Oliver Dowden last night demanded that Netflix make clear The Crown is ‘fiction’.
In a dramatic intervention, the Culture Secretary added his voice to mounting concern that fabricated scenes in the drama series were so damaging to the Royal Family that viewers should be warned at the start of each episode that it was not ‘fact’.
‘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,’ he told The Mail on Sunday.
‘Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.’
The Culture Secretary added his voice to mounting concern that fabricated scenes in the drama series were so damaging to the Royal Family (pictured, Princess Diana in the show)
Mr Dowden is expected to write to the streaming giant to formally request that it adds what others have called a ‘health warning’ at the start of each episode.
It comes amid deepening concern that fabricated scenes written by screenwriter Peter Morgan are doing lasting damage to the monarchy and Prince Charles in particular.
Last night, a friend of the Prince said: ‘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.
The Mail on Sunday has led calls for a disclaimer to be added to the series, amid claims it has already been watched by more people than tuned in for Charles’s real-life wedding to Princess Diana (pictured)
‘It is highly sophisticated propaganda.’
The Mail on Sunday has led calls for a disclaimer to be added to the series, amid claims it has already been watched by more people than tuned in for Charles’s real-life wedding to Princess Diana.
It was reported last week that 29 million logged on to the streaming service to watch the drama in the week after its release earlier this month – 600,000 more than the British TV audience for the actual wedding in 1981.
Controversy over invented scenes, including the false suggestion that the affair between Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles continued throughout his marriage to Diana, prompted the Princess’s brother to add his voice to the calls for a disclaimer.
Earl Spencer told ITV: ‘It would help The Crown an enormous amount if at the beginning of each episode it stated that, ‘This isn’t true but is based around some real events’. Because then everyone would understand it’s drama for drama’s sake.’
Mr Dowden, whose full title is Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, is also facing pressure to close a ‘loophole’ that requires British viewers who want to complain about The Crown to go to the Dutch TV regulator because Netflix is based in Holland.
In a letter to Mr Dowden, Tory peer Lord Forsyth – who describes the latest series of The Crown as ‘one step up from Spitting Image’ – expressed surprise that ‘Netflix pays no corporation tax as the £1 billion of UK subscriptions are paid to a Dutch company’.
There are deepening concerns that fabricated scenes written by screenwriter Peter Morgan are doing lasting damage to the monarchy and Prince Charles in particular (pictured, Princess Diana in The Crown)
This weekend, it emerged that Netflix will begin paying tax on revenues it makes from British subscribers from January 1. The Mail on Sunday can also reveal:
- Allies of Margaret Thatcher have condemned the series for suggesting she asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament to save her from being ousted as Prime Minister in 1990.
- Two Royal Navy commanders who fought in the Falklands War criticised The Crown for appearing to suggest that the Queen failed to support British troops during the conflict.
- Clarence House was forced to restrict comments on its social media channels following ‘horrendous’ trolling of the Duchess of Cornwall, including death threats.
Emma Corrin, who plays Princess Diana, has admitted that the controversial fourth series is ‘fictionalised to a great extent’.
During a series of interviews, the 24-year-old said the storylines were invented and the members of the Royal Family depicted in the new series were ‘characters’ created by Mr Morgan.
US chat show host Tamron Hall asked Ms Corrin about reports that MPs and Royals were upset by The Crown’s depiction of Charles, Diana and Camilla.
‘It’s a difficult one,’ she replied. ‘I think for everyone in The Crown we always try and remind everyone that… the series we are in is fictionalised to a great extent.
‘Obviously it has its roots in reality and in some fact but Peter Morgan’s scripts are works of fiction.’
Allies of Mrs Thatcher spoke of their fury at scenes suggesting that she sought to avoid being deposed in 1990 by urging the Queen to act in the ‘national interest’ by dissolving Parliament and allowing her to call a General Election.
Lord (Charles) Moore, Mrs Thatcher’s biographer, dismissed the account as ‘dotty’ and ‘a very bad mistake by The Crown’.
Asked yesterday if it would include a disclaimer, Netflix declined to comment. Mr Morgan has previously defended his approach, saying: ‘You sometimes have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.’
