A powerful coalition of politicians, Royal experts and a close friend of Prince Charles last night backed calls for Netflix to broadcast a disclaimer warning viewers of The Crown that many key scenes never happened or are distortions of the truth.
The streaming giant is facing mounting criticism for fabricating a string of controversial incidents in the latest series of the hit drama, amid warnings its manipulation of real events could damage the future of the Monarchy.
The Mail on Sunday today launches a campaign to demand Netflix makes clear to its millions of viewers that The Crown’s storylines twist the truth and present fiction as fact.
It comes as Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, said he felt uneasy watching his sister’s depiction in the drama and that he fears viewers will ‘forget it is fiction’. Those backing calls for a disclaimer include:
A powerful coalition of politicians, Royal experts and a close friend of Prince Charles last night backed calls for Netflix to broadcast a disclaimer warning viewers of The Crown that many key scenes never happened or are distortions of the truth
Lady Glenconner – Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting for more than 30 years and a friend of Prince Charles – who revealed that a scene depicting her in the previous series was ‘completely untrue’;Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, who pointedly reminded The Crown’s producers that they are portraying the lives of ‘real people’;Former Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, who said it was ‘vital’ that each episode carries a ‘health warning’ that some events have been ‘embellished’;General Sir Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British Army, who warned ‘there is a real risk that history is being rewritten’.
The fourth series of The Crown, released last Sunday, covers the years between Lord Mountbatten’s assassination by the IRA in 1979 and the ousting of Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Much of it focuses on Charles’s doomed marriage to Diana and supposed tensions in the relationship between the Queen and Mrs Thatcher.
The series wrongly suggests the affair between Charles and Camilla continued throughout his marriage to Diana. In fact, Charles had virtually no contact with Camilla for the first five years of his marriage in 1981.
In a fabricated scene in the first episode, Lord Mountbatten writes to warn Charles he is in danger of bringing ‘ruin and disappointment’ to the family, while the third episode falsely depicts Mrs Thatcher being humiliated by the Royal Family at Balmoral.
The series wrongly suggests the affair between Charles and Camilla continued throughout his marriage to Diana
The MoS last week revealed how friends of Charles had accused the producers of the drama of ‘trolling on a Hollywood budget’.
Peter Morgan, The Crown’s creator, has defended making up scenes, adding: ‘You sometimes have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.’
But Hugo Vickers, a leading Royal historian and author of The Crown Dissected, said it was ‘absolutely vital’ a disclaimer be shown at the start of each episode warning viewers the show is fictionalised.
The facts are twisted and the truth becomes a distorted lie
‘Peter Morgan says he conflates incidents, which is understandable, but he also twists the facts and thus turns the truth into something so distorted that it becomes an out and out lie,’ he added.
Lord Fellowes also questioned the way The Crown is depicting the Royal Family, saying: ‘I don’t really like commenting on other people’s work… but in this instance I can’t help feeling that the very brilliant programme makers sometimes forget that these are real people and they are leading real lives.’
The Tory peer supported calls for Netflix to make it clear that fact is being blended with fiction.
He said: ‘I don’t really understand why not because in many programmes based on truthful events there is a disclaimer at the beginning that says some events have been conflated and some characters have been invented for dramatic purposes. That’s very common – you see it at the front of many, many programmes.’
In a fabricated scene in the first episode, Lord Mountbatten writes to warn Charles he is in danger of bringing ‘ruin and disappointment’ to the family
Princess Margaret is shown in one episode of the new series being rude to Mrs Thatcher and appears irritated in another episode when Diana’s entrance into a room interrupts her as she is telling a story.
Lady Glenconner, Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting between 1971 and 2002, last night stressed she has not seen the latest series but believes such a portrayal of her friend is ‘unfair’.
All these hit shows happily do it…
Dozens of popular dramas, including one produced by the same company behind The Crown, carry disclaimers.
The ITV series Quiz, about how Charles Ingram cheated his way to winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, makes clear to viewers that some scenes are invented.
Each episode, produced by Left Bank Pictures, which also makes The Crown, begins: ‘This drama is based on real events. Some incidents and characters have been changed for dramatic purposes.’
Others dramas with disclaimers include the BBC’s Responsible Child, the story of a 12-year-old boy tried as an adult for murder and ITV’s Honour, based on the ‘honour killing’ of Banaz Mahmod.
Regulator Ofcom says shows ‘should not portray facts, events, individuals or organisations in a way which is unfair’.
However, Netflix, which screens The Crown, is regulated by the Dutch regulator as its European headquarters is in the Netherlands.
‘They just make up what they want and of course there is a lot of people who think it is true,’ she said.
The 88-year-old was depicted in a fictional scene in the third series which falsely showed Margaret meeting her future boyfriend Roddy Llewellyn at a swimming pool party.
They in fact met over tea at the Cafe Royal in Edinburgh.
Christopher Warwick, Princess Margaret’s authorised biographer, voiced fears that the current series could damage the reputations of Charles and Camilla.
In January, Netflix revealed 73 million households worldwide have watched The Crown since it began in 2016.
Clive Irving, a Royal author based in the US, said many Americans regard the events depicted in The Crown as ‘gospel truth’.
It is a concern shared by Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, who told ITV’s Alan Titchmarsh: ‘I find Americans tell me they have watched The Crown as if they have taken a history lesson. Well they haven’t.’
Lord Dannatt, who brokered a deal with the press to allow Prince Harry to serve in Afghanistan, said: ‘To allow a wrong belief to gain credence is not only unfair but potentially damaging for the monarchy and therefore is not right.’
Ingrid Seward, the editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, criticised a scene in the second episode in which The Queen allows Mrs Thatcher to accompany her stalking on the Balmoral estate dressed in a bright blue coat with matching handbag and scarf.
‘The Queen does not like humiliating people. It simply in a million years couldn’t be further from the truth.’
Karen Bradley, Culture Secretary in Theresa May’s government, said it was ‘vital’ each episode of The Crown carried a ‘health warning that it’s not strictly faithful to the facts… and that for dramatic reasons, they have embellished and even invented some events’.
Lord Forsyth, a Minister in both Mrs Thatcher and John Major’s governments, said The Crown was ‘barely one step up from Spitting Image and is riddled with error and invention’.
Angela Levin, a biographer of Prince Harry, said Netflix had a ‘moral duty’ to carry a disclaimer, while Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press secretary, said a disclaimer should be read out during the opening titles of each episode.
Netflix and Peter Morgan declined to comment.