LONDON: As the latest season of “The Crown” hits the small screen next week, streaming giant Netflix has added a disclaimer after outrage over the untrue storyline.
Series five, which aired on Wednesday just two months after the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of her son King Charles III, saw the action move to the 1990s.
Princess Diana’s bombshell television interviews, emotional turmoil and divorce from Charles have all been documented, including her relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles and tensions with her mother.
However, it was unclear how the series would deal with Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris in 1997, or whether a disclaimer would be added before each episode.
Last month, Netflix added a description of the show as “inspired by true events” to its program page, following outrage from prominent figures including Oscar-winning actor Judi Dench and former British prime minister John Major.
Dench blasted Netflix for “crude sensationalism” after reports of scenes showing Charles maneuvering to force his mother’s abdication.
“No one believes more in artistic freedom than I do, but it cannot be challenged,” wrote Dench, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in “Shakespeare in Love” and was nominated for her portrayal of Queen Victoria. “Mrs. Brown”.
The strength of the criticism has forced Netflix to defend both itself and screenwriter Peter Morgan.
It stated that the series was not intended to be taken as reality but as a fantasy of “what might happen behind closed doors”.
Its stars have also rallied to its defence, with Diana actress Elizabeth Debicki urging people to “disclaimer right now”.
“There’s a lot of room for interpretation,” the Australian actress said. “It’s a good play to me.”
Jonathan Pryce, who plays the Queen’s husband Prince Philip, even criticized his fellow actors.
Price said she was “hugely disappointed by my co-stars,” acting powerhouses Eileen Atkins and Harriet Walter, who both appeared in “The Crown,” revealing reservations.
“Most people know it’s a play. They’ve been looking at it for four seasons,” Price said.
But most members of the royal family are still shown alive and an apparent surge of creative license, even a disclaimer, may do little for critics who accuse Morgan of an undeclared anti-monarchy agenda.
Television critic Christopher Stevens, who watched the eight-and-a-half-hour preview, wrote this week that the “sheer awfulness” of the latest story lines was becoming “shockingly clear”.
He said the show was now unrecognizable compared to the first series in 2016.
“The Crown” is now “a blatantly republican polemic, using embarrassment as its main weapon against the monarchy”, he wrote in the Daily Mail.
Author and royal biographer William Shawcross said the plotlines were deliberately hurtful attempts to damage the institution of the monarchy – “something that millions of ordinary people value”.
“I think a lot of people do (believe them), why wouldn’t they? They see this beautifully produced thing…most people in the world have no other criteria. It is very dishonest,” he told AFP.
He said Netflix took advantage of the unique position in which the royal family found themselves.
“Almost any other surviving family is in a position to complain or stop or sue. The royal family has no right or power to do so,” he said.
Philip Murphy of the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research, however, said the royal family’s plight was “partly” their own fault.
In a letter to The Times, he said the palace had “made strenuous efforts to prevent historians from gaining access to records of the Queen’s 70-year reign”.
“If scholars are unable to write an accurate history of the monarchy, then the field will be left to dramatists and those interested in disseminating information,” he wrote.