TV shows are always “based” on real life, but how closely they hue to its facts is usually a matter of how many episodes they want you to watch. Fiction is often much more interesting than its opposite, and in the case of Netflix’s beloved, big-budget The Crown, the real Buckingham Palace wants to make something absolutely clear: the show has not, in any capacity, been given the Royal Assent.
As the show nears its much-anticipated third season, The Guardian ran a long behind-the-scenes exploration, which included a particularly juicy piece of gossip from its revered creator, Peter Morgan.
Watch: A scene from The Crown might have “particularly annoyed” Queen Elizabeth. Story continues below.
Morgan claimed that while The Crown isn’t really about the Royal Family in any fundamental way, there’s still some family resemblance, since he allegedly meets with members of the royal household about four times a year, “people who are very high-ranking and very active within the organisation,” and who, when he tells them what he has in store for the show, “brace themselves slightly.”
Apparently, the Queen’s estate didn’t take well to this admission, and had Buckingham Palace’s communications secretary, Donal McCabe, issue a letter to The Guardian to address “the unfortunate consequence of leading your readers to believe that the television series The Crown is made with some sort of endorsement by the royal household, or an acceptance by the royal household that the drama is factually accurate.”
The royal household has never agreed to vet or approve content, has not asked to know what topics will be included, and would never express a view as to the programme’s accuracy.Donal McCabe, Buckingham Palace communications secretary
“We appreciate that readers of the Guardian may enjoy this fictionalised [sic] interpretation of historical events but they should do so knowing that the royal household is not complicit in interpretations made by the programme [sic],” McCabe wrote.
“The royal household has never agreed to vet or approve content, has not asked to know what topics will be included, and would never express a view as to the programme’s accuracy.”
The real Queen has engaged before with the fictionalised version of her life. Years ago we learned the Royal Family has a Netflix subscription, when a “senior royal source” claimed she and Prince Philip enjoyed watching the show over supper with their friends, Prince Edward and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.
“Happily, she really liked [the show],” the source told the Daily Express, “although obviously there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatised [sic].”
One scene that “particularly annoyed” the Queen was one involving Prince Philip, in which he failed to support or comfort his son, Prince Charles, who was bullied while studying at Gordonstoun, Scottish boarding school.
“I can convey that [Queen Elizabeth] was upset by the way Prince Philip is depicted as being a father insensitive to his son’s wellbeing,” the source said. “That simply did not happen.”
In any event, Morgan has made it pretty clear that the show is not documentary or biography. It’s all in good fun. He claims his job is to acknowledge the gaps in our knowledge and “to join the dots, to find the thread that goes between the pearls. I make no apology for the fact that most of the time that’s intuitive,” he says. “I am doing my best — I am sober and I am responsible.”
Besides, would we all love The Crown so much if it were more fact than fiction? More importantly: does the Queen still have her Netflix subscription?