Dame Judi Dench has called on Netflix to add a disclaimer to The Crown to note that the royal family series is a “fictionalized drama” that otherwise presents “an inaccurate and hurtful account of history.”
After praising the series as the “brilliant but fictionalized account of events that it is,” Dench wrote in a letter to the Times UK that “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.”
Dench — who portrayed Queen Elizabeth I on the big screen in Shakespeare in Love — cited similar concerns by former British prime minister Sir John Major, who previously called The Crown, and notably the drama’s take on his time in office, as “damaging and malicious fiction” and “a barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false – dramatic impact.”
“Sir John 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,” a spokesman for Major said in the statement (via CNN). “Discussions between the Monarch and Prime Minister are entirely private and – for Sir John – will always remain so. But not one of the scenes you depict are accurate – in any way whatsoever. They are fiction, pure and simple.”
(“The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events,” Netflix said in response to Major’s statement. “Series 5 is a fictional dramatization, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family – one that has already been scrutinized and well-documented by journalists, biographers, and historians.”)
Dench wasn’t as harsh in her criticism of The Crown but stressed the importance of adding a disclaimer if only to not confuse viewers in the U.K. and worldwide.
“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 ‘fictionalized drama,’ the programme makers have resisted all calls for them to carry a disclaimer at the start of each episode,” Dench wrote.
“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.”
As if on cue with Dench’s comments, Netflix released the latest trailer for Season 5 of The Crown:, and tacked onto the description was a disclaimer noting how the fifth season is “fictional dramatization” of actual events:
Netflix added in a statement (via Variety), “The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events. Series five is a fictional dramatization, 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.”
The Crown’s fifth season, which revolves around the late Queen Elizabeth II (now played by Imelda Staunton) as she nears the 40th anniversary of her ascension, premieres on the streaming service on Nov. 9. The series recently paused production “out of respect” to Queen Elizabeth II following her death.
This story was updated Oct. 21 to reflect that Netflix added a “fictionalized dramatization” disclaimer to the latest trailer for The Crown.