Drama gets a £16m ‘heritage’ tax break
The Crown has benefited from Government tax breaks worth up to £16 million for its contribution to Britain’s ‘culture and heritage’, documents lodged with the European Commission show.
Left Bank Pictures, which produces The Crown, received the windfall for its first two series.
Series three and the latest, four, will also be eligible. Under the scheme, designed to encourage TV production in the UK, scripted productions can claim up to £2 million of tax relief for each hour of drama costing £10 million or more to produce.
To qualify, productions must pass a points test administered by the British Film Institute for their contribution to Britain’s culture.
Points are earned if they contribute ‘to the promotion, development and enhancement of British creativity, British heritage and diversity’.
Last night, a spokesman for Left Bank Pictures said: ‘In the past year, 275 British productions have been supported by this UK Government tax incentive.
‘Left Bank Pictures does not claim the credit for the company, it is claimed by the production and the money is reinvested into the production budget.’
This weekend, Netflix announced it will start paying tax on the £1 billion of revenues it makes from its British subscribers to the UK tax authorities.
Since 2012 when Netflix was launched in Britain, the company has funnelled UK-generated revenue through the Netherlands which is a low-tax jurisdiction. The change will come into effect on January 1.
Netflix said it had ‘seen rapid international growth in recent years and we want our corporate structure to better reflect our growing business operations and footprint in key markets’.
In his 100th year, Prince Philip deserves better than to be the target of the cruellest lie of all in The Crown, writes royal biographer HUGO VICKERS
From the outset, The Crown has set out to sensationalise and distort the story of the Royal Family.
But of all the many falsehoods, exaggerations and, frankly, downright lies presented as truth, there is a moment in the final episode of the this latest, fourth, series that must surely count as the most wretched and disgraceful.
If you haven’t seen it, let me set the scene. The Christmas music is playing and happy voices can be heard as the Royal Family enjoys Christmas Eve festivities at Sandringham.
It is 1990 and Princess Diana is hiding upstairs in her bedroom as her marriage to Prince Charles disintegrates.
Prince Philip knocks at the door and Diana – portrayed to great effect in the series by Emma Corrin – tells him she is in a ‘dark, loveless cave’ and that she wants to ‘break away’.
Yet the response from her father-in-law is menacing; he warns her that it won’t end well if she does any such thing.
Diana replies: ‘I hope that isn’t a threat, Sir.’
Who can be in any doubt that this fictional conversation is a thinly veiled and chilling reference to Diana’s impending death.
It supports the scarcely credible rumours, still fuelled by the internet, that Diana’s fatal car crash in a tunnel in Paris in 1997 was a murderous ‘hit’ ordered by Prince Philip and designed to look like an accident.
It’s hard to imagine a more hurtful allegation than painting Philip as a mafioso bent on bumping off a fragile daughter-in-law.
And to hint at this in such a convincing way, with the multi- million-pound budgets, extravagant sets and convincing actors at Netflix’s disposal, makes it all the more egregious.
Surely the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s loyal consort who has dedicated his life to duty and who is now in his 100th year, deserves better than this?
Sadly, none of this comes as a surprise to me. As a Royal historian, I have watched each passing episode of The Crown with mounting horror and have dissected all 40 episodes in books charting the untruths the series contain.
From the outset, The Crown has been full of not merely inaccuracies but clear and deliberate departures from the truth.
Prince Philip’s treatment by the producers is particularly disgraceful. The drama claims that he refused to kneel at the Queen’s Coronation, for example, that he became a notorious philanderer and that he had been accused by his father of being responsible for the death of his sister Cecile in a plane crash. Wrong, wrong and monstrously wrong.
No doubt programme-makers felt that the truth – that Prince Philip is a dutiful consort and even acted as a mediator between Charles and Diana, writing to the Princess at the peak of the marriage crisis – was altogether a much less interesting story.
I disagree. Prince Philip had a good bond with Diana, who affectionately called him Pa, and he worked hard to see if there was a way that Charles and she might be reconciled.
