The Crown season 4, episode 3 recap – what happened in “Fairytale”?

By Daniel Hart
Published: November 15, 2020 (Last updated: November 29, 2023)
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Netflix series The Crown season 4, episode 3 - Fairytale


There’s one single praise that must be given in “Fairytale” and that’s Emma Corrin’s performance in a young Diana-centric chapter that reveals the problems with her upcoming marriage to Charles.

This recap of Netflix’s The Crown season 4, episode 3, “Fairytale” contains significant spoilers.

We recapped every episode — check out the archive.

The opening

“Fairytale” begins in Windsor Castle, 1981. Charles rings Elizabeth and tells her that he has proposed to Diana Spencer. Afterward, Diana returns to Earl’s Court in London, and she is bombarded with the press. She tells her friends about the news, and they are ecstatic. They go out to celebrate. “Fairytale” brings joy to Diana’s engagement early on before the problems begin to surface.

Starting her life as a princess

Elizabeth shows Diana a collection of rings that are passed through the family. She tells her to pick one, and she chooses one that resembles her eyes and reminds her of her mother. Elizabeth asks Lady Fermoy to teach Diana how to be a Royal. It’s the end of normal life for Diana, who leaves her friends’ flat to start her life as a princess. What a transition — from an apartment to a palace.

They both look “very much in love”

In her first official night with the Royal Family, Diana is not aware of the protocols, and she shyly greets them all. Noticeably, Princess Margaret is rude to her. The next day, their engagement is made official in front of the press. The journalists note that they look, “Very much in love,” to which Charles coyly replies, “Whatever ‘in love’ means”. Afterward, Charles has to follow a schedule and leaves Diana. Diana rings her friends and asks about Charles’s response to the “in love” question. They tell her not to worry, and they believe he was embarrassed. But this is a tell-tale sign — Charles’ facial expression and the way he uttered those words told the story, and Diana sensed it.

6 weeks in the palace without Charles

Charles will be away for 6 weeks, and he’s asked his ex Camilla to look after her which she finds strange. He states it is because she’s “great fun”. The next day, Lady Fermoy starts teaching Diana how to be a Royal; from who to curtsy to and ranking order. Diana receives loads of warm letters from supporters — her popularity is increasing quickly. In a rather well-placed scene, Diana rollerblades around the palace with her tape player playing Duran Duran. This is a stand-out 80s nostalgic moment. The vibe is endearing.

There’s nothing to do

Boredom starts to set in for Diana as she tries to ring Charles’ secretary, and when that fails, she tries the Queen. The repetitiveness of her day brings her to comfort eat from the fridge late at night. But afterward, she forces herself to throw up after eating loads of desserts, which is a disturbing scene.

Meeting Camilla

Diana rings her friends and raises her discontent at not hearing from Charles. She receives a letter from Camilla that sets her back. Diana meets Camilla the next day at a restaurant. She struggles with the menu and orders whatever Camilla has. Camilla talks about Charles a lot, and Diana is out of depth, realizing she knows very little about Charles, including that he never eats lunch.

Eventually, Diana gets frustrated with Camilla’s stories, and she wolfs her dessert — she raises how she’s barely spent time with Charles. Camilla lists the places Diana has met Charles to prove her wrong, but all it does confirm is that Charles and Camilla speak every day. When Diana returns to the palace, she forces herself to throw up again. “Fairytale” is highlighting how Diana’s marriage with Charles was over before it even started — it was a wedding that should never have happened.

“The wedding will be a disaster for everyone”

The next day, Diana asks the secretary if she can speak to Charles and she’s paranoid, believing her fiancé is avoiding her. Diana has reached a breaking point, and she demands to speak to the Queen, stating that the wedding needs to be canceled as it will be a disaster for everyone, which are ironic words. Afterward, Diana puts on her ballet costume and dances with freedom until she’s out of breath. She’s trying to exhaust her frustrations.

Charles excuse to meeting Camilla

Charles and Diana reunite. She asks him about his visit to Gloucestershire — she knows about a bracelet he got for Camilla. Charles explains to Diana that he went to Gloucestershire to give Camilla a farewell bracelet and to tell her that it is over. He then gives Diana a signet ring — “Prince of Wales Insignia. For the Princess of Wales”. Diana accepts the ring but walks off. As the audience, it’s easy to view Charles’ reasons for meeting Camilla as naive. If you require to meet an ex before getting married, then there are serious issues.

Margaret’s issue with the wedding

Charles and Diana then take part in a rehearsal wedding. Princess Margaret looks on with a cynical look on her face. Afterward, Margaret tells Elizabeth and Philip that Charles is in love with someone else and that the family keeps making the same mistakes and paying the consequences every time. Philip tells Margaret that the older Diana gets, the more beautiful and confident she becomes. Margaret believes they can stop this wedding. This was one of the stand-out scenes of the episode; it reveals Margaret to be the outlier of the family once again, but it resembles that she cares about the sanctity of marriage and that it is not a process just to strengthen the crown. She appreciates that Charles is in love with Camilla.

The ending

Elizabeth speaks to Charles privately; fireworks explode in the distance on the eve of his wedding. She senses that Charles is unhappy, but she tells him a story about her great grandmother, who married someone to strengthen the crown. She tells Charles that he may feel wretchedness now, but eventually, love and happiness will follow. Imagine hearing those words from your mother, when she knows full well that the person you are marrying, isn’t the one for you. The tears in Charles’ eyes say everything.

The next day, London is buzzing. It’s time for the Royal Wedding. It’s evident that Charles does not want to marry Diana.

There’s one single praise that must be given in The Crown season 4, episode 3 and that’s Emma Corrin‘s performance in a young Diana-centric chapter that reveals the problems with her upcoming marriage to Charles.

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