Watch: First teaser released for The Crown season 5
Buckingham Palace has moved to protect the reputation of the King as Netflix prepares to dramatise the “all out war” of his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales in a new series of The Crown.
The bitter divorce of the then Prince and Princess of Wales will be the centrepiece of the 10-part series, which airs on November 9, just two months into the King’s reign.
A trailer released at the weekend shows Charles, played by Dominic West, and Diana, played by Elizabeth Debicki, preparing for explosive TV interviews about their relationship.
The timing of its release could not have been worse for the King, whose popularity has surged since he became monarch, as it will remind viewers of the darkest years of his life, when he was the least popular member of the Royal family.
The clip, which sets the tone for the new series, includes the voice of a fictional TV reporter describing their actions as “all out war”.
A senior royal source stressed on Sunday that The Crown is “a drama not a documentary” in the first sign of a push back against what will be uncomfortable viewing for the Palace.
Netflix decided not to delay the release of the fifth series, despite the death of Queen Elizabeth, whose “annus horribilis” in 1992 will be covered by the new episodes. It was the year in which Windsor Castle partly burnt down and both Prince Charles and Prince Andrew separated from their wives and the Princess Royal divorced Mark Phillips.
A spokesman for the streaming giant said the series had been completed before the Queen’s death and that no changes to it had been made.
The series will cover the events of the 1990s, beginning with the start of Sir John Major’s premiership and ending with Sir Tony Blair’s election as his successor. The then Prince of Wales’s interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, in which he admitted to committing adultery with the then Camilla Parker Bowles, and the Princess’s infamous Panorama interview will both be dramatised, but the death of Diana, Princess of Wales will be covered by the sixth and final series.
A friend of the King described the drama as “exploitative” and said Netflix would have “no qualms about mangling people’s reputations”, even the late Queen’s. The source added: “What people forget is that there are real human beings and real lives at the heart of this.”
The King has never watched The Crown or passed comment on it, but the Queen Consort does watch it and made light of her own portrayal on screen by inviting Emerald Fennell, who plays her on screen, to an International Women’s Day reception at Clarence House earlier this year.
Royal aides believe the King and the Queen Consort will be better able to counter the portrayal of themselves in The Crown now that they have higher profile roles.
Worldwide interest in the couple will be higher than it has been for decades after billions of people watched Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
One well-placed source said: “You will see the King and the Queen Consort on state business in the UK and abroad and people will have more of an opportunity to compare the real people with the fiction they see in The Crown.
“In the past they didn’t get so much coverage, so in that sense it was harder for people to be able to compare and contrast the drama with the reality.”
The late Queen in the new series will be played by Imelda Staunton, who takes over the role previously played by Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman. Prince Philip will be played by Jonathan Pryce and Princess Margaret will be played by Lesley Manville.