Buckingham Palace is determined to protect King Charles’ reputation amid Netflix’s “exploitative” dramatization of his bitter marriage and divorce from Princess Diana.
On Saturday, the streaming giant announced that Season 5 of their Emmy-winning series “The Crown” will launch on Nov. 9. While the writers and producers have remained tight-lipped about which real-life events the show will explore, the casting has given fans some clues.
Dominic West will play Prince Charles, Elizabeth Debicki will portray Diana, and Olivia Williams is taking on the role of Camilla Parker Bowles, who is now queen consort. Khalid Abdallas portrays Dodi Al-Fayed, who died in the Paris crash with Diana, and Salim Daw plays Mohamed Al-Fayed, Dodi’s father. Imelda Staunton will play Queen Elizabeth II for the first time.
The fifth season will span the 1990s when Charles and Diana separated. In a clip, a news bulletin is heard saying: “There’s uproar in Britain after Prince Charles bared his soul to the nation, but the Princess of Wales upstaged her husband speaking about her marriage, her life and her future.” It alludes to Diana’s 1995 interview with “Panorama” where she said famously said “there were three of us in this marriage.” It referred to Charles’ relationship with Camilla.
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It was also the era when Prince Andrew and his wife Sarah Ferguson called it quits.
“It is my understanding that the palace has devised a plan to fight any misinformation or fiction with facts,” Kinsey Schofield, royal expert and host of the “To Di For” podcast, told Fox News Digital. “Expect King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla’s friends to speak out on their behalf. Expect to see a push of any documentaries the pair have participated in to resurface. Expect a flood of King Charles books to hit shelves. There might even be… I can’t believe I’m saying this… fresh interviews with the couple. Something we never saw from the queen.”
A friend of the king told The Telegraph that Netflix would have “no qualms about mangling people’s reputations.” The unnamed source also labeled the show as “exploitative.”
“What people forget is that there are real human beings and real lives at the heart of this,” the source explained to the outlet.
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The clip from the upcoming season also features a reporter describing the breakdown of Diana and Charles’ marriage as an “all-out war.” A palace source told the outlet that with Charles and Camilla now being king and queen consort, viewers will have “more of an opportunity to compare the real people with the fiction they see in ‘The Crown.’”
“In the past, they didn’t get so much coverage, so in that sense, it was harder for people to be able to compare and contrast the drama with the reality,” the source added.
One senior royal source stressed that “The Crown” is “a drama not a documentary.”
A spokesperson for King Charles, 73, told Fox News Digital “no comment.”
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Still, Schofield suspects the palace will find a way to address the public reaction – and any backlash that comes with it.
“The palace wants to make ‘the truth’ more available and accessible than ever so if anyone begins to research their story beyond Netflix’s ‘The Crown,’ they will find it instantly,” said Schofield. “You might see a fresh pursuit to add a fiction warning to each episode of ‘The Crown.’ Netflix has already said they won’t do this, but the PR around a campaign like that highlights intentionally that this is a work of fiction.”
Despite palace courtiers waiting with bated breath, Schofield said she isn’t sure that Season 5 “will be a negative reflection on King Charles.”
“Dominic West is playing the then-prince and is somewhat of a friend to Charles,” she pointed out. “Dominic has volunteered for The Prince’s Trust charity for years. Additionally, one of Princess Diana’s closest friends quit working as a consultant on the show this season and asked that her name be removed from anything associated with ‘The Crown.’ She did not like the direction the show was doing with the Diana character. A lot of mystery surrounds Season 5 of ‘The Crown.’”
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Shannon Felton Spence told Fox News Digital that Season 5’s premiere is poor timing for the royal family as the queen passed away on Sept. 8 at age 96.
“The 1990s were the lowest point in modern history for the monarchy,” said Felton Spence. “With the public’s fascination with the royal family at an all-time high, the concern is that the blurred line between fiction and fact of this excellent show may remind the public of the turmoil of the ‘90s. Season 5 comes at an unfortunate time for the family as it tries to seamlessly oversee its largest transition in the last 70 years.”
“Dominic West is playing the now king during the worst period of his personal relationships and his reputation in the public eye,” she shared. “Dominic West is phenomenal at his craft. He is well known for playing rather unsympathetic characters in many of his roles.”
Former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter previously called “The Crown” a “hatchet job” on Charles and Diana. Arbiter also accused the series of “stretching dramatic license to the extreme.” Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, also said the show should carry a notice that “this isn’t true but it is based around some real events.”
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“I worry people do think that this is gospel and that’s unfair,” he told broadcaster ITV.
True Royalty TV co-founder Nick Bullen, who has worked with Charles for nearly a decade, told Fox News Digital “The Crown” is “a travesty” based on inaccuracies.
“I really think it’s somewhat of a travesty in my honest opinion,” he said in 2020. “The fabrication is quite unbelievable. Look, clearly it’s based on real people and some of those events happened, but the gaps in between aren’t based on fact. I think that’s why so many people were shocked by it and even Britain’s culture minister was asking for a disclaimer. I think people need to understand that this is drama. Much of what you saw probably never happened.”
Bullen said several sources who work in the royal household have told him that they were “really appalled” at how Charles was depicted. He pointed out that the palace had to restrict comments on its Twitter account after numerous users began posting abusive comments.
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In 2020, Netflix rejected calls from British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to add a disclaimer to the series that states it is a work of fiction. The streaming giant said the show is presented in enough context.
“We have always presented ‘The Crown’ as a drama – and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events,” according to a statement released by Netflix.
“As a result, we have no plans – and see no need – to add a disclaimer,” it added.
“The Crown” creator Peter Morgan defended his work, saying it is thoroughly researched and true in spirit. In a 2017 discussion, Morgan said, “you sometimes have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.”
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It took years for many in Britain to forgive Charles, whose admitted infidelity and longtime links to Camilla torpedoed his marriage to Diana, known as “the People’s Princess.” The glamorous young mother of Princes William and Harry died in a Paris car crash in 1997, five years after her messy, public split from Charles.
But the public mood has softened since Charles married Camilla in 2005. She took on roles at more than 100 charities, focusing on a wide range of issues, including promoting literacy, supporting victims of domestic violence and helping the elderly.
With a down-to-Earth style and sense of humor, the 75-year-old eventually won over many Britons. Her warmth softened Charles’ stuffy image and made him appear more relaxed, if not happier, as he visited houses of worship, unveiled plaques and waited for his chance to reign.
Charles has long made it clear that he wants Camilla to be known as queen. In February of this year, his mother said it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla be known as “queen consort” when her son succeeded her.