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To the casual observer they seem like postcard cliches: koalas, kangaroos, Bondi Beach and the stunning but familiar backdrop of Uluru. And yet almost 40 years after the 41-day whistle-stop tour of Australia by the relatively newly-married Prince and Princess of Wales, those images remain etched on the Australian cultural consciousness.
The tour's historical significance cannot be overstated. Kicking off in March 1983, it was our first in-person introduction to "shy Di", the former Lady Diana Spencer, now Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales. And the tour's success seemed to stem a rising tide of Republican sentiment in this former British colony, as such tours often do.
Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) depicted during their Australian tour in The Crown.Credit:Netflix
The recreation of that tour for the Netflix political drama The Crown is equally impactful, laying down the foundation of what would become the War of the Waleses, waged almost in the public eye, even back then, as Charles, Diana and newborn Prince William dazzled Australian fans.
The Crown breaks the spell of that moment in time, bringing an objective eye to a relationship which somehow enchanted the world. In fact Charles and Diana had only met 13 times in person prior to their engagement, a union which was largely engineered by the Queen Mother and her friend, Diana's grandmother, Lady Fermoy.
The fourth season of The Crown is particularly strong, thanks to the addition of political force Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) and the exploration of the conflict between the Queen (Olivia Colman)and son Charles (Josh O'Connor). And actress Emma Corrin delivers, weaving a compelling character in Diana without the kind of distracting performance that royal dramas of old battled against.
Actor Richard Roxburgh playing former PM Bob Hawke in the 2010 telemovie Hawke.Credit:Network Ten
The tour, notably, was Diana's first trip overseas. She was just 22 years old at the time. And it broke with established protocol in a number of ways. Infant children did not typically go on tour with their royal parents, but Diana had insisted on bringing the newborn William with them. And the first and second in the line of succession would not usually travel together, but in this case the new family travelled as one group.
Scenes depicting outback Australia in the new season of The Crown were shot in Almeria, Spain. Credit:Netflix
Bucking those traditions has carried on to a younger generation of royals, such as the now-adult Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, who took Prince George on their 2014 tour of Australia, and Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, who took their infant son Archie on their 2019 tour of Africa.
The Australian scenes were filmed in the UK and Spain with the resort town of Malaga standing in for Sydney and Canberra. "The 500 rather swarthy extras all with their signs, waving around for Lady Di and Charles looked quite different to my memory of what people, and what Canberra Airport looked like, for instance, at that time," Roxburgh says, laughing.
The series also used filming locations near the Spanish town of Almería – the desert location of classic Sergio Leone films such as A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – to stand in for Australia's outback. Uluru was added digitally later.
Diana (Emma Corrin) and Charles (Josh O’Connor) in Australia. This scene was also filmed in Spain.Credit:Netflix
"It's where they shot the vast majority of the spaghetti westerns, so it has this very particular kind of light," Roxburgh says. "A desert kind of light, so it worked in that way."
Roxburgh described the production scale of The Crown as extraordinary. "It's run with military precision, just extraordinary precision, like no other production I've ever worked on," he says. "It was just the most straightforward, beautifully-organised thing that I've ever been on, really."
The fourth season of The Crown streams on Netflix from November 15.
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