Whatever its reasons, Netflix has presented Philip, particularly in the earlier series when he was played by Matt Smith, as a fractious, bumptious Jack the lad who is very much the villain.
While parts of the latest series show Philip’s fondness for Diana, a decision had clearly been taken, presumably with the purpose of giving viewers a salacious cliff-hanger, to insert this cruel and utterly fictitious warning.
After Diana’s death, conspiracy theories were perpetrated by Mohamed Al Fayed, whose son Dodi also died in the crash.
In 2008, after a decade-long investigation, a coroner ridiculed the claims made by Al Fayed and ruled there was ‘not a shred of evidence’ that Prince Philip ordered the death of Princess Diana.
But who cares about the justice system when there’s a TV programme to make? The danger is that people believe The Crown’s version of the truth.
One viewer posted a message on Twitter saying: ‘After watching #TheCrown there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that #Diana’s death was orchestrated by someone within the Royal Family. She was murdered for sure.’
And Prince Philip is not the only target of The Crown. Pretty much every character is dislikable.
The Queen is portrayed as glum and schoolmistressly; the Queen Mother is given some truly horrible lines; Princess Margaret is downright rude; Margaret Thatcher buttoned-up, and so on.
Yet I found this latest series misled the viewers in a more subtle and cunning way than in earlier episodes. We see the plot enter the realm of pure fantasy with a smoking, drinking Camilla bitterly jealous of Diana.
On Diana’s return from America, where she hugs a child patient with HIV, there is an unpleasant scene in which Prince Charles yells at the Princess for ‘hurting’ his mistress.
‘Camilla is who I want!’ he screams. Unacceptable nonsense. History does not corroborate any wish for divorce or separation at this time.
Right up until 1992, the Prince believed the marriage could still work, at least publicly if not privately.
The series ends in 1990 with the Royal Family heading for Sandringham for Christmas in a convoy of Rolls-Royces.
The customary dead game birds are hanging up, presumably to stress to the viewers what a brutal bunch the family is.
And so follows the most outrageous calumny of all, Philip’s thinly veiled threat to Diana.
Why does this matter? It matters because this country’s relationship between Government and Monarchy has always been a delicate balance.
It matters because the reputation of the future King ought not to be sealed in the mind of the average Netflix viewer as a twisted, warped and bitter individual.
That it is so well acted, of course, makes it all the more believable. Significantly, when not in character the actors are often quick to redress the balance.
In an interview, Corrin says: ‘Something I realised very early on was the need to separate the Diana I play from the Diana who was.
‘We’re not mimicking. That’s not what we’re doing. This is Peter’s [Peter Morgan, The Crown’s creator] version of what happens.’
But with all the glorious sets, the repeated insistence that script-writers and producers relied on historical advisers to recreate the true story of Diana and Charles, we are led to believe this is real, not just one man’s version of events.
A man who, significantly, I believe, has shown scant regard for the Royal Family or the Queen and very little understanding of the great importance of the soft diplomacy the Monarchy wields both at home and abroad.
Why should Mr Morgan’s warped and twisted version be the narrative of British Royal history shown around the world?
Rather than making that truth clear in the way that Ms Corrin does, Netflix and The Crown’s producers set out to hoodwink viewers into believing that this is real history.
A version intent on showing the Royal Family to be heartless, cruel and ruthless – a cold and dysfunctional organisation that will stop at nothing to protect its leader, no matter how many bodies fall by the wayside. This is simply not good enough.
We are told the next two series will follow the stories of the Royal Family up until 2002. We can’t be sure they will.
Those responsible for the show will no doubt argue that whatever they depict is simply artistic licence, but fiction should help us understand the truth, not pervert it.
Perhaps the real Prince Philip said it best himself when he told his biographer Tim Heald: ‘I certainly believe in the need for a free press, but there is a difference between freedom and licence, and between the honest pursuit of the truth and the cynical pursuit of thoughtless – even vindictive – sensationalism.’
How poignant, with this Hollywood movie treatment, his words seem now.
