Why People Are Upset Over The Crown’s Fourth Season

Netflix’s hit series The Crown has amassed critical and viewer attention for all of its seasons. Hailed a success early on in its streaming history, The Crown has served as a (fairly) accurate portrayal of the British royal family and its intricacies, its previously unknown plots, and its overlooked headlines.

Season 1 of The Crown pretty much stuck to history, and The New York Times was even able to back up each episode with the accurate newspaper coverage of the events at the time. But like all good things, The Crown has deviated from its exact representation of the facts in the name of good television, and with its fourth season now streaming on Netflix, many are up in arms about its portrayals.

That hasn’t stopped people from watching the fourth season in record-breaking numbers. As noted by The Sun, more than 29 million people watched the season in its first week, more people than who tuned in to watch Princess Diana and Prince Charles get married in 1981. But with the attention has come outrage from the royals themselves, from allies, from historians, and from everyday people. Here is why so many people are upset over The Crown’s fourth season.

The UK's Culture Secretary called for The Crown's fourth season to be given a "fiction" label

This wasn’t good news. Oliver Dowden, the United Kingdom’s Culture Secretary, called on Netflix and the creators of The Crown to warn its viewers about the falsifications of Season 4, adding his voice to the chorus of others who pointed out the season’s falsehoods and dramatization. As noted by the Daily Mail, Dowden said that the show was well made, but 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,” Dowden said to the Daily Mail. He even went on to express his concerns about the young viewers who might mistake the show for a true, accurate depiction of the royal family. “Without [the distinction], I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact,” he said. 

The Daily Mail noted that Dowden is expected to pen a letter to Netflix, formally asking for the “health warning” to be shown at the beginning of each episode. Time will tell if his efforts will make a difference.

Even one of the show's stars said that The Crown should be labeled as "dramatized"

With the reception of The Crown’s fourth season being made up of a chorus of both praise and criticism, it’s no wonder that one of the actresses from the show spoke out. While a guest on The Crown: The Official Podcast, Helena Bonham Carter — the actress who plays Princess Margaret in both Seasons 3 and 4 of The Crown — spoke about the creative liberties of the season, even saying that the show should be labeled as “dramatized.” 

“It is dramatized,” she said, as noted by Elle. “I do feel very strongly, because I think we have a moral responsibility to say, ‘Hang on, guys, this is not… it’s not a drama-doc, we’re making a drama.’ So they are two different entities.” 

Bonham Carter made her point known that The Crown Season 4 was not designed to be an informative documentary or a historical retelling of the royal family, but a dramatic television show with a wide audience. Despite her consensus about the show’s accuracy, many critics still picked apart the fourth season for a variety of reasons.

Why Brits may not be as happy about The Crown Season 4 as Americans

It seems like people in the United States have been more interested in the British royal family than the Brits. And according to Eleanor Stanford, the London-based senior editor of the Culture desk for The Times, Americans may make up the biggest fan base of The Crown, especially when it comes to Season 4. 

“If you asked the average American and the average Brit about the series, you’d get a more favorable reaction from the American,” Stanford told The New York Times. “I think it’s a lot easier for Americans to love the monarchy because they don’t have the edge of having to pay for them through taxes.” 

Stanford did say that the show has served as a historical refresh for some Brits, conceding that she has spoken to people in England who had watched the show, only to say, “Oh, shoot, I should’ve known that,” about their country’s own history. But the financial stake that the people of Britain play in the monarchy might just be another reason why Season 4 of The Crown hasn’t been widely accepted in the UK.

Princess Diana's brother weighed in on the inaccuracies of The Crown Season 4

Season 4 of The Crown was highly anticipated because of the Princess Diana storyline. But after its release, members of Diana’s family weighed in on the depiction of the late royal and the implications the show could have. Earl Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, spoke on Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh about The Crown and the caricature of his sister. 

“The worry for me is that people see a program like that and they forget that it is fiction,” he said, as noted by Elle. “They assume — especially foreigners, I find Americans tell me they have watched The Crown as if they have taken a history lesson. Well, they haven’t.” The Earl continued by saying, “It is very hard, there is a lot of conjecture and a lot of invention, isn’t there? You can hang it on fact but the bits in between are not fact.” 

Spencer shared that The Crown’s production asked if they could shoot part of the show as Althrop, the Spencer estate where Charles and Diana met. “I said, ‘Obviously not,'” he shared, clearly not a fan of the show or its retelling of one of the most iconic royals.

This plot point in The Crown's fourth season did not happen at all in real life

Things got sticky when The Crown’s creator, Peter Morgan, shared that a plot point in Season 4 didn’t actually happen. While talking on The Crown: The Official Podcast, Morgan said that the letter from Lord Mountbatten to Prince Charles, urging him to marry Diana Spencer and not Camilla Parker Bowles, did not exist, as reported by The New York Times. Morgan admitted that he had “made up” the letter “in [his] head,” but insisted that it was based on true sentiments (via the Daily Mail). But people, including Prince Charles, were reportedly not pleased. 

