The Crown season 3 sets the scene for Princess Diana to arrive in season 4

Laura Jane Turner

From Digital Spy

Note: contains spoilers for The Crown season 3.

The Crown returned to Netflix on Sunday (November 17), marking the show's very first outing with its brand new cast.

Olivia Colman took the mantle from Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, and Tobias Menzies stepped into the shoes of her husband Prince Philip.

Also making their debut appearances for season three were Josh O'Connor (who dazzles as Prince Charles), Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret), Charles Dance (Lord Mountbatten), Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother), Emerald Fennell (a young Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) and last – but certainly by no means least – Erin Doherty as a scene-stealing Princess Anne.

Photo credit: Tim Graham Photo Library - Getty Images

But where, you may ask, was Princess Diana?

Filming for The Crown season four has been going on for a while now, and as a result there have been plenty of pictures surfacing that drop some pretty big hints at what's to come. This included a very first look at Emma Corrin in her role as the late Diana, Princess of Wales, leading many to believe that she would be appearing in the third instalment.

If you have already made it through the ten new episodes, you'll know that (among other historical moments such as the Aberfan disaster and the moon landing of '69) the focus for Prince Charles is very much on his introduction to his role of Prince of Wales – a title that was given in 1958 and confirmed in his 1969 investiture – and his internal battle with the role of heir to the throne.

Photo credit: Netflix

Related: The Crown star reveals reason why sex scenes were cut

Romantically, he only has eyes for one woman as far as The Crown's third season is concerned, and that's Camilla Shand, who he first meets at a polo match. The Crown's third run charts the circumstances of their early relationship before they each ended up marrying other people.

The Crown's narrative depicts a messy love triangle-style situation.

Prince Charles and Camilla first crossed paths while she was in an 'off' stage of an ongoing on/off relationship with military man Andrew Parker Bowles. To make things even more complicated, Andrew also dated Princess Anne (yes, in case it isn't immediately obvious, that's Prince Charles's younger sister). In the show, this seemed to overlap timing-wise and caused quite the air of scandal within the royal household.

Photo credit: Des Willie - Netflix

"We need to take it seriously. I think he's really fallen in love," the Queen (Colman) at one point tells her husband (Menzies), although Prince Philip pooh-poohs the idea by making a sweeping statement that "you don't love a girl like Camilla Shand, she's just a bit of fun and a welcome distraction from the rigours of the Navy".

We'll put the unsavoury undertones of that statement to one side for today, but it's fair to say that this indicates that many didn't see Charles's infatuation with Camilla as having much of a future.

The series depicts romantic strolls in the countryside for the young couple, and includes a number of intense phone calls between them while Charles was away training.

"What we have is special," the Prince tells his lady at one point, while Camilla is seen on the receiving end of the phone with Andrew hovering around in the background. Admitting that she was confused about her situation, she told him: "I wasn't supposed to fall in love with you. None of this was supposed to happen."

Photo credit: Sophie Mutevelian - Netflix

In the series, Prince Charles was later seen confiding in his Uncle Dickie about his true feelings, implying that he was considering a proposal so as not to lose Camilla. This kick-started some top-level scheming from Lord Mountbatten (Charles Dance's moment to shine), with a big helping of assistance from the Queen Mother, in a bid to drive the young pair apart and put Shand back "where she belongs" – in the arms of Parker Bowles.

Princess Anne then arrived, belting out Bowie, to confirm to the family that Camilla was still somewhat involved with her former flame and therefore not entirely committed to her brother.

Prince Charles confronted Camilla in an emotional telephone call, where she maintained that she had feelings for both of them but that it would be "better for everyone in the long run" if she were to go along with the royal family's wishes.

Photo credit: Left Bank Pictures - Netflix

Before long, Camilla and Andrew were married.

In real life, we know that Camilla and Andrew wed in 1973. According to historian Sally Bedell Smith (via Town & Country), the engagement had been orchestrated by the couples' parents and a notice was published in The Times before it had even taken place.

For the dramatisation, it is here that The Crown's third season leaves Charles's romantic life.

It was the Queen's Silver Jubilee that took the final scene of the season. This occurred in 1977, 25 years after her coronation, which is also the same year that Lady Diana first met the Prince of Wales at the age of 16.

Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

This leaves the door wide open for Princess Diana to appear in season four.

Prince Charles had reportedly dated Diana's older sister, Lady Sarah, but then started courting Diana after she introduced them. The Prince of Wales proposed on February 6, 1981 and Diana accepted, but it was not officially announced until a few weeks later.

Photo credit: Hulton Archive - Getty Images

It's not entirely sure at what point The Crown season 4 plans to pick up from, but filming photos give us some indication of the time frames it will explore.

The very first time that Corrin was seen in her role as Princess Diana was the recreation of the royal couple's trip to Australia in 1983, two years after their wedding in 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral.

To be a little more precise, the outfits that the actors were sporting pinpoint Prince Charles and Princess Diana's famous visit to Ayers Rock. This was part of the pair's royal tour, which also marked the first time that Princess Diana had traveled overseas. She was 22 at the time.

Prince William, at the age of nine months, also became the first royal baby to join such a trip – a big break from tradition for the monarchy. Many have claimed that this move came at the insistence of Princess Diana herself.

Further set photos for The Crown have also emerged, thought to be showing the royal visit to Perth's Fremantle Hospital in April 1983.

Of course, we also know that Margaret Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson) will be making an appearance. The controversial Conservative leader was Prime Minister of the UK between 1979 and 1990.

The Crown seasons 1-3 are available now on Netflix.

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