Princess Diana's brother on 'upsetting' portrayal of their grandmother in 'The Crown'

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·Royal Correspondent
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Watch: Princess Diana’s brother blasts The Crown

Princess Diana’s brother has said the portrayal of their Scottish grandmother on The Crown was “upsetting” and suggested Netflix add a disclaimer to the series.

Charles Spencer, the current Earl Spencer, was speaking to Lorraine on ITV on Wednesday, discussing his continuing battle to defend his sister and their family two decades after her death.

Season four of The Crown covers the Royal Family and the political world during the 1980s, and includes the introduction of Diana to the royal fold.

While Emma Corrin has won plaudits for her portrayal of the late Princess of Wales, there has been criticism of the show itself for including imagined events or moments without clarity about what is true and what is not.

The show’s cast and creator have defended it as fiction.

But Earl Spencer suggested more should be done to ensure viewers know what they are watching isn’t completely true.

He told Lorraine: “I’m not a big Crown watcher to be honest. I have caught a couple of episodes in the past, I haven’t caught any of the current series, although my wife has watched it.

“I write history, I brand what I write as ‘non-fiction’, then if somebody reads something I’ve written then [they] know what they are getting.

“I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if at the beginning of each episode it stated that ‘this isn’t true but it is based around some real events’.

“Because then everyone would understand it’s drama for drama's sake and obviously Netflix wants to make a lot of money, and that’s why people are in the business of making these things.

“I worry people do think that this is gospel and that’s unfair… If we buy something in the supermarket we can look on the packet and see what we are getting. I feel very strongly.

“I’ve been thinking this for a couple years, not just with The Crown actually. I remember in the movie Titanic, the [Leonardo] DiCaprio movie, there was one of the officers on board the original true Titanic is seen behaving in a cowardly way and named and that was very upsetting to his descendants.

“What I do know with the current episode of The Crown, which I found very upsetting, is that my Scottish grandmother was portrayed in this particularly unpleasant way and that’s not what she was like.

“Do you know, my grandmother may be long gone, sadly, but she still has a daughter alive and still has 10 grandchildren alive.

“Is it fair for people to be destroyed in that way? I don’t think so really.”

Earl Spencer appeared on Lorraine on Wednesday. (ITV)
Earl Spencer appeared on Lorraine on Wednesday. (ITV)

Read more: The Crown is 'unfair and sadistic', claims BBC broadcaster Andrew Marr

Diana and Earl Spencer’s grandmother Ruth Roche, Lady Fermoy, is portrayed as a formidable woman who gives young Diana lessons in royal life in season four.

She was a close friend of the Queen Mother and part of her court. When Lady Fermoy died in 1993, obituaries reported there had been a rift between her and her granddaughter.

Earl Spencer also spoke about the criticism he has had after speaking up about the series, saying: “But for a global audience, this is a hugely globally significant series, and for any movie that does this, you know, it’s playing fast and loose with history without saying that… You just have to be honest with the consumer.

“I have actually hilariously had quite a lot of abuse on social media from Americans who think I'm saying they are ignorant. I'm not saying they are ignorant at all, I'm married to an American, so I wouldn’t dare.

“But the point is they are consuming something with the assumption it’s very, very accurate and from what I know, and I don’t know most of these scenes because I was not there, but from the bits I do know, it’s no, not accurate… As a historian it makes you even more upset.”

Over the weekend the earl appeared on Alan Titchmarsh’s show, in which he said it was conversations with American watchers of the series that concerned him because they think “they have taken a history lesson”.

CHELTENHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 03:  Diana, Princess Of Wales, Talking To Her Grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy During The National Hunt Festival At Cheltenham.  Prince Charles Is Beside Them Reading A Racing Programme.  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Diana with her grandmother Ruth, Lady Fermoy, at the National Hunt Festival. (Tim Graham Photo Library)

Read more: The Crown: All the answers to the questions you'll ask while watching season four

Earl Spencer also spoke to Lorraine about his decision to push the BBC for another investigation and apology over the interview his sister gave to Panorama 25 years ago.

The earl says Martin Bashir, who conducted the interview, used fake bank statements that convinced him to introduce the reporter to Diana.

The BBC says it has apologised for the bank statements but that their existence did not influence Diana in her decision to give the interview.

In the programme, Diana made her famous statement about Prince Charles’s infidelity, saying “there were three of us in this marriage”.

It led to the Queen telling the separated couple to divorce, which meant Diana lost her HRH status and her security.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23: Martin Bashir backstage during "X Factor Celebrity" at LH2 Studios on November 23, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Martin Bashir, here in November 2019, conducted the interview with Diana in 1995. (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Asked about why he has started this campaign 25 years after the interview, Earl Spencer said: “It’s a fair question, why wait 25 years? Well, I had formed my own opinion of the journalist some time ago and I knew what he had done to a certain extent.

“But it was only because of this anniversary that various TV production companies were looking at the real depths of what went on and they got the Freedom of Information Act that made the BBC release certain papers.

“And these were, they really shook me up, not just confirmation of what had happened behind the scenes, but also who knew and why it hadn’t come out and why it hadn’t been dealt with.

“There’s not an enormous amount I can say as the matter has gone to inquiry and my lawyers are very keen that I don’t muddy the waters.

“It’s very important for people to realise what this isn’t about, this isn’t me saying Diana should or shouldn’t have spoken. That is something separate.

“What I am saying is that, in my view, the BBC have very, very serious questions to answer on this and I was shocked and appalled.

“Do you know what? Diana always stood up for me a lot, as my elder sister, as a kid and I’m very happy to do this for her. And ultimately, if I can get an apology out of the BBC for everything they did around this then I will feel semi-vindicated.”

An investigation was opened on 18 November by the BBC, and former judge Lord Dyson was appointed to look into what happened.

Watch: Is The Crown a true story?

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