As noted by The Times, the letter in question accused Charles of ushering the family into “ruin and disappointment” if he chose Parker Bowles and that he needed “some sweet and innocent well-tempered girl with no past,” (i.e. Diana). Charles only received a letter telling him about Lord Mountbatten’s passing in real life, and no such a letter about his marital life existed. But Morgan stuck to his convictions about the fictional choice. “I think everything that’s in that letter which Mountbatten writes to Charles is what I really believe, based on everything I’ve read and people I’ve spoken to, that represents his view,” he said.

While Diana's portrayal was a saving grace, The Crown still got this detail wrong

Despite the exaggerated plots, one aspect of The Crown’s fourth season that garnered positivity was Emma Corrin’s portrayal of Princess Diana Spencer. As noted by The New York Times, Corrin’s performance earned praise, including from Andrew Morton, the man behind Spencer’s 1992 biography. “I think Emma Corrin’s performance is far and away the most accomplished and realistic portrayal of Diana I have seen,” he told Vanity Fair.

Rachel Cooke at the New Statesman said that Corrin captured what made Spencer stand out. “The spooky secret of her performance lies not in the upward gaze of her eyes, but, rather, in the way she radiates Diana’s teenage energy,” Cooke wrote. “A sometimes disabling vitality that the princess, in reality, never fully managed to lose.” 

The fourth season of The Crown did get one Princess Diana detail wrong — her curtsy. Historian Hugo Vickers told The New York Times that, despite what viewers saw in the third episode of the fourth season, Spencer was “actually well versed in the protocols of curtsying.” (This is clearly a big deal in royal life.)

The dynamic between these women was seriously misrepresented in The Crown

If one characterization missed the mark, it was The Crown’s portrayal of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her relationship with the queen. As noted by NBC News, the show’s choice to focus on the duo’s differences was not the reality during Thatcher’s time in office, and historians even weighed in on the queen’s decades-long habit of staying out of politics. 

“The truth of the matter is that in those audiences, the queen was always scrupulous. She didn’t advise or offer her opinions. It’s the last thing she would have done,” Sally Bedell Smith, the author of Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, said. 

Thatcher wrote about the relationship she had with Queen Elizabeth II in her autobiography, dispelling any rumors about their dynamic. “Although the press could not resist the temptation to suggest disputes … I always found the Queen’s attitude towards the work of the Government absolutely correct,” she wrote. “Of course, stories of clashes between ‘two powerful women’ were just too good not to make up.” Some viewers of the fourth season told The Telegraph that the portrayal of Thatcher in the show was a “travesty.”

Was Princess Diana and Prince Charles' relationship portrayed accurately?

Accurate portrayals can hurt just as much as falsehoods. Diana Spencer’s butler, Paul Burrell, gave his insight about the brutal dynamic shown in The Crown between the princess and Prince Charles. Speaking to The Sun, Burrell said that Charles’ on-screen indifference to Spencer was accurate to what he witnessed between the actual couple, and he said that the show “could have gone further” in their portrayal. 

“Josh O’Connor plays Prince Charles as a rather uncaring, cold person. And I’m afraid that’s what I saw behind closed doors,” Burrell said. “He was married to probably the most beautiful woman in the world. But he didn’t look after her, and that’s what comes across in The Crown.” Burrell added that Spencer said that she thought her husband would “be there” for her after they got married, but that was not the case. 

“People that jump up and say, ‘Well, that’s not factual’, well, that’s pretty close to the truth,” he said. “You’re seeing an unknown young girl rise while Charles’s star doesn’t and her popularity becomes greater than his.” While Burrell may have thought The Crown should have show more, Prince Charles and his friends were reportedly furious about his portrayal in the season.

Some viewers were upset at the small details The Crown got wrong

It seems like issues over the accuracy of fishing and salutes would be overlooked, but leave it to detail-oriented viewers to pick out even the slightest errors in The Crown. As noted by The New York Times, “British viewers have sent in some rather pointed letters to newspapers about The Crown,” expressing their dismay over Prince Charles’ on-screen fishing. 

“To imagine that any self-respecting fisherman would allow his line to touch down so catastrophically is bad enough,” a viewer wrote to The Daily Telegraph. “But to then suggest that such a cast could possibly result in the landing of a fine salmon is tantamount to gross — almost criminal — negligence.” Yes, all that outrage is over on-screen fishing. 

An army veteran followed suit and wrote to The Times, picking fault at the queen’s salute in the show. “To my recollection Her Majesty’s salute has always been exemplary, with the forearm and hand being ramrod straight,” the vet wrote. “This may not perhaps be noticed by many viewers, but to us ex-military types, with a passion for standards, it is particularly galling.” To each their own.

