The Crown has undoubtedly encouraged pro-Diana sentiment—a recent Instagram post featuring Charles’s wife Camilla from Clarence House, their royal residence, was flooded with praise for the late Princess of Wales—but it’s also a curiously pro-Charles document. While the show treats the truth like bubblegum, something delicious to be stretched, one of its more wince-inducing embellishments portrays Diana giving Charles a tape of her singing a treacly number from Phantom of the Opera. (She was a fan of the show, and did indeed tape herself dancing to one of its songs, but she never gave it to Charles, and I don’t know that she ever would have as an anniversary gift.) But Charles, whose public image suffered greatly as his relationship with Diana deteriorated, has gotten a bit of restorative justice over the past decade—the kinds of things people used to rib him over, like his passions for gardening, organic produce, and sustainable urban development, now seem quite prophetic. O’Connor’s portrayal, with his mopey-dopey devotion to Camilla and admissions of alienation, gives him a much fairer shake than Diana zealots might find comfortable.
O’Connor’s comfort in suiting does an impressive amount of work here, and it’s a reminder of how much acting is wearing a costume the right way. O’Connor has the stoop right—poor posture is one of those un-royal affectations, like stupid parlor games and middle class clothes—but he also slugs his hands into his pocket with a mixture of resignation and arrogance, making him look like the family nut when he mansplains, for example, what “tabula rasa” means to Mummy (aka the Queen). Rare is the photo of the real Charles without his hands jammed into his pockets, and it captures how he is a man aware of his privilege—in order to treasure it, though, rather than to check it.
Though suiting has been at the center of menswear over the past few seasons, with designers like Virgil Abloh and Jerry Lorenzo planting it at the center of their output, it remains the default uniform of privilege. For all the high-fashion experimentation, the two leading suit cuts remain Jared Kushner-skinny—the data-driven look of the managerial class—and the overly varnished power-player cut, best seen in the Brioni suits on Trump and his cronies. (Roger Stone, whose obsession with obscure suiting rules borders on the sadomasochistic or even fascistic, is another case entirely.)
In contrast, Charles’s suits aren’t perfect. Instead, they’re perfect on him. This is the magic of bespoke clothing, but Charles’s looks can be quite ersatz—when you look at him next to Diana, in some of her more bizarre style choices, like a red monochrome suit with matching pantyhose, he looks equally quirky but relaxed. Emma Corrin, playing Diana, appears a little too slight for her clothes at times, but O’Connor’s fit is impeccably accurate. The perfection is in the lack of…well, not pretense, but the sense of tranquility. Charles looks so relaxed in his clothes that he often even looks like he’s wearing pajamas. He wears suits like an original. He is all about style, over fashion and maybe even everything else.