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The danger with The Crown taking liberties with reality is viewers will believe it says HUGO VICKERS


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The lavish sets and gripping storylines have, once again, hooked the nation. The third series of The Crown, which covers the tumultuous, modernising years from 1964 to 1977, also has a new A-list cast, with Oscar-winning Olivia Colman taking on a starring role as the Queen.

There are dramatic, memorable scenes: the Queen at Winston Churchill’s deathbed, the Monarch apparently faking emotion at the scene of the Aberfan colliery disaster, a Russian spy at the heart of the Monarchy, political conspiracies to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government and the blossoming romance between a young Prince Charles and Camilla Shand.

Enjoyable drama it may be. But there are grave problems with the sweeping liberties taken by The Crown. For as the popular Netflix series creeps closer to the present day, it is important to consider just how closely the storylines resemble real events.

A little poetic licence can dramatise otherwise staid facts. But when those facts are distorted so convincingly that viewers come to accept it as truth, then it becomes problematic, for historians as well as for the Monarchy.

Enjoyable drama it may be. But there are grave problems with the sweeping liberties taken by The Crown. For as the popular Netflix series creeps closer to the present day, it is important to consider just how closely the storylines resemble real events

The Crown, after all, portrays real people whom the writers frequently place in fictional situations. There is often no regard to the facts. Events often happen in the wrong sequence and this is intentional. The film-makers need to create conflict and dramatic viewing, and they seek it even where none existed.

The truth, admittedly, might be a little dull. In the first series, an entire episode is devoted to Prince Philip refusing to kneel before his wife at the Coronation. The reality is that he was perfectly happy to do so, but such compliance would not have sustained 45 minutes of prime-time television.

The second series takes two truthful events and links them together to create a completely false storyline. The Queen did entertain America’s First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, at a dinner at Buckingham Palace in 1961. It is also correct that, shortly afterwards, she made a courageous trip to Ghana, a country which was then verging on becoming a dictatorship.

Enjoyable drama it may be. But there are grave problems with the sweeping liberties taken by The Crown. For as the popular Netflix series creeps closer to the present day, it is important to consider just how closely the storylines resemble real events

Enjoyable drama it may be. But there are grave problems with the sweeping liberties taken by The Crown. For as the popular Netflix series creeps closer to the present day, it is important to consider just how closely the storylines resemble real events

The Queen’s visit was designed – successfully, as it turned out – to keep Ghana in the Commonwealth.

But The Crown’s version is very different. It suggests the Queen, who had felt herself in Mrs Kennedy’s glamorous shadow, had planned the trip, knowing it would receive significant publicity, in order to upstage her.

Without doubt the meanest example involves Prince Philip’s time at the Scottish boarding school, Gordonstoun. The storyline has the young Prince punching another schoolboy when he did no such thing, and having his half-term cancelled as a result – when half-terms did not exist.

The plot goes on to claim that his detention in the Highlands was why he did not travel to visit his pregnant sister Cecile in the German city of Darmstadt – and why she, in turn, took a fatal decision to fly to London instead.

The second series takes two truthful events and links them together to create a completely false storyline. The Queen did entertain America’s First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, at a dinner at Buckingham Palace in 1961

The second series takes two truthful events and links them together to create a completely false storyline. The Queen did entertain America’s First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, at a dinner at Buckingham Palace in 1961

The facts are impossibly tragic. Cecile died with her family when their plane crashed at Ostend in heavy fog. Adding to the unimaginable heartache for Philip, her baby boy had been born during the trauma of the accident and died alongside them. According to Anne Griffiths, Philip’s archivist, being told this by his headmaster was one of the worst moments in his life. But to cook up a scene, as the creators of The Crown did, in which Prince Philip’s father blames him for the deaths, is horrible.

The facts show that Philip never had any plans to fly to Darmstadt – and Cecile was coming to London anyway to attend a wedding. In reality, Philip and his father travelled to the funeral in Darmstadt together, which must have been the saddest journey.

The unswerving message from the series is that the Queen and some Royals are cold and bound by tradition, while others, such as Princess Margaret, are to be applauded for choosing to live for love. It is even suggested that Prince Charles, consumed by his affair with Camilla, admired the disgraced Duke of Windsor – who abdicated in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson – and considered following his example.

So it goes on, travesty after travesty, with viewers being brainwashed into thinking this version of events is what truly happened.

I wonder if there is a subplot here, one which passes unnoticed to the casual viewer. The show’s creator, Peter Morgan, once confessed to being a staunch republican. He has since backtracked, claiming that working on The Crown has turned him into a firm Royalist. But, surrounded by so much obfuscation, who knows what is true any more?

Now, when called upon to confirm whether a certain storyline in the show is true or not, I have only one reply: ‘Don’t tell me what it is. I can tell you it is false.’

Hugo Vickers is author of The Crown Dissected, published by Zuleika.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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