John Major: The Crown is a barrel-load of malicious nonsense
Sir John Major has attacked The Crown as a “damaging and malicious fiction” and “a barrel-load of nonsense” amid fears the Netflix series could damage the King’s reputation.
The comments from the former Conservative prime minister will put pressure on the US streaming giant to attach a warning notice at the beginning of the forthcoming fifth series to make clear that parts of the script are a work of fiction.
There were similar calls for a “health warning” from Oliver Dowden, the then culture secretary, after the fourth series of The Crown caused controversy when Netflix started to air it in November 2020.
The concern in political circles is that as the series goes closer to the present, it will have the ability to inflict significant damage to the new King and his reputation so soon after the Queen’s death.
Sir John, who was prime minister from 1990 to 1997, was moved to issue a statement amid suggestions in Westminster that the series - released on Nov 9 - imagines conversations between him and the late Queen.
There have been rumours that one of the plotlines sees the Prince of Wales, as he then was, summoning Sir John to a meeting and hinting that he wants his support for the Queen’s abdication.
A second plotline is said to imagine conversations about the Queen and Royal family, in which Sir John talks about them in disparaging terms to his wife Dame Norma.
Sir John has never disclosed any of the nature of the discussions he held with the late Queen at their weekly audiences, although part of one audience was captured in a fly-on-the-wall documentary in 1993.
In a statement on Saturday night, a spokesman for Sir John said: “Sir John has not cooperated – in any way – with The Crown. Nor has he ever been approached by them to fact-check any script material in this or any other series.
“Discussions between the monarch and prime minister are entirely private and – for Sir John – will always remain so.”
Scenes featuring imagined conversations with the late monarch were “fiction, pure and simple”.
The reported plotlines, which are said to feature imagined dialogue between Sir John and the late Queen, should be “seen as nothing other than damaging and malicious fiction” and “a barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false – dramatic impact”.
On the specific rumours about the storylines, the spokesman added: “There was never any discussion between Sir John and the then Prince of Wales about any possible abdication of the late Queen Elizabeth II – nor was such an improbable and improper subject ever raised by the then Prince of Wales (or Sir John).”
The spokesman added that Sir John and Dame Norma had never discussed the Royal family in disparaging terms. adding that “has never been their view, never would be their view, and never will be their view”.
On Friday, The Telegraph disclosed how the Prince of Wales believes Netflix is profiteering from his mother's BBC Panorama interview, which has since been disowned by the BBC over the way Diana, Princess of Wales was persuaded to take part.
Prince William has said the interview should “never be aired again”. He said last year that it held no legitimacy and had established a false narrative commercialised by the BBC and others for more than 25 years.
On Saturday night, The Telegraph approached Netflix for comment.
In the past, Netflix has made clear that it is a dramatic series and has never sought to portray it as a documentary.