The True Story Behind ‘The Crown’s “Willsmania”

Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for The Crown Season 6, Part 2.

The Big Picture

  • Season 6 of The Crown focuses on Prince William’s struggle with fame and public attention following his mother’s death.
  • William becomes a “celebrity” figure in the Royal Family, while his father, Prince Charles, feels jealous and bewildered by the public’s affection for his son.
  • William’s college years shape him into a better leader as he navigates his relationship with Kate Middleton and prepares for his future responsibilities as king.

Although there have been many films and television shows about the British Royal Family, The Crown is unrivaled in its ambition. Rather than focusing on just one era or moment in the House of Windsor’s reign, the series chronicles over 50 years of British history from the perspective of Queen Elizabeth II. Although Elizabeth’s point-of-view has always been most essential, The Crown was often at its most successful when analyzing the impact that royal duties have on youth. Season 6 exemplifies this with its focus on Prince William (Ed McVey) in the aftermath of his mother Diana Spencer’s (Elizabeth Debicki) death. Although he was still in a period of grief, the young Prince found it increasingly challenging to remain out of the public spotlight when “Willsmania” swept the nation.

The Crown TV Show Poster

The Crown

Follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the events that shaped the second half of the 20th century.

Prince William Became a Royal Family Celebrity

Ed McVey as Prince William in The Crown Season 6
Image via Netflix

The second half of The Crown Season 6 picks up shortly after William and Harry (Luther Ford) attend their mother’s ceremonial funeral in London. William has been confused during the proceedings about why the British Commonwealth is so attentive to him, as they have a limited knowledge of what his relationship with his mother was really like. While his grandfather, Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce), advises him to take advantage of public sympathy, William views the press as an increasingly disruptive force in his life. He reiterates his desire for “things to get back to normal,” but realizes that “normalcy” isn’t something that his family will ever experience.

Although William believes that returning to his studies at Eton College will help him move forward, the public displays of affection that he receives from adorning fans make him increasingly uneasy. William receives handwritten letters of condolences from his peers at school, but he finds it less easy to appreciate support from people that he does not know personally. In the aftermath of Diana’s death, William takes his mother’s place as the “celebrity” of the family. The press is far less enthusiastic in their depiction of Prince Charles (Dominic West), an issue that causes a rift between father and son. While Charles is bewildered and perhaps jealous of the affection that his son receives, William just wants to be left alone. He shocks his entire family by stating that he hates the press and the crowds.

William’s frustration with the media spotlight reaches its apex when he visits Vancouver with his father and brother. Despite his father’s initial promise that it will be a private vacation, the Royal Family is met by waves of fans expressing their grief. A majority of these fans are young women fixated on William’s status as a bachelor. As the next in the line of royal succession, William’s marriage will introduce a new member into the British Royal Family. While Harry likes to tease his brother about the attention that he gets, William realizes it will be challenging to find someone who loves him for his personality, and not his status as a celebrity.

William and Charles Bond Over Their Grief in ‘The Crown’ Season 6

Image via Netflix

The aftermath of the Vancouver trip sparks a major argument between William and Charles. William accuses his father of using the media spotlight to divert the press and public from his flaws as a leader; he even goes so far as to allege that his father was in some way responsible for his mother’s death. William finds it difficult to simply “move on” when the tragedy continues to attract public attention; Mohammed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) has even initiated a public inquiry into the death of both Diana and his son, Dodi (Khalid Abdalla). Although he is taken aback by his son’s remarks, Charles recruits his parents to help guide William in dealing with his grief. Philip theorizes that Charles is angry at his father because he has no one else to blame. William eventually joins his father in attending Diana’s grave, allowing them to settle their differences.

Although he still has affection for his mother’s legacy, William realizes that it is in the best interest of the nation that his father remarry. Charles has been in love with Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams) since before he met Diana, but they have been unable to remarry due to the House of Windsor’s stigma over divorce. Charles pleads with his mother, Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton), to give her official blessing to Camilla. Although Elizabeth consults with her advisors in the Church of England before accepting the terms, she first asks for William and Harry’s approval. Despite Harry’s objections, William realizes that a royal wedding will be a joyous public event that will attract public enthusiasm for the monarchy.

William’s College Years Make Him a Better Leader

After taking a year off of school to travel the world, William begins his studies at the University of St Andrews to study art history. William finds himself relying upon his grandmother’s advice more often, as he realizes that he will one day inherit her responsibilities. Surprisingly, Elizabeth gives him some practical advice about his relationship with Catherine Middleton (Meg Bellamy). William and Kate are both engaged in relationships with other people at the beginning of their college experience, but they begin to bond after taking similar classes and spending study time together. William finds that he can be honest with Kate; while other classmates still ask for autographs and treat him as a celebrity, Kate doesn’t overwhelm him with questions about the monarchy.

After William and Kate begin dating, he joins her family as they witness the public celebration of his grandmother’s fiftieth year on the throne. Although Elizabeth briefly considers abstaining from duty in order to let Charles succeed to the throne, she eventually decides to live out her duties until the end. Despite receiving permission to skip the event, William decides to join his family in public support of his grandmother’s legacy. While the end of the series concludes prior to Elizabeth’s death in 2022, the final episode alludes to her passing through metaphorical imagery of the Queen walking into a white light. While this could have been a melancholy way to conclude the show, the positive depiction of William suggests that the monarchy’s future is in good hands.

The Crown is streaming on Netflix.

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