The Crown Season 6 Episode 1 Recap – The Beginning of the End

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 16, 2023
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The Crown Season 6 Episode 1 Recap
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in The Crown Season 6 | Image via Netflix


The Season 6 premiere of The Crown very much starts as it means to go on, with some rather unpleasant dialogue speaking to an overall decline in quality.

The premiere of The Crown Season 6 begins as it means to go on – by teasing Princess Diana’s death in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel with a fleet of paparazzi close behind. Get used to it, since we are very much the random dog-walking Frenchman in this scene; Part 1 builds inexorably to Princess Di’s death at the expense of almost everything else, and Episode 1, “Persona Non Grata”, makes the point clear by dividing its time unevenly between Diana holidaying in Saint Tropez and Charles being annoyed about all the attention she’s getting for doing so.

Diana is on holiday because she doesn’t want to be around for the extravagant 50th birthday bash that Charles is throwing for Camilla Parker Bowles, and “Persona Non Grata” occasionally checks in with him to remind us of this, but the focus is very much on Diana – as it will remain for the foreseeable future.

In the earliest moments after the cold open, Diana goes to see Tony Blair at Chequers and plays five-a-side with his family as a longwinded way of petitioning him for an official position. Now she’s no longer an HRH – she has been divorced from Charles for a year, and they’ve been separated for five – her charitable endeavors no longer fall under the auspices of the crown, leaving Diana somewhat adrift. And despite everyone’s obvious fondness for her – “When Diana talks, the world listens,” says Blair dreamily when he reports this to the Queen – royalty is very much an all-or-nothing affair. And in England, what Elizabeth says, goes.

Why does Mohamed Al-Fayed want Dodi to seduce Diana?

In the south of France, however, not so much. There, Diana can cavort to her heart’s content, frolicking with William and Harry, winking at the press, and courting the affections of Dodi Fayed, son of Mohamed Al-Fayed, or “Mou Mou”, Part 1’s nominal villain.

I say villain since he summons Dodi to Saint Tropez with the explicit intention of having him seduce the Princess of Wales to bolster the family’s social standing and grant Mohamed the British citizenship he has been pursuing for some time. Daddy’s boy Dodi is more than willing to do this, despite already being engaged to American model Kelly Fisher, whom he is due to marry in just three scant weeks.

Naturally, Dodi does whatever his father says, lies to his fiancé, and settles into the holiday with Diana and the kids. The obvious flaw in his master plan is that Diana is the most photographed woman in the world, so Kelly finds out almost immediately what he’s doing. Fretting about it, she calls and insists on coming to visit, and since Dodi has no viable excuse for why she shouldn’t he agrees.

Mohamed, though, isn’t having this and keeps Kelly contained in another, smaller yacht in a hilarious show of disrespect. When Dodi finally gets around to speaking to her, he puts his foot even deeper in it by revealing that Mohamed is nowhere to be seen. “So, you’ve been alone with the most beautiful woman in the world?” I’m not sure a jealous model would say that, to be honest, but the point is taken nonetheless. Kelly leaves the next morning.

How do Dodi and Diana bond?

This leaves Diana and Dodi to bond over their mutual daddy issues. It’s a well-shot scene, this, but it also feels cold given the circumstances of them being here in the first place. It’s hard to find any authenticity in a relationship that has been set up this way, or any sympathy for characters who are hurting so many others just by being in proximity of one another. Dodi is certainly more to blame than Diana, but it’s difficult to buy in either way.

When the holiday comes to a conclusion and she prepares to leave to return the kids for their annual summer stay at Balmoral, where Diana is, in her words, “very much persona non grata”, she slips in that she’ll be spending the summer alone. A charmer like Dodi wouldn’t pass up an opportunity like that now, would he? Mohamed doesn’t think so either, which is probably why he’s sinisterly smiling from a window nearby.

Why does Charles want the Queen to attend Camilla’s birthday party?

We mustn’t forget about the actual royal family, of course, and The Crown Season 6 Episode 1 does bother to check in with them now and again. Charles, in particular, is fretting over Camilla’s birthday, primarily because only Princess Margaret will be in attendance for it. That’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t do anything for Camilla’s public approval, since anything less than an endorsement from the Queen is wildly insufficient in convincing the public that Camilla is a legitimate royal, let alone potentially a future Queen herself.

Interestingly given how fawning the show’s treatment of Diana is, it remains unafraid to depict Queen Elizabeth herself in a less-than-favourable way. Accurate though it may be – Liz did indeed consider the whole debacle to be a tawdry blight on the royal image – there’s also something a bit sinister about the figurative mother of an entire nation treating her own child, even though he’s rapidly approaching middle-age, with complete disinterest and zero sympathy. The queen’s image might be inextricably linked to her corgis, but the idea that she cared about them more than her kids ruins the cuteness somewhat.

Why does the Queen give Charles her blessing?

Nevertheless, though, Camilla’s party is a real success and Princess Margaret herself informs the Queen that she is quite clearly the love of Charles’s life. If this is the case, then perhaps it’s about time for the crown to start publicly supporting him, lest the Queen be seen as needlessly cruel and petty.

Whether or not the Queen is needlessly cruel and petty is beside the point. Everything royal is about public perception; this is why Philip, who can’t quite get with the times, still deems Camilla “inappropriate”, and why Charles, who privately received his mother’s blessing and publicly had a lovely shindig for Camilla, is nonetheless fuming that all Britain’s tabloid press cares about is Diana.

This is why Diana was – and in many ways, her legacy still remains – a real thorn in the side of the royal family. The public loved her, unashamedly and legitimately. And she knew it. She could remain important without the crown. She could sway public sentiment of the crown. Now, I’m not saying this gave the crown a vested interest in getting rid of her, but you can see why a more conspiratorial chap might suggest so.

How does The Crown Season 6 Episode 1 end?

When Diana returns to Kensington, she finds her room stuffed full of roses, and a gift from Dodi – a swanky watch, accompanied by a handwritten invitation to Paris the next week. This is where viewers are supposed to scream at Diana not to go since we all know what the outcome will be – and the cold open reminded us just in case – but it’ll do as a cliffhanger for now.

What did you think of The Crown Season 6 Episode 1? Let us know in the comments below.

RELATED: The Crown Season 6 Episode 2 Recap

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