Judy Dench Is Mad at ‘The Crown’ For 'Hurtful Account' of Royal Family

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Dame Judi Dench attends the "Allelujah" European Premiere during the 6...
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Dame Judi Dench has had it with The Crown. In an open letter penned for The Times UK, Dame Dench wants the Netflix series to do more to make sure viewers know it’s decidedly not a documentary or straight historical reenactment.

The famed actress called the show an “inaccurate and hurtful account of history” that needs a label stating explicitly that it’s a work of fiction. She shared some specific instances, included a critique from former Prime Minister John Major. The PM was upset about an episode in season five in which the fictional Prince Charles complained to the fictional Major that he’d been waiting forever to take over the throne. Major has denied that they ever had this conversation and called it “malicious nonsense.”

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“Sir John Major is not alone in his concerns that the latest season of The Crown will present an inaccurate and hurtful account of history,” Dench wrote. “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.”

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Dench continued, “Despite this week stating publicly that The Crown has always been a ‘fictionalized drama,’ the program 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.”


It has been said by sources close to the royal family that they are especially annoyed by recent episodes because the show is explicitly exploring the marriage between Charles and Princess Diana. The last two seasons are covering the 1990s to 2003 and including the death of Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed. Charles and Diana are currently being played by actors Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki.

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Back in 2020, the U.K. government itself asked for The Crown to add a disclaimer to their show before each episode. Cultural Secretary Oliver Dowden told The Daily Mail that the show is 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.”

“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,” Netflix responded at the time. “As a result we have no plans — and see no need — to add a disclaimer.”

Feelings might be running higher this year with the season five premiere looming. It will begin streaming on November 9, just about two months after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Series creator Peter Morgan has called the show a “love letter” to Queen Elizabeth II. Production paused just after her death on September 8, but has since resumed and no new plans to add a disclaimer have been mentioned.