalking

At bedtime, Thatcher decides to work in bed, with the series confirming that she was a workaholic and was able to operate on 4 hours’ sleep. The next day, she joins Elizabeth for “Stalking”. She walks outside in heels despite being deep in the countryside. The Queen drives and the pair attempt to get to know each other. They go stalking, but Thatcher returns early. She’s introduced to Princess Margaret, who tells her about having “time off” so it can give her perspective. Thatcher says she takes no pleasure in time off.

Pressure on Charles to fulfill his schedule.

While Charles fulfills his busy schedule, Diana rings him and expresses how much she misses him; she asks if he can cut his schedule early and see her. Charles is always known for going against the status quo, and you can sense he is stuck between his duties and pursuing a romance with Diana.

From top to bottom

Thatcher is feeling the pressure from her cabinet as they are criticizing her in the media; as she sits with the Royals at an event, she tells her husband that the country needs to change fundamentally from “top to bottom”. She seems frustrated with the elite and also her visit to the Royal Family. The series presents this as some “turning point” in her leadership — the way she scans the Royal Family as part of the “top” is a signal that she possibly did not feel aligned with their ideals.

Hunting with Philip and family approval

In a few scenes to decorate the importance of it all, Diana goes out hunting with Philip. The pair seem to get on well, and Philip seems to approve. When they return, Charles looks at his father, and they both give each other a comforting look. Later, Philip tells Charles that the family position is clear — he wants him to marry her. Philip updates Camilla, and he’s worried about whether Diana’s the right one. We all know the context and the weight behind this story, but it is still fascinating watching this all unfold.

Thatcher’s meeting with the Queen

When Thatcher returns to Downing Street, she has difficult decisions to make with cabinet members; she reshuffles and makes new appointments. She’s taking a stand after the criticism against her. She’s showing her ruthlessness. Thatcher then visits the Queen, and it’s a rather philosophical meeting this time rather than small talk.

The ending

Anne and Charles speak about Charles’ situation. Anne tells him to not fight it as Diana is perfect, referencing that she got the stag — Anne believes it was “written in the stars”. Another ironic statement considering the real-life story. In the next few scenes, Thatcher has an audience with her new cabinet, and the Royal Family put Diana’s stag head up in their home. The press has already started hounding Diana as she is prepped to be a princess.

The birth of Thatcherism and the origin of Princess Diana is the center-point of The Crown season 4, episode 2. Despite knowing the context, the series is doing a meticulous job in keeping it fascinating.

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