The Crown Takes on Mental Health

The Crown hit Netflix back in 2016 and has been retelling what may or may not be a fictional account of what has occurred during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime. The storylines pretty closely follow what was released in the news at those times and I found the first few seasons to be absolutely delicious, however, if you want to skip to the relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles you will have zero issues starting up with season 4. Let’s be real, unless you have been living under a rock, you are familiar with the royal family’s dramatics and it is thrilling to feel like we are getting the inside scoop as viewers. What really impressed me the most was the recent season’s take on mental health, and how the royals do seek out therapeutic services without apology or explanation.

Princess Margaret played by the illustrious Helena Bonham Carter admits during the season she had been struggling as she had been experiencing some difficulties in her personal life.  At a lunch with Prince Charles, he suggests she seek a therapist.  She seems completely surprised by this suggestion despite his nonchalance. He tells her he goes regularly and finds it quite helpful to manage his ‘moods.’ Now Margaret seems to have more man troubles and perhaps some situational depression than mood issues but still, goes to show how versatile therapy can be.  No matter the issue there is a therapist out there for each and every one of us.

At one point Princess Margaret discovers she has cousins who have been tucked away in what may or may not be some kind of hospital for those suffering from mental illness due to what we later find out is a genetic defect. She is shocked to find out that these adult women have been spending their lives at the facility and desires to bring them to the palace grounds instead.  She is discussing this with her mother, the Queen mother, who firmly denies the request.  She says, “Can you imagine the headlines if it were to get out? The hereditary principle that already hangs by such a precarious thread. Throw in mental illness and it’s over. The idea that one family alone has the automatic birth right to the crown is already so hard to justify. The gene pool of that family better have 100% purity. There have been enough examples in the Windsor side alone to worry people. King George III, Prince John, your uncle.  If you add these women to that, the danger becomes untenable.”  For me, this was a jaw drop moment.  The honesty on this woman is so respectable.  It IS hard to justify that one family alone gets to be in the monarchy simply due to their bloodline. I suppose I assumed there was a sense of entitlement amongst the royal family but perhaps that only exists in the younger family members. The queen mother seems quite aware of the dangers of letting people into their small circle and the honesty was so just so refreshing!

The couple whom have received arguably the most news coverage out of this lot, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, are also both seen speaking to their own therapists. Diana very famously suffered from a long term eating disorder which is covered by the series. During the course of the season viewers are granted an inside peek into her binging and purging ritual and what occurs during the day that leads to her unhealthy spiral. We very clearly can see how the disease takes a toll on her body. In one episode she goes from binging and purging to lying down in bed in the fetal position, clutching her midsection.  The mental struggle of a young girl, thrust into an unforgiving spotlight seems much different than the fairly tale she so desperately wanted when she married the prince. It is no wonder she experiences depression, a need to find control in her life, and seeks validation from others.  All common symptoms in a person who suffers from an eating disorder, male or female.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana have been famously unfaithful to each other, finding comfort in the beds of others.  It seems Prince Charles had long been in love with Camilla Parker Bowles but she was married when they first met and therefore unavailable to marry the Prince as the series suggests was his initial desire.  Prince Charles does seem to go in and out of various ‘moods’ as he struggles with his lot in life.  Yes, he is the prince but he is obligated to live his life a certain way with loyalty only to the crown, a way in which he is not thrilled.  Yet he does seem to have the most destructive sense of entitlement in this series.  It is like watching a child throw a tantrum because someone else is playing with the toy they want. Frankly I fail to see how he got two remarkable women to fall in love with him, let alone one. Perhaps the promise of power is an attractive trait, but certainly does not outweigh his ridiculous and hurtful behavior. The way he speaks to and treats Diana throughout the series is nothing short of abusive and while I am sure he deals with his own internal struggles, there is never an excuse to abuse another person, be it physical, sexual, or emotional.

The Crown S4. Picture shows: Princess Diana (EMMA CORRIN) and Prince Charles (JOSH O CONNOR). Shooting Location: Llano del Buho, Almeria

The toll of being married to someone who is so clearly and publicly in love with someone else only exacerbates Diana’s stress and she finds more ways  to unhealthfully cope. In episode 6, entitled Avalanche, it is reported that Diana actually has many suitors which could be argued were a way to make up for her low sense of self worth.  If all of these men desire her, her own husband’s desire for her (or lack there of) may not matter as much, or at least that is what she is telling herself.  At one point the Queen herself gives them both a verbal spanking and tells them to stop acting like spoiled children and commit to their marriage. Diana is then seen talking to a therapist and proudly announces her affairs had been concluded. She states that she feels different and now realizes she wants to make the marriage work just as their 7th anniversary is coming up. She announces she has some fun ideas to celebrate the renewal of their happy family unit. Cut to Charles trying to plan a romantic getaway with Camila Parker Bowles for that very weekend so clearly the sentiment is not shared and their problems continue.

It could be argued that sharing a bedroom is a contributing secret to a happy marriage. Modern studies on couple relationships show that going to bed together and waking up together is good for overall well being within romantic relationships.  In this series it is clearly shown, almost highlighted even, that the various members of the royal family do not share bedrooms and therefore certainly not beds. It could explain the affairs Prince Philip had in his younger days that are shown in earlier seasons, and those of Princess Margaret and her husband. Business Insider reported that William and Kate do indeed share a bedroom, breaking in royal tradition Perhaps they will beat this royal curse of extramarital affairs but I am sure that will be examined in a future season. Stay tuned.

If we as viewers take anything from this season it is my hope that therapy and the need for it are wide spread.  If you feel like you might be feeling down, conflicted, or even hopeless, please do reach out for help. In an emergency, always dial 911 you will absolutely be connected to the help you require.  If you feel like you might harm yourself, please do dial the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  For those seeking general therapeutic support or even relationship assistance, be sure to find the right therapist for you. Contact your insurance carrier for therapists who are in network with your plan or browse through therapist profiles on one of the many online therapy directories.  For your quick reference, check out www.psychologytoday.com and/or www.therapyden.com. Take care of yourself and those around you best by meeting your own needs through your own personal development work.  Help is out there, you do not have to suffer through your struggles alone.

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