Gillian Anderson of the Crown says Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with the Queen is “tied to a break”.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 4 of The Crown. Read at your own risk!]
“She’s such a complex character,” said Gillian Anderson of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, her role in the highly anticipated fourth season of The Crown. Thatcher’s introduction, as well as that of Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin), make for a volatile season that has seen most of the goodwill the Netflix drama has for Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) and the expanded Windsor family over the first three Years, annihilates seasons. Captured by Diana’s immense popularity and Thatcher’s bulldozing approach to government, the Crown is once again on the defensive, unable and uninterested in advancing for the modern age. But of all the challengers to the Queen’s authority and power over the course of the series, it is Thatcher who turns out to be real foil – real equals.
“On the one hand, both women in positions of power are of a similar age, which is a unique situation especially for this time,” Anderson told TV Guide. “In addition, there are some significant similarities. Both had very strong beliefs they were both mothers. They would think that as heads of state the two would find some kind of common ground and sense of ways to move the country forward.”
But from the couple’s daunting first meeting, with Thatcher dismissing the Queen’s excitement over two women with the highest authority in the country, these powerhouses are on a collision course. Any subsequent interaction between them, from a disastrous visit to Balmoral Castle to disagreements over the Falklands War, seems to cool the air further in their escalating Cold War. Their climatic showdown takes place at the annual Commonwealth Leaders’ Summit, where they stand up against the imposition of sanctions against apartheid-era South Africa. The aftermath of that confrontation – with the Queen revealing a story of her immense disappointment with the Prime Minister’s lack of empathy with an urgent human rights issue and then firing her press secretary to cover up the scandal that all works at Thatcher’s favor – is one of the rare occurrences in the series in which the crown takes a big, fat audience L. What makes it even rarer is that it evolves from the queen trying to use her power forever instead of remaining neutral as is the royal family tradition.
After all, as Thatcher himself points out at the end of the season, the Queen’s power is to do nothing. Therefore, it is inevitably Elizabeth who has the last laugh when Thatcher is unceremoniously ousted from her own party after a decade of service.
“At the end of the day it was hubris. [Thatcher] I really thought she knew best, “said Anderson.” What she wanted was for the royal family to exist, but just stay there and let them rule the country. “What Thatcher didn’t take into account was that Prime Ministers and Governments come and go, the British monarchy lasts forever.
In a touching final scene, the Queen, moved by Thatcher’s visible feelings as she leaves 10 Downing St., invites her to the palace and awards her a medal for exceptional service to the country. Anderson points to this moment as a true sign of respect between the two women, despite the abyssal gap between them.
“They were so different women – different characters, different personalities, so different ways of dealing with situations and problems. It was fraught with ruptures,” said Anderson. “But [Thatcher] grew up in awe of the monarchy and ultimately the queen. Despite her differences, she remains a monarchist until the end. “
Crown season 4 is now streamed on Netflix.