Season Four of The Crown, Peter Morgan’s historical Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth and the British royal family, marks the highly anticipated debut of Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and covers the first nine years of her marriage to Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor). And, since it’s set in the 1980s, the “People’s Princess” brings a great pop soundtrack with her that includes Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Billy Joel, and Queen.
But the series’ composer, Martin Phipps, also worked to achieve musical continuity with previous seasons, while introducing new, original compositions. In the pivotal third episode of the season, for example, we see 19-year-old Diana become engaged and then move into Buckingham Palace, while Charles leaves for a six-week foreign tour. While she’s there — feeling intensely lonely and trapped until her wedding day (she would become Princess of Wales when she married Charles on July 29, 1981, just weeks after her 20th birthday) — we see her roller skating through the halls with her Walkman, listening to Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film.” “Everyone knows they’re a tragic mismatch but are determined to push through with what is, in effect, an arranged marriage,” explains Phipps, who was tasked with evoking a variety of emotions during Diana’s “solitary confinement” through to the day of the wedding spectacle.
In this exclusive clip, Phipps plays these scenes with just the music, to highlight what he was attempting to accomplish through his all-new composition — what he says is a “mash-up” of old and new elements — so that we can “hear the music in all its glory.”
“I started off this cue with a simple, solitary vocal, which is trying to connect with Diana’s loneliness. She should be the happiest person in the world, marrying a prince, but she’s desperate and lonely. So this vocal motif is just a cry for help,” he says. “Then this long string note is a bit more sinister; we feel the pressure of the day coming in on her.”
Then Phipps brought in — “quite delicately at first” — a wind-and-string pulse. “It’s just like a ‘making a stink,’ what are all these characters thinking? They all know it’s a bad idea, but they can’t quite bring themselves to say it,” he explains. “This pulse gets more and more aggressive, kind of bearing down on all the characters in this drama. It’s like the establishment trying to push the wedding through, the determination that duty be done at whatever cost.” He highlights the low string chords, calling them very “Crown-esque”: “a weapon in the arsenal of The Crown music.”
The foreboding before this global event, as the world awaits the big reveal of Diana’s dress, mounts. Phipps explains why these chords take over “pretty much completely” during the final sequence of the episode: “It’s the tragedy of the whole situation. It’s what we all know will become of Diana, how it will play out, and a tragedy unfolding rather than a happy day. I really wanted something fresh and innocent that symbolized Diana and this new character that had blasted into this middle-aged family.”