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Judi Dench has joined the growing chorus of voices that have taken umbrage with the upcoming season of Netflix’s The Crown, with the Oscar winner accusing the royal drama’s producers of blurring “the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism.”
In a letter to The Times of London, Dench at first praised The Crown but worried that as the series was fast catching up with the present day, it was in danger of convincing viewers, especially its international audience, that the dramatization was a “wholly true” version of history. Dench took particular issue with reports that season five will imply that then Prince Charles plotted to oust his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, as monarch during the dark days of the early ’90s. The actress described pushing this version of events as “both cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent.”
In the letter, Dench was keen to stress that she was a “greater believer in artistic freedom” but felt that Netflix’s public pronouncements that the show was “fictionalized drama” didn’t go far enough, and they need to slap a more explicit disclaimer “at the start of each episode.”
The letter concludes with Dench imploring Netflix to consider the feelings of the royal family and the U.K., still grieving over the death of the queen on Sept. 8, at 96. Dench writes that a reconsideration of the disclaimer would be a “mark of respect to a sovereign who served her people so dutifully for 70 years, and to preserve its reputation in the eyes of its British subscribers.”
Dench, who was made a dame by the late queen in 1988 and who has portrayed both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria onscreen, joins notable other figures in Britain to criticize the contents of season five of The Crown.
Former British Prime Minister John Major, played by Jonny Lee Miller in the series, has also slammed The Crown for pushing the “damaging and malicious lie” that Charles urged him to oust the queen as the show implies. In a statement to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Major said that depicting entirely false scenes of his interaction with the royals was “a barrel load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum — and entirely false — dramatic impact.”
Season five of The Crown debuts on Netflix on Nov. 9.
Dench’s full letter to The Times of London is below.
Sir, Sir John Major is not alone in his concerns that the latest series of The Crown will present an inaccurate and hurtful account of history (News, Oct 17). Indeed, 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.
While many will recognise The Crown for the brilliant but fictionalised account of events that it is, I fear that a significant number of viewers, particularly overseas, may take its version of history as being wholly true. Given some of the wounding suggestions apparently contained in the new series — that King Charles plotted for his mother to abdicate, for example, or once suggested his mother’s parenting was so deficient that she might have deserved a jail sentence — this is both cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent.
No one is a greater believer in artistic freedom than I, but this cannot go unchallenged. Despite this week stating publicly that The Crown has always been a “fictionalised drama” the programme makers have resisted all calls for them to carry a disclaimer at the start of each episode.
The time has come for Netflix to reconsider — for the sake of a family and a nation so recently bereaved, as a mark of respect to a sovereign who served her people so dutifully for 70 years, and to preserve its reputation in the eyes of its British subscribers.
Dame Judi Dench
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