Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said he will write to Netflix to request that a “health warning” be added to the beginning of each episode of The Crown – to warn viewers that it is “fiction”, not fact.
The hugely popular series has received backlash for its fourth season, released earlier this month, which portrays the beginnings of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s relationship. It also delves into Diana’s struggles with bulimia, which the royal spoke about during her infamous 1995 Panorama interview.
Speaking to reporters today, Mr Dowden said the show is “a beautifully produced work of fiction” and 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,” he said.
The move by Mr Dowden comes amid increasing concern from royal commentators that the series, created by Peter Morgan, will cause irreparable damage to the royal family.
The fictionalised TV show depicts Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, with the monarch currently being played by actress Olivia Colman. The latest series has put warnings at the beginning of episodes in which Diana’s bulimia is depicted, warning viewers it may be “harmful” to watch, but critics have called for every single episode to have a warning that says what is being played out is not necessarily the whole truth.
A friend of Prince Charles told one newspaper today: “It is quite sinister the way that Morgan is clearly using light entertainment to drive a very overt republican agenda and people just don’t see it.
“They have been lured in over the first few series until they can’t see how they are being manipulated. It is highly sophisticated propaganda.”
The latest instalment of the drama, which first aired in 2016, plays out the complicated relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, as well as the heir’s affair with his now-wife Camilla Parker Bowles.
Its popularity is only growing, too, as it has been confirmed that 29 million people tuned in to watch the new series last week, after it was released on 15 November.
Princess Diana’s younger brother, Earl Spencer, has joined critics in asking for Netflix to include some kind of “disclaimer” at the beginning of each episode.
Speaking to ITV’s Lorraine Kelly on Thursday, Earl Spencer said he thought “it would help The Crown an enormous amount if, at the beginning of each episode, it stated that: ‘This isn’t true but it is based around some real events’”.
“Then everyone would understand it’s drama for drama’s sake,” he said, before adding: “I worry people do think that this is gospel and that’s unfair.”
Even Emma Corrin, who plays Diana, has admitted that the series “has its roots in reality and in some fact” but that “Peter Morgan’s scripts are works of fiction”.
“I understand why people would be upset, because this is history… I do really understand,” the newcomer said on the Tamron Hall Show earlier this month.
Writer Morgan previously admitted some scenes from the show were “made up in my head”.
“Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth,” he said after the release of series four.
Others are not convinced by his logic. In an op-ed titled “The Crown’s fake history is as corrosive as fake news”, author Sir Simon Jenkins labelled the show “fake history”.
“False history is reality hijacked as propaganda. As Morgan implies, his film may not be accurate, but his purpose is to share a deeper truth with his audience: that the royal family were beastly to Diana, and out to get her,” Sir Simon wrote.
“Will we next be told they really killed her?” he added.