As one of the most popular series of the last decade, The Crown is lauded by fans and critics alike. But what does the royal family think about The Crown? After all, the show is about real people. Queen Elizabeth II and her family, as well as their struggles to maintain private lives in very public roles, take center stage in the Netflix drama. Some of it is true; some of it is not. But regardless of how accurate it actually is, The Crown pulls back the curtain to study the humans behind the monarchy.
Everyone in the British royal family apparently has different opinions about The Crown. Some of them - like the Duchess of Cornwall - are amused by the concept, unbothered by the baseless untruths or painful truths it depicts. Others - like Prince William - are reportedly alarmed by how the show portrays beloved family members or misrepresents the past. These opinions have been voiced directly by members of the family through interviews, or they've been leaked through anonymous sources or hearsay. Whether enthusiastic or appalled, indifferent or cautious, the queen and her family seem to recognize that The Crown is powerful entertainment, for better or for worse.
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Prince Harry Prefers The Show To The British Press
As of Season 4 of The Crown - which takes place mainly in the 1980s - Prince Harry isn't a fully formed character yet - he appears as a child in the background. But even if he isn't featured, his parents' painful marriage is, and the show dramatizes everything from their incompatability to their infidelity.
The Crown's depiction of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's toxic relationship - and the royal family's mistreatment of Diana - doesn't bother Harry. As he told James Corden on The Late Late Show:
They don't pretend to be news. It's fictional. But it's loosely based on the truth... I'm way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself. Because... [The Crown] is obviously fiction, take it how you will. But this is being reported on as fact because you're supposedly news. I have a real issue with that.
Harry's relative ease with the show may be secured by the fact that it won't directly feature his relationship with Meghan Markle, the British press's negative coverage of her, or their departure from royal duties in 2020. Show creator and writer Peter Morgan clarified for The Hollywood Reporter:
I just think you get so much more interesting [with time]. Meghan and Harry are in the middle of their journey, and I don't know what their journey is or how it will end. One wishes some happiness, but I'm much more comfortable writing about things that happened at least 20 years ago.
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Queen Elizabeth II Apparently 'Really Liked' The Show... Until She Didn't
The central character of The Crown is Queen Elizabeth II, who must balance her roles as head of state and matriarch to a family of privileged royals. Though the show takes liberties with certain aspects of her life, other parts - such as her feelings about the Aberfan disaster in 1966 - are documented. Overall, The Crown tends to paint a relatively sympathetic portrait of the queen as an individual trapped in an institution, but it has become more critical of her in later seasons.
What does the queen think about the show? According to a "senior royal source," she watched the first season with her son Edward and daughter-in-law Sophie and "really liked it, although obviously there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatized."
Actor Vanessa Kirby - who portrayed Princess Margaret in Seasons 1 and 2 - has given some evidence that Elizabeth enjoyed the show - but it's all based on hearsay. As she told Vanity Fair:
A friend of mine was at a party and didn't know anymore, so he sidled up to this group who were talking about The Crown, when one said, "Well, my granny watches it and really likes it." It slowly dawned on him that the girl was [Princess] Eugenie and her granny was the queen.
Elizabeth's enthusiasm apparently dampened considerably after the first season, when the show became increasingly critical of Prince Philip and his insistence that Prince Charles attend the spartan Gordonstoun boarding school, Philip's alma mater. In a statement to The Express, one unnamed "senior palace official" shared:
I can convey that [the queen] was upset by the way Prince Philip is depicted as being a father insensitive to his son's well-being. She was particularly annoyed at a scene in which Philip has no sympathy for a plainly upset Charles while he is flying him home from Scotland. That simply did not happen.
Another report indicates that the queen has not, in fact, watched the show at all.
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Prince William Reportedly Thinks His Parents Are Being Exploited For Entertainment
As the second-in-line to the throne, Prince William understands that his job is to support the family business. Indeed, his role in the royal family has prompted many to wonder if he has seen the show and what he thinks of it.
Oscar-winning actor Alicia Vikander, who met Prince William at an official event during his royal tour of her native Sweden, even tried to gauge his opinions on the show. She revealed in W Magazine: "Well, I've seen The Crown. It was actually the first thing my friend and I started talking about with William... Apparently he's a Game of Thrones fan."
Olivia Colman, who starred as Queen Elizabeth II in Seasons 3 and 4, also took an opportunity to measure his thoughts, recounting on The Graham Norton Show:
I met Prince William at a dinner and he asked what I was doing at the moment before he quickly added, "Actually, I know what you're doing." I was so excited and asked, "Have you watched it?" His answer was a firm "No." But he was very charming and very lovely.
It turns out that Prince William doesn't feel the need to watch the show in order to have strong opinions about it - especially after Season 4, which heavily focused on his parents' disastrous relationship. A source who claims to be a friend of Prince Charles told the Daily Mail:
The Duke of Cambridge is none too pleased about [the show]. He feels that both his parents are being exploited and being presented in a false, simplistic way to make money.
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Philip Reportedly Implied It Would Be 'Ridiculous' If He Watched It At All
Since the beginning, The Crown hasn't really done Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, any favors: It's portrayed him as an insecure, insensitive, dismissive, entitled, and emotionally stunted cad who can't bear the fact that he is his wife's subject. In Season 2, the show also heavily implies that Philip had an affair, a plot point that is not based on documented fact.
It's probably a good thing, then, that the late Prince Philip reportedly didn't watch the show at all. When speaking to The Observer, actor Matt Smith - who portrays Philip in Seasons 1 and 2 - relayed a story he heard from an acquaintance who met Philip. The acquaintance asked him if he had seen the show. As Smith recounted, Philip gave the person a look that said, "Don't. Be. Ridiculous."