Morning View: Makers of royal TV dramas should show sensitivity

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Morning View
News Letter Morning View on Wednesday October 19

The Netflix series, The Crown, led to an upsurge of interest in the Royal Family and its private life. While many of the scenes portrayed the Queen and her relatives in a human and sympathetic light, there were others that presented rumours and gossip as facts, or invented unflattering incidents from the recent past.

The fifth series of the programme is about to be screened and already it is mired in controversy. It reportedly includes scenes that show King Charles, who was then the Prince of Wales, plotting to replace the Queen prematurely. Sir John Major, who is also portrayed in the forthcoming shows, describes this as “malicious nonsense”.

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There will always be a desire to see dramas based on real-life, relatively recent events, that may involve people who are still alive or have surviving relatives. Television companies will inevitably satisfy this appetite, but it can have hurtful and pernicious effects.

The makers of The Crown were quick to point out that series five “is a fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors”. But the programme will certainly affect how a significant number of people see the King, and John Major, and other figures who are featured.

The latest series is also set to turn its fictional lens on the Queen’s relationship with the Duke of Edinburgh, speculating that the couple drifted apart during the 1990s.

Of course, the Royal Family is used to being public property, and subject to all kinds of tell-all books, documentaries and so on, without any serious right of reply. We’ve seen recently that it is a robust institution that commands the loyalty and affection of our nation.

It will withstand whatever The Crown throws at it, but we should still expect the programme makers to show sensitivity.