The Crown: a work of fact or fiction?

Amy Brown discusses whether people take The Crown a bit too seriously

Amy K Brown
7th December 2020
With the release of season four of Netflix’s hit series The Crown, the historical drama has become subjected to heavy criticism regarding the historical liberties taken. Critics and viewers alike are discussing whether this fictionalised account of the royal family is being taken too seriously. 

The Netflix original, created by Peter Morgan in 2016, spans from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign (currently portrayed by Olivia Colman), moving through the decades season by season. While the show follows the basic timeline of British history, Morgan has never claimed it to be accurate to real life. 

In recent news, it was released that the UK government have requested Netflix to place a “health warning” on the show to assure that viewers know it is fictionalised. 

“It's a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that."

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden commented in the Mail on Sunday: “It's a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that. Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.” 

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher. Credit: IMDb

This criticism has not arisen to such an extent prior to this. Season four has been the most controversial in its subject matter. It focuses on the late 1970s and 80s, including the rise and fall of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) and Prince Charles’ marriage to the late Princess Diana (portrayed by Josh O'Connor and Emma Corrin). The Crown has come under fire over the characterisation of the Prince of Wales and his treatment of the Princess. It places particular focus on Diana’s personal mental health struggles, and Prince Charles’ long standing affair with Camila Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennell).

The delicate subject matters were guaranteed to face backlash; however, this argument of fiction vs. reality has only appeared as a result of just that. If the portrayals of these figures had been placing them all on a pedestal, it would not be the same television show. But critics might have also been quieter on the matter. There is no clear way for Morgan to succeed or fail, there will always be viewers who disagree with his writing and his incorporation of real-life events. 

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II and Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles. Credit: IMDb

Whether you think The Crown is republican propaganda or right on the money, you have to take it at face value. It is not a history lesson. It is a drama, taking many creative liberties that allows it to be a successful piece of entertainment. There will always be that temptation to google an event to find out if it actually happened or not, but you have to take a step back and enjoy the show as a soapy royal work of fiction (BASED on real events, not recounting them). 

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AUTHOR: Amy K Brown
Head of Culture. @akathrynbrwn on Twitter.

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