'The Crown': Six Seasons of Reality and Fiction

Britain's King Charles III meets Kindertransport refugees, from the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) during a visit to The Central Synagogue in London to mark the 85th Anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9, 2023 Following Kristallnacht on 9/10 November 1938, the UK Parliament made the historic decision on 21 November 1938 to allow up to 10,000 children from Nazi-occupied Europe to come to the UK. (Photo by Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP)

London, United Kingdom - "The Crown" has often been accused of taking liberties with historical truth, becoming increasingly controversial as it delves into more recent events of the British monarchy.

Many of those featured in the most recent seasons are still alive, and have not held back on pointing out inaccuracies.

Netflix agreed last year to add a warning message, explaining that the show is a fictional dramatisation of real events.

- Season 1: Margaret's unrequited love

Season 1, which focused on the young Princess Elizabeth's accession to the throne while in Kenya in 1952, is considered relatively faithful to history.

The main disputed event was the relationship between the new queen's younger sister, Margaret, then 22, and the divorced Peter Townsend, 15 years her senior.

According to the series, Elizabeth opposed their marriage, while some historians believe she merely wanted the princess to wait until she turned 25, when she would not need Elizabeth's permission to marry under the 1772 Royal Marriages Act.

- Season 2: a wandering spouse

The show depicts Prince Philip, the queen's husband, heading off to sea for a month aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia and suggests he was unfaithful while on holiday.

Elizabeth's suspicions are raised when she finds a photo of a Russian ballerina among Philip's belongings.

Although rumours of the prince's indiscretions have circulated for years, none has ever been confirmed.

The marital tensions between the couple are presented as one of the reasons the queen never bestowed the Duke of Edinburgh with the title "king".

Later in the show, in Season Five, it is implied that Philip, who died in 2021, may have had an affair with his confidante Penny Knatchbull.

- Season 3: conspiracy and dangerous liaisons

The series suggests a romance between the queen and her race horse trainer Henry Herbert, nicknamed "Porchey."

"Distasteful," Elizabeth II's former press secretary Dickie Arbiter fumed after the episode was aired.

The intimate storyline intertwines with a supposed plot in 1968, involving Prince Charles's uncle and mentor Lord Louis Mountbatten, to overthrow the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson.

While discussions did take place, they most likely did not go as far as depicted. Historians consider the queen's intervention in the matter, as portrayed on screen, as unlikely.

- Season 4: Diana, the neglected wife

When the show arrived at the 1980s, it was the sensitive subject of Charles and Diana's marriage that came under fire from royal commentators for its biased view.

"Lady Di" is portrayed as a lonely young bride, falling into bulimia due to being neglected by a cold and unfaithful husband, 12 years her senior and still in love with Camilla.

Political journalists also noted inaccuracies in the way tensions between the palace and prime minister Margaret Thatcher -- quite real -- were portrayed.

- Season 5: abdication and infidelities

Released two months after Elizabeth II died in September 2022, the fifth season addresses a troubled period for the royal family.

It was attacked for showing Charles suggesting his mother abdicate and discussing such a scenario with the prime minister, John Major.

The real Major branded the scene "damaging and malicious fiction" and "a barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false -– dramatic impact".

However, a 1991 poll where a majority of Britons were in favour of the queen's abdication and the main developments in the explosive marriage of Charles and Diana, are real.

The season included highly intimate conversation between the prince and his then-mistress, the current Queen Camilla, which became public.

Diana's devastating BBC interview about her troubled marriage to Charles was also depicted.

- Season 6: Diana's ghost

The final part of the series focuses on the most explosive event of Elizabeth II's reign -- the death of Diana in a car accident in Paris in 1997 after she was pursued by paparazzi.

The "people's princess" remains an icon, and her death rocked the royal family.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper said the princess appears as a ghost in the new season, sparking fresh accusations of disrespect.


© Agence France-Presse

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