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Royal historian says Season 4 of Netflix series The Crown paints unfair portrait of Royal family

Season 4 of The Crown on Netflix is turning out to be much more controversial than previous seasons, as historians and royal watchers decry the unflattering portrayal of Prince Charles and his marriage to the late Princess Diana.

Prince Charles is portrayed as the villain in his marriage to Princess Diana

This image released by Netflix shows Emma Corrin, left, and Josh O'Connor in a scene from "The Crown." Season four premieres on Sunday, Nov. 15. (Des Willie/Netflix via AP)

Season 4 of The Crown on Netflix is turning out to be much more controversial than previous seasons, as historians and royal watchers decry the unflattering portrayal of Prince Charles and his marriage to the late Princess Diana.

It wouldn't be an understatement to say that he comes out looking like "the villain" in his marriage to Diana. 

And the reaction from viewers has been so intensely negative that it's compelled Prince Charles and wife, Camilla, to turn off comments on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

But how much of it is true, and how much is a work of fiction, is creating a grey area that didn't exist before Season 4. The show launched its fourth season on Netflix on Nov. 15 and takes place more than 40 years hence it began in its first season.

Hugo Vickers, a Royal historian, writer and broadcaster, says the series is painting an unfair portrait of Charles.

"It is [and] it's also painting an unfair picture of most of the royal family," Vickers told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"The only one who comes out of it well is Diana. And I understand, of course, that when people are doing a thing like this, they will go to various different sources, but they've entirely taken Diana's side and they've painted Prince Charles as a sort of wimp, but this time they've made him even worse. They've turned him into a kind of evil and murderous wimp, which is pretty unpleasant, frankly."

Vickers, the author of the book The Crown Dissected and the e-book The Crown: Truth & Fiction: An Expert Analysis of Netflix Series, The Crown, says Prince Charles is far different from his on-screen persona.

Emerald Fennell, as Camilla Parker Bowles, meets with Diana, as played by Corrin, during Season 4 of The Crown. (Des Willie/Netflix)

"First of all, of course, in The Crown, he never does anything at all constructive. He never does any work," Vickers said.

"He doesn't set up the Prince's Trust. He doesn't do any engagements. He doesn't do anything except whinge and whine about his marriage and how much he would prefer to be with another woman. And so that's the way they've played him."

Vickers says the real Prince Charles is dedicated to his role as Prince of Wales, and long ago made his peace with not being king. 

Complicated marriages

"He's already 72 years old, still hasn't become king, so I think he sees the role of king when it eventually comes as the semi-retired position. But as Prince of Wales, he's free to go around stirring things up and getting people interested in his various causes. And he's done an awful lot of good," Vickers said.

"The marriages, I would accept, have been complicated and to some extent have been the problem in his life."

Vickers said the basic facts have been exaggerated to paint Diana as a saint, and that Charles did not carry on an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles throughout his entire marriage.

"He didn't carry on an affair the whole time. Taking him at his word and returning to the official biography by Jonathan Dimbleby — who had access to all the papers — the affair was resumed in 1986 once he realized that his marriage was irretrievably broken down," Vickers said. 

"I don't say that that's a perfect situation for him to be in either. I think you may find that it is very complicated this, because there are contradictions that probably it was the Princess of Wales who started having affairs before he did. But listen, I wasn't there, I wasn't in the room. I cannot confirm that to be absolutely true."

Vickers said the early years of Charles and Diana's marriage were happier, even though Charles had clearly carried a torch for Camilla for many years.

The series portrays Charles as resenting his wife's growing popularity as she took to her role in the spotlight.

"I think he gradually felt that he was upstaged by her, because the media took a great deal more interest in what she was wearing than in what he was talking about," Vickers said. "So if they were on the platform together, that definitely did become an issue later on."

Vickers said the Netflix series also took many liberties in the telling of events.

"Where they're very unfair in The Crown is that, for example, you know, they get engaged and then that night he goes down to Highgrove to see Camilla. No, he didn't. They had dinner with the Queen Mother, obviously, the happy couple. He did not leave for Australia the following day. Lots of things like that which they twist," he said. 

Vickers also said the episode portraying the relationship of Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth is not only untrue in its telling of historical events, but harmful.

"I think even all over the world, you know, I think it's having a very damaging effect," Vickers said. "What Peter Morgan does, which is particularly dangerous, I think, is that he starts off sometimes with a story which is more or less true. Let's take the example of Mrs. Thatcher, for example."

The plot line in question suggests that the Queen leaks a story about her disagreement with Thatcher, to the media. This was based on a real article, published in the Sunday Times in 1986, but Vickers said it did not accurately portray the sequence of events or the rift between the women.

"Suddenly [Thatcher] announces she's going to see the Queen, and ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call a general election in order to save her role as prime minister," Vickers said. 

"Well, that absolutely didn't happen, but because some of the early part did, you can get swept along with it. And it is also, you know, very well filmed. It's lavishly produced. It's very convincing. You can't … dismiss it entirely as tabloid rubbish."

At the end of the day, Vickers said he finds Season 4 to be the least accurate season of the series.

"I think it's unfair to put real living people into semi-real situations and then play around with their motives and twist the facts to fit a story which is absolutely not true," he said. "And I think that's vicious. Really, really awful." 


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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