Alexander Larman

The Crown doesn’t need a disclaimer

It has always trod a fine line between gossipy entertainment and historical recreation

  • From Spectator Life
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in series five of The Crown [Netflix]

The fifth series of Netflix’s The Crown will soon be upon us. Scripted, as ever, by Peter Morgan, the show will cover the travails of the royal family throughout the 1990s, spanning everything from the then Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marital difficulties and eventual divorce to the rumours of Prince Philip conducting an affair with a much younger woman (his partner in carriage driving, we are told).

Jonny Lee Miller, erstwhile Sick Boy from Trainspotting and Sherlock Holmes from Elementary, dons thick glasses and a grey wig to play former prime minister John Major, a decent man who never stood a chance. Later in the series, we are promised the first appearance of Bertie Carvel as Tony Blair, who will come into his own in the sixth and final instalment.

So far, business as usual. But what is different this time around is the unprecedented level of controversy over the show’s inventions and exaggerations. It’s been all the more heightened because this series of The Crown will premiere on Netflix on 9 November, a mere two months after the death of the Queen.

A journalist from the Sunday Times was granted a preview of the series and reported that some of the more contentious storylines include a scene in which Dominic West’s Prince Charles asks Major if pressure could be put on his mother to abdicate so that he might inherit the throne, with heavy innuendo about Philip’s ‘friendship’ with Countess Mountbatten of Burma. An ‘acquaintance’ of the real-life Countess said: ‘This is indeed an ill-judged, unnecessarily unsympathetic and unfortunate decision. I imagine it is, however, carefully considered and very deliberate in that it has done what was probably intended in garnering media attention and therefore publicity for this continued work of republican fiction.’

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