UK culture secretary to ask Netflix for 'health warning' that The Crown is fictional

Oliver Dowden says younger viewers might take historical drama’s portrayal as fact

The UK culture secretary plans to write to Netflix and request a “health warning” is played before The Crown so viewers are aware that the historical drama is a work of fiction, he said in an intervention that prompted criticism.

Oliver Dowden said that without the caveat younger viewers who did not live through the events might “mistake fiction for fact” following complaints that the fourth series of the drama had abused its artistic licence and fabricated events.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “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 … Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

At present viewers are warned that the show contains nudity, sex, violence and suicide references, and is suitable for viewers who are 15 and older.

The move was derided by historians including Prof Kate Williams, who said it sounded like a “distraction”. Alex von Tunzelmann, a historian who wrote the Reel History column for the Guardian, wrote: “Netflix already tells people that The Crown is fiction. It’s billed as a drama. Those people in it are actors. I know! Blows your mind.”

The historical drama’s fourth season, which focuses on the late 1970s and 80s with the rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher, the Falklands conflict and Lady Diana Spencer’s marriage to Prince Charles, has evoked much criticism.

Accusations of inaccuracies in Peter Morgan’s production span from repeatedly showing the Queen “wrongly dressed for trooping the colour” to disputes over Charles’ fishing technique.

But the biggest bones of contention have been around the depiction of Charles’ marriage to Diana. He is portrayed phoning Camilla Parker Bowles every day in the early years of the marriage, and Diana is depicted as forcing plans for the couple’s trip to Australia to be changed after throwing a tantrum.

Morgan has previously spoken about meeting Prince Charles and being told by him that scriptwriting is a hard job and that “it’s not what you leave in but what you leave out that’s most important”.

“He’s one of those characters for whom you have sympathy and criticism in equal measure, a perhaps not uncommon attitude toward the monarchy in general,” Morgan told the New York Times.

Sarah Horsley, whose husband, Major Hugh Lindsay, died in an avalanche while on a skiing trip with the prince, said she wrote to Morgan to ask for her husband’s death not to be dramatised. She said the “royal family have to grin and bear” the depiction of them in the avalanche episode, but for her it was “a very private tragedy”.

Sunday’s intervention is the latest from Dowden, who contacted the BBC to voice his concerns that Rule, Britannia! might not be played at this year’s event.

In September, he wrote to national museum directors saying “the government does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects” after a debate started about how to handle colonial-era artefacts and those with connections to slavery.

The Crown has also been praised for presenting the royal family as “real people”. Others have pointed out that Charles’ and Diana’s infidelity and marital problems are well recorded – including in interviews they both gave.

Netflix declined to comment, but a source said it had been widely reported that The Crown was a drama based on real-life events.


Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

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