Friends of Prince Charles launched a blistering attack on The Crown last night, accusing producers of the hit Netflix drama of ‘trolling on a Hollywood budget’.
Some of the Prince’s closest confidantes have accused the streaming giant of exploiting the Royal Family’s pain for financial gain and raged that ‘fiction is presented as fact’ in its twisted version of events.
The fourth series, which launches today, covers Charles’s doomed marriage to Princess Diana, her eating disorders and his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.
But the broadcaster’s willingness to traduce the reputation of the Royals has raised fresh questions among senior family members about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to sign a multi-million-pound deal with the California-based broadcaster.
Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in the fourth series of Netflix’s The Crown. Friends of Charles launched a blistering attack on the show, accusing producers of of ‘trolling on a Hollywood budget’
Some of the Prince’s closest confidantes have accused the streaming giant of exploiting the Royal Family’s pain for financial gain and raged that ‘fiction is presented as fact’ in its twisted version of events (Charles pictured in Berlin on November 14)
In a series of highly unusual public interventions that demonstrates the depth of concern at the very top of the Royal Family, Palace insiders have lined up to slate the Netflix show.
‘This is drama and entertainment for commercial ends being made with no regard to the actual people involved who are having their lives hijacked and exploited,’ said one insider.
‘In this case, it’s dragging up things that happened during very difficult times 25 or 30 years ago without a thought for anyone’s feelings. That isn’t right or fair, particularly when so many of the things being depicted don’t represent the truth.’
The fourth series of the successful drama covers the years from Lord Mountbatten’s assassination in 1979 to the ousting of Margaret Thatcher in 1990. But it is the depiction of a callous and self-serving Charles meeting and marrying an innocent Diana while maintaining his affair with the then married Camilla which has sparked such anger.
‘The new series paints the Prince and Duchess in a very unflattering light but at least at the start of reality shows like The Only Way Is Essex they admit that some scenes have been invented for entertainment,’ a Palace source said.
‘There is no sense of telling carefully nuanced stories – it’s all very two-dimensional. This is trolling with a Hollywood budget. The public shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this is an accurate portrayal of what really happened.’
Scenes showing Diana gorging on food before vomiting into a toilet are so graphic that they will carry on-screen warnings. The prospect of that – and the very public reminder of his parents’ bitter split – will no doubt also irritate Prince William, according to one insider.
‘The Duke of Cambridge is none too pleased with it. He feels that both his parents are being exploited and being presented in a false, simplistic way to make money,’ the source said.
Prince Charles and Diana pictured announcing their engagement at Buckingham Palace in London in 1981 (file photo)
Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in the fourth series of Netflix’s The Crown
The row – the most serious between a broadcaster and the Royal Family since the BBC apologised to the Queen in 2007 after it wrongly implied that she had stormed out of a photoshoot – will refocus attention on the deal sealed with Netflix by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle earlier this year. Some estimates have put its value at $100 million (£75 million).
‘There are raised eyebrows about Harry taking millions from the company that’s behind all this,’ said an insider. ‘After all where do much of Netflix’s profits come from? The Crown.’
Until now, the Royal Family has refused to comment on The Crown.
However, The Mail on Sunday understands that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were angry with previous series. Philip was shown having an affair with a ballerina during the second series and, in the third, ignoring his mother, Princess Alice, when she came to live at Buckingham Palace in 1967. Neither happened.
As Prince Charles yesterday celebrated his 72nd birthday, friends set out what they insist are gross inaccuracies in the new series. Among them are scenes showing Charles verbally abusing his wife, and Diana confronting the Queen and the Prince of Wales about his affair at their wedding rehearsal at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The series suggests, also erroneously, that the affair between Charles and Camilla continued throughout his marriage to Diana.
Emerald Fennell as Camilla and Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in the fourth series of Netflix’s drama The Crown
In what is felt to be a particularly wounding fabrication, Charles’s beloved great-uncle, Earl Mountbatten is shown, shortly before his death at the hands of the IRA, telling the Prince that the family are disappointed at his relationship with Camilla and to find a wife. In the drama, Charles calls him a traitor. There is no evidence the exchange happened.
