How 'The Crown' Explores Charles' Romances With Camilla and Diana on Seasons 3 and 4 (Exclusive)

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The Crown is back with season three, which covers the events between 1964 and 1977 as Queen Elizabeth II -- with Olivia Colman taking over the role from Claire Foy -- and the royal family struggle to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing Britain. For Prince Charles, who is portrayed by Josh O’Connor in seasons three and four, that means trying to bridge the gap between Wales and the United Kingdom through his investiture, and navigating his relationships with the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII (Derek Jacobi), and with Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell).

Those stories comes into focus midseason as creator Peter Morgan begins to show how the young royal and his sister, Princess Anne (Erin Doherty), “have to try and navigate their responsibilities and predicaments within a very traditional adult universe,” he says. “[They] are in this very adult and challenging world where they are being told how to behave.”

“Where I pick Charles up from is this boy who’s sent away to a school that he doesn't really want to go to, to kind of live that life that his father lived,” O’Connor tells ET. “And he's just not matched for it.”

While audiences are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Lady Diana Spencer, it’s Camilla whom everyone meets first when she’s introduced in episode eight of season three. “I think people will be surprised by the fact that their romance predates Diana,” Morgan says. “The assumptions were that he met and fell in love with Diana, and that Camilla appeared later. But Diana was the intrusion on a pre-existing romance, and so we set that up within this season.”

What unfolds over the remaining episodes is a budding romance that sees Charles falling in love for the first time, while the family grows increasingly concerned over Camilla’s intentions and reputation. “The family [is] jumping in and saying, ‘Camilla’s not right for you,’” O’Connor says.

In fact, when Camilla first meets Charles on the show, she’s still very much engaged in a fiery, on-and-off relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles (Andrew Buchan), who wastes no time seducing Anne as he and Camilla try to make each other jealous. “We should probably make that the last time. I don’t want you to get hurt,” Bowles warns Anne, adding that’s “what tends to happen to anyone who gets in the way of me and her.” 

The Crown Season 3

In episode nine, despite Camilla’s own reservations, Charles reveals to his great uncle, Louis Mountbatten (Charles Dance), that “she’s the one.” This revelation raises red flags among the older royals, including the Queen, Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) and the Queen Mother (Marion Bailey), who waste no time manipulating the situation and playing Charles, Camilla and Andrew like chess pieces. While the Queen hesitates breaking up the prince and Camilla, she’s convinced when Anne reveals that she’s fine with them staying together as long as “he’s prepared for there to always be three in the marriage,” she says, referring to Andrew’s ongoing presence in Camilla’s life.

“What’s interesting is it’s kind of echoing the same stuff that happened in series one with Vanessa Kirby’s character, Margaret,” O’Connor says of her failed attempts to marry Peter Townsend (Ben Miles) in season one. “Again, you know, you can kind of see the echoes of those series.”

Left feeling like a “fool,” the season ends in May 1977 as the Queen celebrates her Silver Jubilee -- just months before Prince Charles meets a 16-year-old Diana. Less than four years later, in February 1981, the two get engaged. 

When The Crown returns for season four, which they’re filming now, Princess Diana is going to be in the mix as the show depicts the early days of their marriage. “It’s an iconic period for the royal family. So far, it’s been fascinating,” O’Connor says, adding that Emma Corrin, who’s portraying Diana, “is doing an incredible job.” 

Already, audiences have seen photos of the two actors filming on location, with lots of attention being paid to the stunning similarities between the 23-year-old actress and Diana as The Crown recreates memorable moments, like the Princess of Wale’s 1983 tour of Australia. But despite what people may recall about this time period, “Peter’s looking at it from a different angle… trying to make it feel like a story that hasn’t been necessarily told,” O’Connor says. “We’re now in this stage where we all know what happens, and so it’s kind of more interesting now seeing how Peter carves out a story that we don’t know.”  

The Crown Season 4 Filming

Meanwhile, Princess Diana's former butler and personal assistant Paul Burrell can’t wait for Diana to appear on the series. “Diana should fill the screen with color,” he tells ET. “Diana’s character was larger than life... [she] would enter a room and literally the room would stop. And I hope that comes across.”

Understanding that portraying Diana is no easy feat, Burrell says that if Corrin needs any insight into her character, “tell her to find me because I’m the guy.” But he points out that people should remember that “this is not a documentary. It’s a drama.”

“That’s what the privilege of The Crown is, that Peter goes behind closed doors, the things that we don’t know but we’re speculating,” O’Connor continues, revealing that he’s already learned so much about Diana and Charles and what their relationship could have been. “It’s really cool to be kind of creating this story behind it.”

There’s a very strict and straightforward family system, and Diana gets brought into that -- for better or worse. “What the rest of us don’t recognize is the specific anthropology of the crown and what that does to people,” Morgan explains. “That’s what makes the show interesting. I don’t have any particular interest in monarchy as such, but I have an enormous interest in what it does to a group of people who are trapped within it.”  

Season three of The Crown is now streaming on Netflix.



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