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How Accurate Is Netflix's The Crown Season 5?

Contains spoilers for "The Crown" Season 5

Season 5 of "The Crown" premiered on Netflix on November 9, 2022, and before the first minute could be streamed by the masses, claims of historical inaccuracy within the show made headlines (per The Guardian). For what it's worth, this series has always had to initiate a certain amount of artistic license in how it depicts British royal history. There is simply no way to know how private conversations between members of the U.K.'s royals and various government officials transpired over the decades. But the 5th installment of the drama takes an insightful and probing look at the 1990s, which is the decade Prince Charles (played by Dominic West) and Diana, Princess of Wales (played by Elizabeth Debicki) ended their marriage before her tragic death. Therefore, the events depicted are easily memorable for many viewers.

At its heart, "The Crown" has always been about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who went on to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Seasons 1 and 2 of the program depicted the early years of the Queen's tenure as the U.K.'s head of state, with Claire Foy playing her before the show transitioned to Olivia Colman on the throne for Seasons 3 and 4. Now with Imelda Staunton in the lead and a new cast in place, the modern flare of the series naturally begs the question of just how accurate Season 5 really is.

Some say that The Crown portrays real people inaccurately

Some reviews for Season 5 of "The Crown" have cited the lack of compassion the tone of the program takes to the turbulent royal events of the 1990s. This can also be a case of the show's handling of real history, which is the stance that many critics of the series are taking. Dickie Arbiter, an author and Queen Elizabeth II's former press secretary, shared his outrage at the new season with The Metro UK. The royal commentator stated that the show is "dramatic license gone berserk" before telling the publication, "It's particularly unfair as many of the royal family who are depicted in 'The Crown' have passed and so can't counter untruths. It's fake history on real characters."

This falls in line with earlier statements from British actress Judi Dench and former British Prime Minister John Major (who is depicted by actor Johnny Lee Miller in Season 5), both of whom called for a disclaimer to be added to the program. Suggestions within the show that Charles lobbied the prime minister to ask his mother to abdicate the throne are no doubt baffling for many to hear, especially in light of the Queen's literal commitment to reign as head of state until her dying moment. But what is also confusing to some reviewers of Season 5 is how certain '90s scandals are depicted in the show, whereas others are left out.

Pivotal moments were left out of Season 5

For royal fans, it may also come across as puzzling that Season 5 of "The Crown" chooses to focus on some royal scandals in the 1990s and disregard others. Prince Charles' leaked phone conversation with Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams) known as "Tampongate" is depicted, but Diana's earlier leaked phone conversation with a former lover, which became known as "Squidgygate" is not explored at all (via Vanity Fair). The new installment also seems to suggest that Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce) confronted and warned Diana not to publish a book about her life in 1992, in addition to the late Princess of Wales telling the monarch in person about her bombshell interview with Martin Bashir (Prasanna Puwanarajah) before it aired in 1995, neither of which is likely accurate to real life (per People).

Despite the controversy,  the showrunner's creative license and the fact that the program is a dramatization of past historical events, even as early as 20 to 30 years ago, is blatantly apparent. While at the London premiere of the 5th season at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Claudia Harrison (Princess Anne) was asked about fictional alerts being added to episodes and replied, "I think it's a dangerous area to get into when we whack disclaimers on art" (via The Irish Times). The actress then pointed out how creator Peter Morgan is an exceptional dramatist and how content repudiations could possibly patronize a viewer's intelligence.