The Crown Season 4: What Netflix Gets Right (and Wrong) About Margaret Thatcher

Gillian Anderson is Margaret Thatcher in Season 4 of The Crown.

Des Willie

Netflix drama The Crown has always been the story of the woman on the throne. Season 4 introduces two very different women who made a huge impact: Princess Diana and former leader Margaret Thatcher. But how accurate is Gillian Anderson’s account of the divisive Thatcher?

At the end of Season 3, in 1976, we saw left-wing Prime Minister Harold Wilson resign due to illness. Skipping James Callaghan, Season 4 goes straight to Thatcher’s 1979 election. The series then runs through the 1980s and Thatcher’s term as Britain’s first female Prime Minister until she was impeached more than a decade later. The show also follows the parallel story of princess Diana (Emma Corrin) as she joins the Royal Family led by Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman).

I was born in Thatcher’s Great Britain, so watch The Crown portray those turbulent times.

Be warned: minor spoilers follow …

Thatcher’s voice

If you’ve never heard of Margaret Thatcher, you may be baffled by Anderson’s tight vocal styles. But Thatcher really spoke that way, which was a gift to Impressionists and satirists of the time. Earlier this month, biographer Charles Moore Anderson called Anderson’s portrayal “the only compelling performance I’ve seen of Ms. Thatcher as Prime Minister,” favorably comparing the X-Files and Sex Education star to Meryl Streep in the 2011 biopic The Iron Lady.

Thatcher’s background

The Crown portrays Thatcher as a hardworking underdog who is constantly reminded of her humble beginnings by the snobbish royals and patrician double traders in her own government. In real life, Baroness Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts in North East England in 1925. Her father was a shopkeeper and Methodist pastor who also served as a local mayor.

Thatcher’s politics, however, had a haughty superiority of its own, and she was far from an underdog. As mentioned in Episode 1, she was rejected from a job by a company that really labeled her as’ cocky, stubborn and dangerously cocky. Thatcher attended the prestigious University of Oxford – caught in a season 4 flashback starring Claire Foy as the young queen – and was a lawyer involved in local politics from the age of 24. She was married to Denis Thatcher and had twins. elected to the British Parliament in 1959. One of her first acts was to vote to reduce the caning of school children.


The real Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan.


Thatcher’s icon

The fact that the British people chose a woman to run the country represents a breakthrough, but Thatcher herself is hardly a feminist icon. She succeeded in a man’s world, but only by following the existing rules of a sexist hierarchy and actively working against the interests of other women and other marginalized or oppressed people.

Called the “Iron Lady” by a Soviet journalist, she was a divisive figure whose government began with recession and war and ended in riots. The popular but false myth that she played a part in the invention of soft-scoop ice cream is perhaps ironic, as she was later nicknamed “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher” for throwing away free milk for younger school children.

She opposed sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa, as depicted in episode 8, and it wasn’t until she left office that the Northern Ireland peace process really started. She defended the notoriously racist “rivers of blood” speech delivered in parliament by a fellow Conservative, described unions as “the enemy within” and cut spending on welfare.

Episode 5 of the fourth season, which follows a troubled man who broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982, shows the street-level consequences for ordinary people of Thatcher’s rigid emphasis on strict economic policy and self-interest.


The Crown recreates (or imagines) important moments in the life and times of Margaret Thatcher.

Des Willie / Netflix

The details

The Crown has always taken a dramatic license in depicting royal history. The show puts words into the characters’ mouths in private and rearranges public moments for dramatic effect. We’ll never quite know if the Queen felt threatened by Thatcher, but we do know when real events are adapted to the drama.

For example, the Queen is unlikely to have dragged Thatcher in her best clothes across the Scottish countryside, as seen in Episode 2. That’s a visual metaphor. And like the previous movie The Iron Lady, The Crown makes a dramatic point when it shows Thatcher as the lonely woman in the corridors of power. During her term, there were actually dozens of female MPs in parliament.

The series also features Thatcher distracted by her missing son during the beginning of the Falklands Crisis, a brief military showdown between the UK and Argentina over control of islands in the South Atlantic. In fact, Mark Thatcher got lost at the annual Paris-Dakar rally in January 1982, and Argentina’s scrap workers raised the flag over South Georgia in March 1982. Argentina’s armed forces landed in the Falkland Islands in April.

By portraying the relationship between the two main characters, the show also exaggeratedly emphasizes the Queen’s influence in running the country. Thatcher almost certainly never sought political help from the royal figurehead.

That said, the private chats between the two characters dramatize the values ​​of the real leaders and the themes of their respective governments. The meeting in Episode 8 is particularly concise and sums up Thatcher’s preference to set aside emotion and compassion and to treat people “with a cold balance perspective.”

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