Crown fans make Mrs Thatcher portrait an unlikely online hit

Robert Dex
·2-min read
<p>Gillian Anderson as Mrs Thatcher in The Crown</p> (Des Willie/Netflix)

Gillian Anderson as Mrs Thatcher in The Crown

(Des Willie/Netflix)

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is proving an unlikely hit of the National Portrait Gallery’s online collection – and curators think the new series of The Crown could be responsible.

Fans of the royal drama, which stars Gillian Anderson as the pioneering politician, appear to have been logging on to the site in their thousands to see a formal portrait of Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet which took office in 1979 as depicted in the show making it one of the 10 most viewed pictures in the last six months of 2020.

Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet in 1979 and as depicted in The CrownHulton Archive/Getty Images/Netflix
Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet in 1979 and as depicted in The CrownHulton Archive/Getty Images/Netflix

A significant number of the other most popular images have a royal theme with portraits of Meghan and Harry and another of Princess Margaret also attracting thousands of views.

A spokeswoman for the gallery, which is currently closed for refurbishment ahead of a planned opening in 2023, said: “We do not have a way of tracking why people have viewed specific portraits but we can see from the timings that it is often linked to current events and popular films, television programmes and books, such as the portrait of Margaret Thatcher and the Cabinet, which was recreated in an episode of The Crown and had a sharp increase in views around the launch of series in November 2020.”

The latest series of the Netflix show, which stars Olivia Colman as the Queen, Helena Bonham Carter as her sister Margaret and Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin as Charles and Diana has been another huge hit but has not been without controversy.

Gillian Anderson as Mrs Thatcher in The CrownSophie Mutevelian/Netflix
Gillian Anderson as Mrs Thatcher in The CrownSophie Mutevelian/Netflix

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden asked Netflix to add a disclaimer to the show making clear it was a work of fiction but the US broadcasting giant refused.

O’Connor defended the show, saying the request was “outrageous” but Bonham Carter said programme makers had a “moral responsibility” to make it clear it was a drama.

Among the plot lines being criticised was one where Diana, played by Corrin, has a furious row with Royal insiders when she is told she’ll be separated from the young Prince William while on a tour of Australia.

In fact the couple were prepared to leave William in the UK and only agreed to take him after the Australian Prime Minister suggested it.

It’s treatment of the Thatcher government has also been criticised with the show moving events around so the Prime Minister’s son Mark is shown going missing during the Paris-Dakar rally as the Falklands War erupts when in fact it happened months before.

It also falsely claimed Mrs Thatcher appealed to the Queen to help her when she began to lose the support of her party.