Australia lashed out at The Crown's creators over this Season 4 plot point

We couldn’t forget to share Australia’s outrage over The Crown’s fourth season. As noted by the Daily Mail, Australia’s National Broadcaster (ABC) called out Netflix over a plot point which featured former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke. 

In the sixth episode of Season 4, Hawke — played by Richard Roxburgh — is shown saying, “You wouldn’t put a pig in charge of a herd of prime beef cattle, even if it does look good in twin set and pearls,” while being interviewed on ABC. Who was the statement directed toward in the show? The queen herself. Because of this inaccuracy, ABC’s news program Four Corners took to Twitter to display the true interview and even called out Netflix for the error. 

“Hey @netflix Huge fan. While we’re loving the fact that you’ve featured us in @TheCrownNetflix, we’re in the business of facts and there are a few things we want to clear up,” the program tweeted. “While we’ve enjoyed your creative license, Hawke did not call the Queen a pig on our show … Here’s what he really said,” they continued, sharing the real interview footage. Moral of the story? Don’t mess with journalists.

The details surrounding this tense exchange had people scratching their heads

In Season 4’s fifth episode, the intrusion of the queen’s bedroom by Michael Fagan in 1982 is featured, but The Crown gave Fagan a motive that was far off. Yes, Fagan broke into the palace and was in the queen’s bedroom (via Elle), but The Crown depicts Fagan as a disgruntled man wanting to speak to the queen about Margaret Thatcher’s failures. And that is not true. 

An article at the time of the incident in The Times reported that Fagan “sat on the bed six feet from the Queen, told her he loved her and threatened to kill himself with a broken piece of glass.” In 2012, Fagan told The Independent that he didn’t know what motivated him to break in, but that his actions were likely the result of eating magic mushrooms. 

Fagan even had some choice words about his portrayal in The Crown. He told The Sun that his depiction was “complete fiction” and that the actor who played him had “no charisma.” “They could have surely found someone who looks a bit like me,” he said. “I’m actually better looking and he seems totally charmless.” Ok then.

Friends of Prince Charles rushed to his defense after his portrayal in The Crown Season 4

It comes as no surprise that Prince Charles was not thrilled about his portrayal in the fourth season of The Crown, which made him out to be cruel and violent towards Princess Diana, and while her former butler confirmed many of those behaviors, Charles’ friends rushed to his defense. As noted by the Daily Mail, close companions of the future king accused The Crown of “trolling on a Hollywood budget” and of twisting fact for financial gain. 

“This is drama and entertainment for commercial ends being made with no regard to the actual people involved who are having their lives hijacked and exploited,” a royal insider said. They also pointed to the fact that the fourth season highlighted dynamics and incidents that took place 25 to 30 years ago without regard for how people might feel about it. “That isn’t right or fair, particularly when so many of the things being depicted don’t represent the truth,” the source said. 

Clearly Prince Charles and his friends were displeased because another said, “The public shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this is an accurate portrayal of what really happened.” Yikes.

Prince William was reportedly not at all pleased with The Crown's fourth season

We admit that it would be hard to watch a retelling of your parents’ lives, especially while knowing that so many people were consuming it, and Prince William seems to have felt that about the fourth season of The Crown. As noted by the Daily Mail, a source said that William was displeased about the show and about aspects of the story — presumably like Princess Diana’s struggle with bulimia and his parents’ divorce. 

“The Duke of Cambridge is none too pleased with it,” the insider said. “He feels that both his parents are being exploited and being presented in a false, simplistic way to make money.” The source then pointed to another potential sore spot between William and his brother, Prince Harry, who left the royal family and moved to the United States in 2020. 

“There are raised eyebrows about Harry taking millions from the company that’s behind all this,” the source said, speaking about Harry’s deal with Netflix. “After all, where do much of Netflix’s profits come from? The Crown.” Not great for two brothers that were already on rocky footing.

People may not like that this royal family member will reportedly watch The Crown Season 4

Some royal family members hate The Crown and refuse to indulge in it, as noted by Vanity Fair, but Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, has reportedly watched it and had plans to watch the fourth season — a season in which her fictional self would be integral to the storyline. The Crown’s fourth season depicts Camilla as “the long-time mistress of Prince Charles, and an obstacle in his marriage to Princess Diana.”

“I imagine she’ll be tuning in with a glass of red wine to watch it, she has seen the previous series,” a friend said. But Camilla’s casual attitude about the show is not echoed by the queen, who has “no desire” to watch. 

So, why might it be a bad idea for Camilla to watch it? Well. Camilla has been Britain’s “most reviled woman,” and was seen as the person responsible for the decline of Charles and Diana’s marriage. It was reported that the queen refused to even mention her by name in the palace because of the situation. If Camilla indeed sees the season, there may be some awkward times ahead for the British royal family…

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