Like the royals themselves, The Crown usually doesn’t directly comment on current events. Maybe this is by design (the show famously blends fact with fiction, when it’s convenient). Or it could just be that most of the characters we saw in previous seasons passed away years ago.
But season four covers events in the late 1970s through late-’80s, which means we’re finally meeting more characters that are still around. And the most interesting introduction we get this season is to Prince Andrew, who is characterized as — to put it bluntly — a total scumbag. (Some spoilers ahead.)
We first come across him in an episode called “Favourites,” in which Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman) arranges private lunches with each of her four children in a ridiculous attempt to determine which is her favorite. It quickly becomes clear that she’s not close with any of them — in fact, she’s awkward with Anne (Erin Doherty), doesn’t really know Edward (Angus Imrie), and can hardly stand to be around Charles (Josh O’Connor). It’s only when Prince Andrew (Tom Byrne) arrives for lunch in a chopper that she finally appears to relax — her favorite is here.
What’s The Crown’s take on Prince Andrew? Surprisingly damning for a show that’s so coy about its politics. Andrew — now infamous for his lengthy friendship with the late, disgraced pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — is introduced as a crude and obnoxious young man. He opens lunch with a fart joke, quickly makes demands about his royal title, and then begins to tell his mother about “this latest one” — referring to his girlfriend of the hour. Overall, he’s entitled and whiny like all of the Queen’s kids, although the show takes his character a step further by hinting at some appalling sexual behavior.
This happens when he describes to his mother a film that his girlfriend (Koo Stark, whom Prince Andrew dated in real life) recently starred in. The Awakening of Emily, he explains, “follows an impressionable, nubile 17-year-old girl” who meets “several twisted and perverted older predators” in her aunt’s English country home. The Queen blanches at her age, but Andrew tells her not to be a prude. He continues, excitedly: “[The men] seduce the vulnerable, helpless young Emily … as we follow her induction into sensual pleasures.”
When the Queen asks if the film was legal, and Andrew responds by saying “Who cares?” with a big, buffoonish grin. Later, she remarks to her husband: “If he doesn’t change … ” trailing off with a worried look that says: his behavior will get him into a lot of trouble.
And, of course, it did. The whole scene seems to be thinly veiled nod at the real-life prince Andrew, who was friends with Epstein for decades, even after Epstein was convicted of soliciting a minor for prostitution. Last year, amid mounting backlash, Andrew lamely described his relationship with Epstein as “useful” if ultimately “unbecoming” in a BBC interview. (One of the women who accused Jeffery Epstein says she was made to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17, an allegation he denies.) He’s also rumored to be terrible in other ways — he once sprayed paint on the reporters in his press pool, used to physically attack dogs and horses on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, and has been accused of casually using the N-word (Vanity Fair created a longer laundry list here).
After the BBC interview, Prince Andrew announced that he would step back from public life, although some have speculated he was fired by the Queen herself. Still, she was seen horseback riding with him a few days later. In the end, it stands to reason that when it comes to this particular relationship, The Crown seems to be at its most devastatingly accurate.