An Explainer Of All The Drama Surrounding Season 5 Of The Crown

Season 5 of "The Crown" will be released in early November 2022, and the royal family and several of its allies have begun to voice their concern about the series and what it does and does not show. After the trailer for Season 5 was released it became apparent that the series will cover much of what made the early-to-mid 1990s uncomfortable and downright tragic for the royal family, including the infamous fire at Windsor Castle, the deterioration of King Charles III and Princess Diana's marriage, and even rumors that Prince Philip was not faithful to Queen Elizabeth II.

Some have called for a disclaimer to be added to episodes of the series, especially in light of Queen Elizabeth's death in September 2022. However, series creator Peter Morgan has resisted going all out, and told Variety in an interview that the entire team at the show has "enormous sympathy for a man in [King Charles'] position — indeed, a family in their position." As Morgan went on to add, "People are more understanding and compassionate than we expect sometimes."

Here is a look at how the royal family has reacted to "The Crown" over the years, what King Charles might be worried about ahead of the release of Season 5, and who has spoken out in favor of and against "The Crown."

Queen Elizabeth never directly addressed The Crown

When "The Crown" debuted on Netflix in November 2016, it seemed that Queen Elizabeth and the royal family had made a deliberate decision to avoid directly addressing the show. Despite that, the Sunday Express reported a year later that the monarch had in fact watched all ten episodes of Season 1 of the show — an interesting piece of knowledge, considering much of season one centered around Elizabeth's relationship with her husband, Prince Philip.

As relayed by Oprah Daily, it seemed that Elizabeth was convinced to watch the show by her son, Prince Edward, and his wife Sophie Wessex. A royal source told the Express, "Edward and Sophie love 'The Crown.' It has been a longstanding arrangement that they drive to Windsor at the weekend to join the queen for an informal supper while watching TV or a film. They have a Netflix account and urged her to watch it with them."

The verdict? Elizabeth reportedly liked the show, but did think the writers took a few liberties that deviated from her lived experience. It seemed that things changed for the monarch following Season 2, which in part featured Philip as a stern, even unfeeling, father toward the pair's oldest son King Charles (per Oprah Daily). In 2019, the queen's communication secretary sent The Guardian a notice that explained the royal family did not endorse the show as fact. 

King Charles has a lot to worry about in Season 5 of The Crown

Queen Elizabeth passed away in September 2022, two months before the release of Season 5 of "The Crown." Now it seems that her son, King Charles, has an awful lot to be concerned about ahead of the fifth season of the show. This season will cover the years that included the end of Charles' marriage to Princess Diana and will reportedly detail his affair with Camilla, Queen Consort, before concluding just before Diana's death in 1997.

As has pointed out, despite the fact that he was heir to the throne and is in fact king now, there aren't very many people who believe Charles came out of his marriage looking like a great guy. However, most people weren't spending a lot of time poring through the details of how and why Diana and Charles' marriage fell apart — until Netflix reopened this particular can of worms and invited viewers back to 1992. It might just be bad luck for the king that a particularly invasive season of the show is being released so soon after his ascension to the throne, but it's still something he has to contend with.

The trailer for Season 5 of The Crown unleashed a tsunami of concern

The release of the trailer for Season 5 of "The Crown" has appeared to set off the royal alarm bells. In the preview, it appeared that both Dominic West, who plays King Charles, and Elizabeth Debicki, playing Princess Diana, will be depicted sitting down for interviews in the show — scenes that are presumably based on the real-life interviews that Charles and Diana each gave. 

In 1994, Charles sat down with Jonathan Dimbleby and admitted to infidelity. Meanwhile, Diana gave her own powerful and revealing interview to Martin Bashir the following year (per Tatler). While it's likely that Charles isn't looking forward to the public having the opportunity to either relive these events or hear them for the first time, there's no denying that he himself contributed enormously to the situation.

As The Hollywood Reporter has noted, several powerful figures have already spoken out against the show following the release of the trailer. 

The U.K. culture secretary believes audiences won't know if The Crown is real

Concern about Season 5 of "The Crown" has reached the highest levels of British politics and royalty. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has expressed his worries about what viewers will and will not see, and whether or not audience will be able to discern fact from fiction. In 2020, Dowden joined the chorus of voices calling for the show to indicate that not everything depicted in the show happened exactly as it is shown. As The Daily Mail reported at the time, Dowden explained, "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."

The outlet also noted that Dowden indicated he planned to send a letter to Netflix to encourage the streaming company to add what is essentially a "health warning" to the beginning of each episode. A friend of King Charles' echoed Dowden's concerns, telling the publication that they believe viewers are being manipulated by the show but don't realize it. As the friend said, "It is quite sinister the way that Morgan is clearly using light entertainment to drive a very overt republican agenda and people just don't see it."

