As Netflix prepares to release its fifth season of big budget royal drama The Crown it has rejected criticism of the latest season after former prime minster Sir John Major described it as a “barrel-load of nonsense”.
Major’s comments were made after concerns arose that a storyline in the hit programme could damage King Charles’s reputation.
The former Conservative prime minister’s stinging attack came after reports suggested that the show’s fifth series will depict Charles, when he was the Prince of Wales, plotting to oust the Queen.
It will reportedly feature imagined conversations in which he lobbies Major in an effort to force his mother’s abdication. It is due to be released on 9 November, nine weeks after the death of the Queen.
The fourth series of the hit series also came under fire for factual inaccuracy. It led to Oliver Dowden, the then culture secretary, calling for a “health warning” to be played before the show to make clear that it is fictionalised but Netflix refused.
On Sunday the US streaming company hit back at the latest criticism, saying the show “has always been presented as a drama based on historical events”.
“Series five is a fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family – one that has already been scrutinised and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians,” a spokesperson said.
There was further criticism from broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby and royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith.
Dimbleby said that The Crown “is full of nonsense, but this is nonsense on stilts”, while Smith said that the programme was “doing significant damage to people’s perception of history and their perception of the royal family”.
“It has been packed full of malicious lies from the beginning but this level of abuse is now beyond the pale,” she told the Mail on Sunday.
The upcoming series will cover some of the worst years for the British monarchy, including Queen Elizabeth’s “annus horribilis” of 1992 when three of her four children split from their partners and a major fire broke out at Windsor Castle. It is said to feature Princess Diana’s Panorama interview with Martin Bashir following the breakdown of her marriage.
One episode reportedly depicts Charles, then the Prince of Wales, summoning Major, who was prime minister from 1990 to 1997, to a secret meeting at Highgrove. Charles, played by Dominic West, hints that he wants to replace his mother by raising the Conservative party’s ousting of Margaret Thatcher a year earlier.
“What makes the Conservative party successful? Its instinct for renewal and its willingness to make way for someone younger. For almost 60 years my great-great-grandfather Edward VII was kept waiting in the wings. He longed to be given responsibilities but his mother refused. And yet when his time came he proved his doubters wrong and his reign was a triumph,” Charles tells Major, who is played by Trainspotting star Jonny Lee Miller, according to the Sunday Times.
It also reportedly features scenes in which Major speaks of the royal family in disparaging terms.
Major, 79, hit back at the claims on Saturday with a spokesperson saying he has not “co-operated in any way with The Crown. Nor has he ever been approached by them to fact-check any script material in this or any other series.”
“There was never any discussion between Sir John and the then Prince of Wales about any possible abdication of the late Queen Elizabeth II – nor was such an improbable and improper subject ever raised by the then Prince of Wales (or Sir John). Neither Sir John nor Dame Norma have discussed the Monarchy remotely in these terms,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also condemned the show for reportedly depicting imagined dialogue between Major and the Queen, saying: “As you will know, discussions between the Monarch and prime minister are entirely private and – for Sir John – will always remain so … They are fiction, pure and simple.”
They said the scenes “should be seen as nothing other than damaging and malicious fiction. A barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false – dramatic impact.”
The Crown, created and written by Peter Morgan, has been a hit for Netflix since it was first released in 2016. But royal courtiers are reportedly nervous about how Charles will be portrayed so soon after his accession to the throne.