Words by Suraya Kazzuz, Header Illustration by Shafia Motaleb
Following the release of the fourth season of The Crown, there has been quite a lot of backlash directed at the royal family, specifically surrounding Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The show depicts the troubling drama of Charles’ relationship with his first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales. The show riled up feelings as the series rehashed some of the events of Charles and Diana’s tumultuous marriage.
As with most biopics, the series takes some creative leniency when it comes to the re-telling of the royals lives. There is one scene in particular from season 4 which showrunner Peter Morgan has discussed during a podcast. The scene in question is that in which Lord Mountbatten, a close confidant to Prince Charles, is murdered by the IRA as his boat was bombed.
In the series, Mountbatten writes a letter to Charles before his death, in which he states that Charles may bring about ‘ruin and disappointment’ due to his relationship with Camilla, whom at this point in the series is married to another man but engaging in an affair with Prince Charles. There is no evidence to suggest that this letter exists in actuality, but Peter Morgan defends the move to include the letter in the series as he claims, ‘Mountbatten was really responsible for taking Charles to one side at precisely this point and saying, ‘Look, you know, enough already with playing the field. It’s time you got married and it’s time you provided an heir’ continuing that, ‘In my own head, I thought that would have even greater impact on Charles if it were to come post-mortem, as it were’. Here we see an example of the show’s production team prioritizing their story telling over the exact truths of the events that happened.
It seems that the importance of the show’s narrative trumps that of the importance of accuracy. This is why Culture secretary, Oliver Dowden has suggested that the show should add a disclaimer to the beginning of each episode stating that the show is a work of fiction, claiming that ‘Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through the events may mistake fiction for fact’. While Dowden has acknowledged in an interview with The Times that ‘You sometimes have to forsake accuracy’ he seems to be dismissing the intelligence of the viewers of the show.
Of course, some of the shows viewers may take the show as a literal example of events, however, in suggesting that a disclaimer should be placed at the beginning of the show, the culture secretary suggests that most viewers would not have been able to have deduced that the events depicted are not exactly true without being told so.
In suggesting that there be a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode, Oliver Dowden also suggests that it would be detrimental to the royal family should the events be taken literally. He exposes one of the fundamental flaws of monarchy – its fragility. If a re-telling of the royal families lives in a Netflix series has to be criticised by a member of parliament for its inaccuracies because it may be dangerous to the reputation of certain members of the household – then perhaps the family is much too frail. It should also be noted that the show had run for three seasons before Dowden called for this disclaimer to be placed at the beginning of each episode, the difference perhaps being that the events which are depicted are too close to home?
In the most recent series of The Crown we get some more insight into the lives of some of the younger members of the family, including Prince Andrew who has recently been accused of sexually assaulting a minor in relation to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein who made a business of procuring underage women for his elite circle of friends to abuse.
The series is yet to make comment of these particular sexual exploits, however in an earlier released Netflix series, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, a young woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, makes her claims that Prince Andrew assaulted her. Following the documentary it has been announced that Prince Andrew is a person of interest in a criminal investigation.
These claims against Prince Andrew are extremely well-known amongst the public, however the royal family and parliament have failed to make any statements about the sexual assault claims since Prince Andrews initial Newsnight interview (although he has been stripped of his public roles as he resigned due to his affiliation with Epstein).
It is interesting that the government and monarchy should neglect to make any comments on the allegations against Prince Andrew, despite the fact that these claims became public knowledge as early as 2014, but the government are willing to make a statement about a fictional television show. Perhaps the government should be paying more interest to the Netflix documentary, Filthy Rich as opposed to the fictional Netflix show The Crown.
Whether the events of the series are true or not, the public deserves to know at least a base-level of information about the monarchy, such as whether one of the Princes is a sexual offender or whether the royal family mistreats outsiders like Princess Diana when they try to engage with the family, especially considering the fact that the taxes we pay go directly to their pocket.