In another insidious fictional scene, Prince Philip issues a threat to Diana in 1990 after she suggests leaving Charles. Sources said this appeared to be a clumsy reference to baseless conspiracy theories that he was somehow involved in the car crash in Paris that killed the Princess in August 1997.
One Palace source accused Netflix of failing to realise that there are still scars from Charles and Diana’s bitter split.
‘These events are not the history of 100 or even 50 years ago. The pain is still raw and not enough time has elapsed,’ the insider said. ‘Fiction becomes more attractive than fact and to dramatise these painful events of marriage breakdowns and children upset is very insensitive.’
Last night, Royal biographer Sally Beddell Smith said: ‘The Crown is a work of fiction and the level of invention has been growing. While the earlier seasons were period pieces, series four is recent history, so it seems more cruel in its false depictions.
‘Because The Crown is such a lavish and expensive production, and so much attention has been paid to visual details about historical events, viewers are tricked into believing that what they are seeing actually happened. There should be a disclaimer at the start of each programme saying, “This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to those living or dead is purely coincidental.” ’
Accusing The Crown’s writer, Peter Morgan, of being ‘almost Trumpian with his alternative facts’, she added: ‘There has been extreme and egregious misrepresentation… Viewers should not be fooled. This is a Downton Abbey version of the Royal Family.’
Last night both Clarence House and Kensington Palace declined to comment.
EMILY ANDREWS: How can Prince Harry take millions from the streaming giant that traduces the truth about his family?
Why does the depiction of the Royal Family in The Crown matter? Surely everyone knows it’s just fiction: another TV costume drama by Netflix, that California-based ‘dream factory’ that pumps out £12 billion worth of content each year.
But therein lies the brilliance – and the real-life cruelty – of The Crown.
Although billed as a ‘drama that follows the political rivalries and romance of Elizabeth II’s reign’, the meticulous detail that goes into the filming suggests the producers want to get as close to the truth as possible.
For example, all the toys shown in young William’s nursery are exactly those used in the early 1980s. To recreate Diana’s wedding dress, the costume designer went to Paris to buy buttons from a shop that the Queen’s dressmaker uses, choosing from a collection of more than 30,000. The brands of food in Margaret Thatcher’s cupboards were picked with immaculate care.
So when Camilla is portrayed as selfish, scheming and poisonous; Charles as egotistical, callous and weak, their love affair destroying the innocent Diana, viewers are encouraged to believe this is true.
The Crown Season 4. Picture shows: Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and Prince Charles (Josh O Connor)
But these are real people, living complex lives, who have been shabbily reduced to dramatic stereotype to titillate the paying viewer. No wonder the Royals are angry.
‘Never complain’ has been one of the Queen’s noblest articles of faith. Over the years, though, it has been sorely tested.
But never before have members of her own family been associated with those ‘trolling’ the Monarchy. The unedifying impression is that, by having signed a deal with Netflix, Prince Harry and his former Hollywood star wife Meghan are seen to be lavishly benefiting from the company’s distortion of the truth about the Royal Family.
Their reported $100 million (£78 million) deal with the US streaming giant will help give Harry financial freedom but it has raised eyebrows back home – particularly among those close to Charles and William.
How can he take money from a company that traduces his family? That unfeelingly recreates the Irish terrorist bomb that killed Lord Mountbatten and three others? That mawkishly picks over the carcass of Harry and William’s parents’ bitter marriage break-up like a vulture?
What’s more, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the Netflix documentary they have discussed making goes beyond the ‘inspirational family programming’ they initially promised.
Instead, it will centre on the couple’s first year after splitting from the Royal Family, their new life in California and the reasons why they fled Britain.
According to a well-placed source, the couple have video footage from when they left their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, for the final time and their ‘farewell tour’ at Buckingham Palace. Their representatives are thought to have pitched the footage – including personal videos recorded as they stepped back from Royal life – during negotiations with Netflix.
