The Crown: How accurate is season 4 as the Netflix series shifts focus to Diana
It’s the latest Netflix blockbuster that has got everybody talking – including the royals themselves.
More than 80 million people around the world will tune in this week to binge watch the latest series, revealing the scandal, political turmoil and fractured relationships at the heart of The Crown….but all is not what it seems.
Royal watchers and fans of the series have been queuing up since it’s release on Sunday to separate fact from fiction and even defend the honour of The Firm.
Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former communications secretary for a decade, said the royals were “pretty used to being portrayed” for entertainment purposes, but expressed concern that some viewers may not realise that The Crown is not an accurate portrayal of events.
He accused programme makers of being “over the top on dramatic licence” with depictions of Prince Charles “nothing like the man I worked with for five years”.
In response the furore over the fourth series’ distortion of history the Prince of Wales has told friends: “I’ve never seen it”.
Members of the family were said to be “particularly uncomfortable” with the latest series, with graphic scenes of Charles’s marriage break-up with Diana as well as her struggles with bulimia and the turbulence of Britain from May 1979, when Margaret Thatcher is elected Britain’s first female prime minister, to her departure in 1990.
A source close to Charles, 72, below, said: “His Royal Highness has absolutely no views about it.
“He has never watched The Crown. I shouldn’t think he knows it’s coming out.”
Royal insiders have described The Crown as “drama and entertainment for commercial ends . . .with no regard to the actual people involved who are having their lives hijacked and exploited”.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are also understood to have been 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 have understood to have ever happened.
The Duke of Cambridge has reportedly told pals he was greatly displeased with the depiction of his family, believing that “his parents are being exploited and presented in a false, simplistic way to make money”.
Here we examine what the truth really is and separate fact from fiction:
Did Charles and Diana really only meet a handful of times before they got engaged?
Yes, but it was more than the three or four occasions noted in the series.
Most of their courtship took place over the phone but they are understood to have only met in person 13 times before Charles proposed marriage in early 1981.
Did Charles really not call Diana for three weeks after they got engaged?
In The Crown Diana is left extremely upset that Charles has not contacted her during a three week foreign tour.
In scenes that have been labelled “extremely graphic and wholly unnecessary” by palace insiders, viewers see the start of Diana’s battle with bulimia when she gorges on desserts in the palace kitchens, before making herself violently sick.
Royal biographer Penny Junor said that while upsetting, these scenes are largely accurate.
The Princess was known to be suffering with her mental health and developed the eating disorder which she battled for many years.
However Junor said “Diana was not just ‘dumped’ in the palace, there were people looking out for her.”
Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell went further today suggesting the current series is “a fair and accurate dramatisation of what happened.”
Did Camilla and Diana have a face off in a London restaurant shortly after the royal engagement?
The two women in Charles’s life are shown to lock horns at the London restaurant Menage a Trois shortly after the Prince and Diana became engaged.
Camilla is seen teasing her love rival by saying she knows Charles so much better than the increasingly nervous 19-year-old.
Royal historian Penny Junor has revealed Diana and Camilla did meet at the Menage a Trois, in 1981, but only after Diana was married.
Previously, they dined together at Italian restaurant La Fontana in Pimlico with celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson, the former chef patron of Menage a Trois, who saw them saying: “They were very amiable; there were no raised voices.”
Did Lord Mountbatten send Charles a letter on the eve of his death urging him to find a wife?
No, Prince Charles’s mentor did not write that letter on the morning of August 27, 1979.
In the series he writes to Prince Charles a letter urging him to find “some sweet and innocent, well-tempered girl with no past” to settle down with, and to do his duty.
But those close to Charles say he didn’t offer such a warning, but did dispense many pieces of advice to him throughout the years and they were very close.
Prince Charles’s bracelet gift to Camilla ahead of his wedding to Diana
In the series, Diana is incensed to discover Charles is designing a bracelet inscribed with the initials ‘G’ and ‘F’, which she assumes stand for Gladys and Fred – Charles and Camilla’s pet names for each other.
