The fifth season of The Crown is yet to drop and criticism is already rife, forcing the series’ creator to defend the show’s handling of historical matters before it has even hit screens.
The upcoming season, which will premiere on November 9, will cover some of the most turbulent moments within the British royal family – a point of major contention for several commentators given the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III.
Imelda Staunton (left), Dominic West (top right), and Jonny Lee Miller (bottom right) in The Crown season five.Credit:Netflix
According to The Guardian, former UK prime minister John Major – who served as the nation’s conservative leader from 1990 to 1997 – called the forthcoming season “a barrel-load of nonsense” after learning of a potential plot line that could show Prince Charles’ alleged attempt to oust the Queen through secret rendezvous with the prime minister. Major’s spokesperson unequivocally denied such conversations occurred and claimed he had never been approached by The Crown’s creators for fact-checking purposes.
Broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, a friend of the King, has described the entire series as “full of nonsense” and the latest season as “nonsense on stilts”. Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith said the show’s depiction of events were “malicious lies” damaging the public’s perception of the royal family.
Even Dame Judi Dench has called The Crown ”cruelly unjust” in its representation of the royals. Writing an open letter to The Times, she urged Netflix to add a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode indicating the show was a fictionalised account of historical events.
“The closer the drama comes to our present times, the more freely it seems willing to blur the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism,” Dench wrote. Netflix has not acted upon these requests as yet.
When The Telegraph published comments from an anonymous friend of the King which raised concern around the season’s portrayal of Princess Diana and the then Prince Charles’ high-profile divorce, the Netflix show’s creator, Peter Morgan, intervened to defend the series against accusations of “exploitative” content.
Speaking with Variety, Morgan, Elizabeth Debicki and Dominic West (who will play Diana and Charles) said every scene was created with great sympathy and kindness for the Windsors in mind.
“I think we must all accept that the 1990s was a difficult time for the royal family, and King Charles will almost certainly have some painful memories of that period,” Morgan said. “But that doesn’t mean that, with the benefit of hindsight, history will be unkind to him, or the monarchy. The show certainly isn’t.
“I have enormous sympathy for a man in his position – indeed, a family in their position. People are more understanding and compassionate than we expect sometimes.”
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in Season 5 of The Crown.Credit:Netflix
Debicki went on to highlight the extreme “research and care and conversations” taken when filming sensitive events such as Diana’s death. “From that very first meeting [with] Peter, I knew that I’d entered into this space where this was taken seriously [in] a deeply caring way,” she told Variety.
The Crown is no stranger to criticism over its factual accuracy after facing backlash following season four. Similar to Dench, the then British culture secretary Oliver Dowden called for a health warning to be shown at the beginning of each episode to indicate its content’s fictional nature.
But the show must go on. With the release date standing firm, what can we expect from season five?
When will it air?
Every episode of season five will be available to stream from November 9 on Netflix, just over two months after the passing of the Queen. Murmurs of postponement spread in the days following her death. But the first season of the show catapulted back into the Netflix top 10 and the show’s creators ultimately decided to run full steam ahead, releasing a promotional video of Imelda Staunton as the new Queen in late September.
If the teaser and official poster – both released recently as part of their promotional campaign – are anything to go by, the season will likely focus heavily on the dramatic disintegration of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ marriage, which splintered the house of Windsor.
Who will star in it?
Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter, Downton Abbey) will claim the role of Queen Elizabeth as she enters into her infamous “annus horribilis”. Staunton will carry the role through until the show’s conclusion.
Arguably the most significant change this season will be those portraying Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Tenet star Elizabeth Debicki and The Wire’s Dominic West will replace Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor. It has also been reported that West’s son, Senan West, will play a young Prince William near the end of season five.
Helena Bonham Carter won a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Princess Margaret, but she will be passing the baton to Lesley Manville, who will play the Queen’s younger sister until the final season.
Other changes include Claudia Harrison as Princess Anne, The Two Popes star Jonathan Pryce as Prince Phillip, and Jonny Lee Miller (Dexter) as prime minister John Major after Gillian Anderson depicted Margaret Thatcher last season.
James Murray will play Prince Andrew, Sam Wolf will play Prince Edward, and a young Prince William and Harry will be portrayed by child actors Timothee Sambor and Teddy Hawley early in the season.
As for the love interests of Diana and Charles following their separation, Humayun Saeed will play Dr Hasnat Khan and Olivia Williams will portray Camilla Parker Bowles.
What will it cover?
The 1990s was a busy decade for the Windsors, filled with dramatic fodder for the UK tabloids.
Season five is expected to cover myriad controversies that occurred particularly in 1992: three separations (Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, and, of course, Prince Charles and Princess Diana); a fire at one of the Queen’s most beloved residences, Windsor Castle; several torrid affairs; leaked photographs of Ferguson purportedly having her toe sucked and the publication of Diana’s revealing biography, Diana: Her True Story.
A tight focus on Diana will likely mean the appearance of the Princess’ controversial “revenge dress” – the form-fitting, black off-the-shoulder dress by Christina Stambolian that challenged the royal dress-code – which she wore the night Prince Charles publicly admitted to being unfaithful.
The season will also take in the controversy around Diana’s notorious 1995 Panorama interview, and the events leading up to her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.
Will there be another season?
Morgan confirmed to Deadline in 2020 that in order to “do justice to the richness and complexity of the story”, the show would continue for one more chapter despite initial plans to lay the show to rest after season five. Filming for season six was postponed immediately following the late Queen’s death, but has since resumed. It is yet to be announced when the finale will drop.
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