Hugo Vickers’s works include Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
How Prince Charles once joked with The Crown creator and writer Peter Morgan when he was presented with a CBE
He may be unwelcome at Buckingham Palace now, but there was a time when The Crown creator and writer Peter Morgan could pop in and share a joke with the heir to the throne.
Mr Morgan met Prince Charles four years ago when the scriptwriter was presented with a CBE for his services to drama after being named in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.
Fortunately the ceremony in February 2016 at the Palace was shortly before The Crown made its debut on Netflix.
Mr Morgan, who also wrote the hit 2006 film The Queen starring Helen Mirren, gave an account just a year ago of his brief encounter with Prince Charles.
Speaking to The New York Times, he recalled being ushered into the Palace ballroom, where Prince Charles, flanked by an equerry, was handing out the medals.
‘So you’re a scriptwriter?’ the Prince of Wales said as Mr Morgan stepped forward to receive his honour. ‘Yes sir,’ Morgan replied.
Prince Charles then said: ‘Scriptwriting isn’t so easy, is it?
‘Sir?’, a puzzled Mr Morgan replied.
Whereupon, Prince Charles is said to have joked: ‘I tend to think it’s not what you leave in but what you leave out that’s most important.’
Or what you make up and put in, the Prince might now ruefully say.
Falklands heroes tear into The Crown: Two Royal Navy Commanders accuse Netflix of ‘offensively misrepresenting’ Queen’s attitude to Argentine war
Two Royal Navy commanders who fought in the Falklands War have accused The Crown of ‘offensively misrepresenting’ the Queen over her attitude towards British troops during the 1982 campaign.
Admiral Lord West, whose frigate HMS Ardent was sunk by the Argentines, and Rear Admiral Chris Parry, who flew daring helicopter sorties in the South Atlantic, said programme-makers have used fictitious scenes and imagined conversations in a sickening attempt to damage the Queen’s reputation.
Their fury has arisen from an entirely made-up scene in the The Crown during which the Queen, played by Olivia Colman, appears unaware a victory parade is to be held to mark the end of the conflict.
The Queen is told about the event by Margaret Thatcher, played by Gillian Anderson.
The monarch is then seen sitting glumly at home watching the parade on television while Mrs Thatcher waves to crowds lining the streets of the City of London as 1,250 Falklands veterans march past her podium.
In fact, no such meeting between the Queen and the Prime Minister took place, nor could it have done.
On that day, October 12, 1982, Her Majesty and Prince Philip were 9,000 miles away on an official tour of the Pacific.
Last night, Lord West said: ‘The depiction of the Queen in relation to the Falklands War is absolute rubbish.
‘Any suggestion the Queen would have required the Prime Minister or anyone else to remind her a victory parade was taking place is fanciful and offensive.
The Crown has reduced an important chapter in British military history to cheap soap-opera fodder. I dread to think anyone could take this portrayal of the Queen seriously.’
Their fury comes after The Mail on Sunday revealed Prince Charles’s anger at his depiction in the show, which has been downloaded by millions of subscribers to streaming giant Netflix.
Prince Andrew served in the Falklands War and in The Crown lands in a helicopter at Balmoral to announce that he will be taking part.
But last night Rear Admiral Parry revealed multiple factual inaccuracies in these scenes.
He said: ‘Prince Andrew wasn’t qualified to fly the Wessex rescue helicopter used in The Crown. And his uniform and equipment are wrong.
‘But these errors pale into insignificance when compared to the depiction of Her Majesty, which is disgracefully dishonest and exploitative. The Queen was fully engaged with all matters regarding the Falklands campaign.
‘It was also understood and accepted by the Royal Family that Mrs Thatcher would attend the parade because the campaign was her victory and she had provided such remarkable political leadership.
Viewers should be told The Crown is heavily dramatised. Yet presently there is no such disclaimer before each episode.’
In her autobiography, Mrs Thatcher paid tribute to the Queen’s ‘formidable grasp of current issues’ and dismissed reports of a rift between them as fabricated.
On its YouTube channel, Netflix boasts that episodes in the season covering the Falklands War are based on ‘a wealth of rare archive material and enlightening facts’.