While this is true, the initials actually stood for ‘Girl Friday’, Charles’s nickname for Camilla, which he did send to her ahead of his wedding to Diana.
Diana was upset at the time but there has never been any evidence of her telling the Queen the wedding could not go ahead, nor of her confronting Charles about it at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Did Princess Margaret try to warn Prince Charles against marrying Princess Diana?
Despite being incredibly outspoken on many issues to do with royal life, there is no evidence Margaret spoke to Charles ahead of the wedding, as she does in episode three.
Helena Bonham Carter who plays the Queen’s sister in series three and four has said she came up with the idea that her character Princess Margaret should object to Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage.
The disintegration of Charles and Diana’s relationship with furious rows about Prince William
The Princess is said to have agreed to go on a six-week tour of Australia in 1983 on condition that William, then just one year old, would come too.
Diana is seen furiously rowing with courtiers after she discovers she’ll be separated from her baby for two weeks, but this did not happen.
Sources have confirmed Diana was even prepared to leave William at home as she was prepared to help Charles fulfill his duty.
Were Charles and Camilla meeting regularly at his country home Highgrove by 1988?
Yes, according to royal historians, Charles and Camilla were seeing each other again by 1986.
Diana’s butler Paul Burrell said in a documentary last week that he knew Charles was having an affair while staying away from Diana.
However, it is disputed that Charles called Camilla every day of his marriage to Diana as is depicted in the series.
Charles and Diana’s marriage is painted as particularly fractious, which is in part correct.
But royal insiders say the heir is given “an entirely unfair shake” with the programme choosing to omit Diana’s behaviour.
Was there an intruder who confronted the Queen in her bedroom?
Yes. In an astonishing lapse of security which went down in history Michael Fagan was able to break into Buckingham Palace and enter the Queen’s bedroom in 1982.
Fagan recalled being in the monarch’s bedroom. “I was scareder than I’d ever been in my life,” he said.
“Then she speaks and it’s like the finest glass you can imagine breaking: ‘Wawrt are you doing here?!’ “
The relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher
Throughout Thatcher’s controversial and often unforgiving leadership from 1979 to 1990 the country was in a period of deep division, which the Queen is understood to have been uncomfortable with.
The two women were often compared for both holding powerful positions in a male dominated society and for being similar ages, just months apart.
Newspaper headlines at the time pointed to the Queen believing Thatcher to be “uncaring, confrontational and socially divisive.”
But despite their differences, which are detailed well in the series, their relationship softened over the years.
The Queen honored Thatcher with The Order of Merit just two weeks after she resigned.
Thatcher’s 2013 funeral was also the first PM’s funeral attended by the Queen since Winston Churchill.
Were the Queen’s cousins forced to live in a lunatic asylum to save the monarchy from embarrassment?
According to royal biographer Hugo Vickers this “has no basis in truth”.
The series shows two of the Queen’s first cousins and three of their second cousins secretly admitted to a mental hospital in Surrey in 1941 by their parents.
The Queen Mother is seen telling Princess Margaret that the girls were shut away because it would have had serious consequences for the monarchy after the abdication of Edward VIII.
Mr Vickers told The Times: “The implication is that the world may have feared that a strain of lunacy had entered the family.
“The reality was that these two girls and three cousins had inherited a defective gene from the Trefusis family from which all five descended through their mothers….so this had nothing to do with the Queen Mother’s bloodline.”
The Crown season 4 on Netflix
Was Prince Philip Diana’s biggest ally in the family?
In the final episode, Philip has a heart-to-heart with Diana during the family’s Christmas celebrations at Sandringham and asks her about her unhappiness.
While the details of any such conversation are not known, the pair were famously close and Diana affectionately called “Pa”.
Philip was an early ally of Diana’s but his loyalty was ultimately to his family and the Crown when his son’s relationship was beyond repair.