Former Prime Minister John Major is worried about The Crown

Former Prime Minister John Major has also joined the chorus of voices that have expressed worry about "The Crown." Unlike some, who have taken issue with the King Charles-Princess Diana-Camilla plot line set to be depicted in Season 5, Major is concerned about a separate plot line that appears to show King Charles voicing his interest in removing his mother as monarch.

Per The Guardian, the show is going to show King Charles as Prince of Wales, deep in conversation with then-Prime Minister Major about how to oust Queen Elizabeth. The show will also depict Charles urging Major to force his mother to abdicate the crown so that he might ascend the throne sooner. Major has completely denied that such a conversation ever took place, and has described the show and the plot line as a "barrel-load of nonsense."

A spokesperson for Major also insisted that he in no way has had a conversation with Charles about his mother abdicating the throne at any point during her rule. As a source told The Mail On Sunday, "All the one-to-one conversations you see on screen are utter fiction and some scenes have been entirely created for dramatic and commercial purposes with little regard for the truth. People should be boycotting it."

Judi Dench accused The Crown of sensationalism

Dame Judi Dench has also spoken out against "The Crown." In October 2022, Dench sent a searing open letter to The Times in the UK, demanding that the show add a disclaimer to explain that what is seen in each episode is a "fictionalized drama." In her letter, Dench seemed most concerned about the fifth season airing so soon after Queen Elizabeth's death, and the potential impact that the season could have on British citizens.

Dench wrote in part, "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" (via Deadline).

Dench also voiced her concern about the overall plot of the show as it moves closer to the present, despite the fact that Season 5 will focus on events that took place three decades ago. Like Prime Minister Major, in her letter Dench lends worry to the plot line about King Charles appearing to want to overthrow his mother's rule.

Joy Behar hit back at critics of The Crown

Not everyone agrees that Netflix and "The Crown" need to add any kind of warning to its upcoming season or any season afterward. In an October 2022 episode of "The View," talk show host Joy Behar hit back at Judi Dench and others who have expressed worry about the show. Behar said in part that viewers are unlikely to be confused about the nature of the show, especially as it's been clear on Netflix that the show is fiction based on history. She explained, "This dame disagrees with Dame Judi Dench because they tell you at the top that it is not a documentary, and if you have a brain, you can figure out that the writers have used history" (via People).

Behar goes on to add that most viewers believe the history that is depicted in the series, but that they understand private conversations are speculative at best. As Behar pointed out, for example, there's no way to know what private conversations did or didn't take place between Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth, particularly as both are now deceased. 

Behar's co-hosts didn't agree with her. Sunny Hostin said that she agreed with Dench that a disclaimer should be added. Ultimately. Behar and her cohorts seemed to agree with a point that co-host Whoopi Goldberg made in the discussion: "When you make historical fiction, you have to be careful. You have to pay attention to what you're doing."

Netflix updated its YouTube description of The Crown's Season 5 trailer with a disclaimer

In an apparent attempt to calm the stormy seas surrounding Season 5 of "The Crown," in late October 2022 Netflix appeared to give in to demands to add a disclaimer ... kind of. The streaming platform announced that it would add a disclaimer to the YouTube description for the Season 5 trailer for the show. The disclaimer reads, "inspired by real events, this fictional dramatisation tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and the political and personal events that shaped her reign" (via Collider).

While the disclaimer might not be enough for some, Collider pointed out that this is the first time Netflix has added any such wording to anything related to the series. It's also unclear if the disclaimer will do much to calm the worries that have been expressed by royal sources and King Charles. 

For its part, Netflix has continued to state that their series has been vetted by several experts on royal history, despite what the sitting monarch and his allies might believe. A spokeswoman for the platform explained, "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."

The creator of The Crown disagrees with criticism of the show

It's likely unsurprising that Peter Morgan, the creator of "The Crown," doesn't agree with the criticism of the series and Netflix. While Morgan and many members of the cast and crew acknowledge that the events of Season 5 are some of the toughest for the monarchy on the show, they were also some of the toughest for the monarchy in real life. 

In an interview with Variety, Morgan pointed out that he has a lot of sympathy for what King Charles is likely feeling ahead of the newest season's release. Morgan said, "I think we must all accept that the 1990s was a difficult time for the royal family, and King Charles will almost certainly have some painful memories of that period." However, he went on to add that the show is not "unkind" to Charles.

Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Princess Diana in Season 5 of "The Crown," also spoke about Morgan's sensitivity to what the show will depict. As she told Variety, "The amount of research and care and conversations and dialogue that happen over, from a viewer's perspective, something probably that you would never ever notice, is just immense." It may just be that, like the rest of us, King Charles will have to wait and find out just how "The Crown" portrays him after all.