The Crown spans the majority of Queen Elizabeth II’s life, from her wedding to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, until the early 21st century.
Season six, airing Novemeber 2022, is set to move into the early 2000s, covering storylines about the young Prince William and Harry.
The show was the subject of controversy in 2020, after then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden demanded that Netflix put a “health warning” at the beginning of each episode, clarifying that the series is a work of fiction.
Royal family members, including Prince William and Harry, have also expressed concern that audiences may be unaware that some scenes are fiction and use a heavy hand of artistic license.
In September 2019, palace officials actually released a statement making it clear that the royal family has nothing to do with how its members are portrayed in The Crown.
“The royal household is not complicit in interpretations made by the program,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Netflix has refused to add a disclaimer to the beginning of episodes to warn viewers that the series is a work of fiction. Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret in the series, said in 2020 that Netflix had a “moral responsibility” to air the disclaimer.
Here’s what individual royal family members have said:
While The Crown has often faced criticism for inaccuracies in its storytelling, Prince Harry has admitted that there’s some truth to the narrative. “It’s loosely based on the truth,” he told The Late Late Show with James Corden. “It gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle — what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else — what can come from that.”
Prince Harry also revealed that he would rather watch The Crown than read stories about his personal life. “I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself,” he said. “Because that is the difference between what is obviously fiction, take it how you will, but this has been reported on as fact because you are supposedly news. I have a real issue with that.”
Prince William has not publicly spoken about The Crown, but it was revealed via actor Olivia Colman (who played Queen Elizabeth II in season four) that he does not watch the show,
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“I met Prince William at a dinner and he asked what I was doing at the moment before he quickly added, ‘Actually, I know what you’re doing,’” she said on the Graham Norton Show. “I was so excited and asked, ‘Have you watched it?’ His answer was a firm, ‘No.’ But he was very charming and very lovely.”
The Queen’s sixth grandchild, Princess Eugenie, said that watching The Crown made her feel “proud” though she did not mention what her family members thought of the show.
“I did watch a couple of episodes of The Crown. It is filmed beautifully. The music is wonderful, the story is beautiful,” Eugenie told the Daily Mail. “You feel very proud to watch it. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s how I felt when I watched it.”
The Queen’s nephew, Arthur Chatto (Lady Sarah Chatto’s son, Princess Margaret’s daughter) said that he watches the show. But he said that he doesn’t let the show’s narrative affect how he treats his family members and told viewers to remember that the show’s just an interpretation of facts.
“I guess it’s only an interpretation,” he told The Telegraph . “I just remember what they’ve actually like and don’t let the TV persona mar my judgement of any of them.”
David Bowes-Lyon, whose father was a first cousin of the Queen Mother once removed, accused the show of fabricating the storyline involving the Bowes-Lyon sisters, who it’s claimed were kept secret from royal family members, including Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter). In episode seven of season 4, Margaret discovers that her relatives (the Queen Mother’s nieces Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon) who were born with severe learning difficulties, were allegedly placed in an institution.
According to Bowes-Lyon, Princess Margaret was aware of their existence and the pair have had several conversations about the sisters. “She knew exactly who they were and what had happened,” he told The Telegraph. “It is completely wrong to say they were forgotten and certified as lunatics.” He added that the family was “frustrated and would like the record put straight”.
He added: “I’m probably the only member of the family who could publicly say anything about this.”
Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, voiced concerns about the way the show is being received by viewers. He said that some people view the show as a “history lesson.” Speaking to Alan Titchmarsh on Love Your Weekend, he said: “The worry for me is that people see a programme like that and they forget that it is fiction”.
“They assume,” he continued. “Especially foreigners – I find Americans tell me they watch The Crown as if they’ve taken a history lesson. Well, they haven’t.”
Spencer added: “It is very hard. There is a lot of conjecture and a lot of invention, isn’t there? You can hang it on fact but the bits in between are not fact.”
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