Given the broadcaster’s critical take on the Royal Family, it hardly augurs well.
It’s worth recalling that The Crown’s scriptwriter, Peter Morgan, once a staunch republican, has described the Queen as a ‘countryside woman of limited intelligence who would have much preferred looking after her dogs and breeding horses to being queen’. He’s also likened the Monarchy to ‘survival organisms, like a mutating virus’.
But never before have members of her own family been associated with those ‘trolling’ the Monarchy. The unedifying impression is that, by having signed a deal with Netflix, Prince Harry and his former Hollywood star wife Meghan are seen to be lavishly benefiting from the company’s distortion of the truth about the Royal Family
Morgan’s latest series of The Crown is littered with damaging falsehoods and misrepresentations.
In such company, the promise from Harry and Meghan that their Netflix deal will deliver ‘powerful storytelling through a truthful and relatable lens’ rings hollow.
One positive side-effect from the couple’s abrupt departure, though, is that William and Charles – who have not always seen eye to eye – have been brought closer.
Father and son are united behind a common aim – to protect the Monarchy’s reputation and ensure its continuation and relevance.
Indeed, there was a collective sigh of horror when Harry and Meghan released their own curated Remembrance Sunday pictures last weekend as they visited the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
They took their own celebrity photographer (and possibly a Netflix film crew?) and then distributed the images worldwide. Back in Britain, senior Royals viewed this PR stunt as insensitive.
Remembrance Sunday is treated as one of the most important dates in the calendar – an opportunity that is a ‘privilege’ for those living to pay tribute to the dead who sacrificed their lives for a greater good. Commemoration services are not about the individual. Harry, as an ex-serviceman, should have known better than to ‘weaponise Remembrance’ as part of his petty war with the rest of the Windsors.
This episode had further corroded the relationship between William and Harry. William models himself on his grandmother, and after initially struggling to embrace full-time Royal duties, now recognises the good his platform can achieve.
Harry has opted out – with financial reward – leaving Charles and William to pick up the pieces.
As for their father, yes, he did have a long-standing premarital affair with Camilla. But it stopped before he married Diana and didn’t start again until around 1986, by which time Diana had lovers of her own.
The Crown exploits their unhappiness all the way to the bank.
How Netflix’s American bosses must have relished watching The Crown’s writing team have fun at the present Royal Family’s expense and turn their lives into a money-spinning parody of the truth.
For those close to Charles, it’s worse than that. It’s ‘unbelievable and pernicious lies’.
The great fear is that many across the world will see The Crown as The Truth.
In due course, Charles and Camilla will become King and Queen. They celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary this year – longer than Charles’s marriage to Diana. The Duchess of Cornwall has worked extremely hard at helping unfashionable causes, such as victims of abuse and sexual violence, literacy and osteoporosis.
She knows she can never be another fashionable, traffic-stopping Princess of Wales – significantly, she has never used the title – but has carved out her own role as consort to the Prince. He adores her and depends on her – indeed, she is far stronger of the two mentally. They are well-matched, laugh at the same sense of the absurd, are fired by the same ideals.
With her in his life, Charles feels complete.
He has found more certainty in his role as King-in-waiting.
So often derided in the past for his views on genetically modified crops, for ‘talking to plants’ and his environmental concerns, Charles has in fact been proven to be visionary in his campaigning to protect the natural world.
Last night, as he landed in Berlin to become the first British Royal commemorating German war dead, he talked about ‘our countries beginning a new chapter in our long history’. He added that all victims of war, tyranny and persecution should ‘inspire us to strive for a better tomorrow’.
In other words, we should focus on the future, not the past.
With their jaundiced, Hollywood version of the recent past in Britain’s history, Netflix bosses would do well to heed that advice.
But they are probably too busy working out the most money- spinning way to bring Princess Diana’s death to screen for the fifth series of The Crown, which is due out in 2022.