By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Season Four of The Crown premiered November 15, The New York Times reported. This season of the hit show on Netflix focuses on England in the 1980s, including the rise of both Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher. Vital locations include Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
According to The New York Times, season four of Netflix’s The Crown depicts a high-profile period in 20th-century English government. “Early in the season, we see a teenage Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) being courted by Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), and the 10 episodes take us through the 1980s to the brink of the breakdown of the couple’s marriage,” the article said.
“That period also sees the rise and decline of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom Gillian Anderson portrays as a ruthless operator brought down by her inability to compromise. And then there’s Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman), the show’s driving character.”
Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament are two of the most iconic and important buildings related to British rule.
Leave Those Poor Guards Alone
“Buckingham Palace sits on land that for centuries was swampy, close to the Tyburn and Westbourne Rivers,” said Dr. Patrick N. Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University. “The Duke of Buckingham built a house there between 1703 and 1705, designed by William Winde. After the Duke’s death, the house went to his illegitimate son, who sold it to King George III, in 1762.
“George gave it to his wife, Queen Charlotte, in 1763, and they lived contentedly there for much of the rest of their lives.”
Dr. Allitt said that King William IV died in 1837, leaving Buckingham Palace to Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. Albert sought to renovate the royal residence, planning extensions and improvements throughout the next decade.
“The changing of the guard takes place in front of Buckingham Palace at 11:00 a.m., on alternate days of the week in winter, and every day in summer,” he said. “There are seven guard regiments in the British army, and they take turns defending the palace. The daily change, usually attended by thousands of visitors, includes military bands, men in brilliant black uniforms, red-and-black busbies marching in step, plenty of shouted commands, and a general feeling of precision.
“The guards have a reputation for being able to stand stock-still, which tempts some visitors to tease or goad them.”
Ideas Are Bulletproof
The old Houses of Parliament were part of another royal residence called the Palace of Westminster, most of which burned down in October 1834, prompting the royal move to Buckingham Palace. However, the Houses of Parliament were rebuilt on the same site.
“The contract would be awarded to the winner of a competition, whose rules specified that the building had to be in the gothic or Elizabethan style,” Dr. Allitt said. “Ninety-seven anonymous entries were made, and number 64 was chosen as the winner. It was the work of Charles Barry, who had been born just a few hundred yards from the site.”
The design by then 40-year-old Barry was reminiscent of the Henry VII chapel of Westminster Abbey. Dr. Allitt said that construction above ground began in 1840, and although the House of Lords was finished in 1847 and the House of Commons in 1852, construction continued on other parts of the Houses of Parliament until the mid-1860s.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Parliament briefly considered moving to Buckingham Palace after the fire of 1834, partially to move away from the River Thames, which at that point was an open sewer and the source of endless complaints. They chose to tough it out on the old site.
So how did the Thames get cleaned up? An especially hot summer in 1858 led to an event called The Great Stink. The odor of the sewer became so overpowering that it even wafted within the walls of the newly built Houses. The government then approved a modern sewage system throughout the city, which greatly improved public health—and the odor.
The Crown is now streaming on Netflix.
Dr. Patrick N. Allitt contributed to this article. Dr. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. The holder of a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt—an Oxford University graduate—has also taught American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow.