The Crown's fourth season hit Netflix last weekend, and it's the one fans have been truly waiting for: the Princess Diana season. Up until this point, the show has focused on Queen Elizabeth's ascent to the throne and how she became the ruler she is today, but now, it's about the kids. And boy, does it deliver. Season 4 is drama-filled, and, among other things, tells the story of Diana and Charles, from their first meeting to the eventual downfall of their marriage. It's a fictional look at what it's like to marry into one of the most powerful families in the world, and inadvertently, it works to defend someone who wasn't even born when the first episode of this season takes place—Meghan Markle.
As you probably know if you are a human being with access to the internet, Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, said adios to the royal family last year. They packed their bags and moved to California, taking their adorable son Archie with them. No more royal engagements, no more tours, no more princess waves, nada. They truly gave a middle finger to the fairytale. And at the time, a lot of people (like me) thought, "WTF? Why would you leave all that behind?" They had privileges that most people could only dream about.
But The Crown makes it completely, abundantly clear. The show paints the royal family as unwelcoming and cold. Being in their presence is a balancing act of having a perfectly palatable personality while also adhering to endless rules and etiquette. When Diana goes to visit the family to celebrate her engagement, she's greeted with a game of who she should curtsy to first, not any sort of familial hello. And it gets worse from there. As I watched the fake Diana get put through her princess lessons, fail sometimes literal tests, and generally get frozen out from the royal family, I thought about how hard it would be to stay in a family like that, that is less about love than it is about duty.
There's one scene in particular later in the season where Diana is trying to tell the queen about the struggles in her marriage to Charles, and she goes to hug the queen, in a moment of desperation. The queen seems so shocked at the hug and doesn't even attempt to return it. Later on, Elizabeth tells her sister, daughter, and mother about the audacity of Diana trying to *hug* her. Imagine talking shit about an attempt at affection!
Obviously, The Crown is a work of fiction, so it's not fair to draw a direct 1:1 comparison between the events in the show and what happened IRL. But let's say even half of what happens in this season is based on fact or unexaggerated, it would still be...pretty damming. And this is not to say that Diana is a saint and Charles is the sinner. The show does a pretty good job painting the two as both the villains and the victims within their marriage, which is probably the way most marriages that end actually are. It's not really about the two of them, anyways. It's about the whole family unit. This season takes place 30 years ago, but if we fast forward and find that the family dynamics are mostly the same...that's brutal.
If you were Meghan, a California girl who moved to the U.K. to marry someone you were in love with, then realized you were in a situation that was much bigger than you were prepared for, you might want to leave, too. Especially if that family is as toxic as the show makes it out to be (or even a little bit as toxic), and especially if you and your husband are otherwise totally happy. You already have what you need, why deal with the extra bullshit? Prince Harry isn't even gonna be king! That's what these 10 new episodes say to me, whether that was intentional or not.
Sometimes I think about Meghan and wonder what it must have been like to live in a fairytale. But something this season of The Crown presents so clearly, and something Meghan has basically said herself, is that royal life is anything but. I think I finally believe her.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.