The Crown threads a fine line between functional drama and faithful recreation, with the fifth season recently dropping on Netflix. The first four seasons didn’t bear a warning about fictionalisation, but sharp criticism following the death of the Queen and ascension of King Charles led to the show creator Peter Morgan putting a warning on the trailer that the show is fictional.
Still, the show does pay particular attention to real-life documents and events. After all, it follows one of the most famous families in the world whose every move has been meticulously tracked for centuries. Some lines from The Crown, such as when the Duke of Windsor spoke to his wife Wallace, were lifted directly from letters that were made public after his death.
Playing fast and loose with the truth
Nonetheless, people who are still alive today who have been depicted in the show have spoken out about inaccuracies in the show. For example, former Prime Minister John Major criticized The Crown Season 5 for suggesting that Prince Charles was keen to take over the throne from his mother early. In addition, Season 5 drew comments from Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, voicing his concerns that people will watch the show and believe it is an accurate depiction of exactly what happened in real life.
“I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if, at the beginning of each episode, it stated that: ‘This isn’t true but it is based around some real events’,” Earl Spencer said on a daytime UK talk show. “I worry people do think [the show] is gospel, and that’s unfair.”
Another plot point from Season 5 that has been called out for exaggerating reality is Prince Philip’s relationship with Penny Knatchbull. Those close to the royal family claim that Penny was a close friend of the family and that any anger from Queen Elizabeth is pure fiction.
The list of quibbles that experts and fans of the royal family argue over goes on … and on … and on. We could truly be here all day.
Rooted in fact
For its part, Netflix has backed its depiction of royal life, saying in a statement: “The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events. Series Five is a fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family—one that has been scrutinised and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians.”
Put simply: yes, they dramatize some things — but there’s plenty of real historical scandal to work with as well. Some dramatic moments from the show that are known to be true are the rumours of Prince Philip’s affairs (which dominated the press at the time), the Duke of Windsor’s unseemly connections with Nazis, the breakdown of royal marriages, and the relationship between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend.
While private and intimate conversations must surely come from pure imagination, as there’s no way for Morgan or anyone else working on the show to know what was said behind closed doors, the majority of key plot points are rooted in fact, for the most part.
(featured image: Netflix)
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