While the historical drama has been much dissected since its 2016 premiere for its dramatic interpretations of the royal family, the current fourth season has sparked the most debates and headlines.
Set in the ‘80s, the series now focuses on the widely publicized marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, as well as the 11-year tenure of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which transformed and divided Britain.
Diana passed away in 1997 at age 36 from injuries she sustained in a Paris car crash. Thatcher died in 2013 at age 87.
“I really think it’s somewhat of a travesty in my honest opinion,” the co-founder and editor-in-chief of True Royalty TV told Fox News. “The fabrication is quite unbelievable. Look, clearly it’s based on real people and some of those events happened, but the gaps in between aren’t based on fact.”
“I think that’s why so many people were shocked by it and even Britain’s culture minister was asking for a disclaimer,” he shared. “I think people need to understand that this is drama much of what you saw probably never happened.”
Bullen has been making programs about the royal family for nearly 20 years and has worked closely with Prince Charles for eight. True Royalty TV, a streaming service that offers documentaries and other programming focused on the royals, currently has a special edition of its bi-weekly talk show, “The Royal Beat,” called “The Truth Behind ‘The Crown’” available for viewing on streaming outlets such as Roku and AppleTV as well as online.
Bullen said that several sources who work in the royal household have told him that they’re “really appalled” at how the Charles, 72, is being depicted. He pointed out that the palace had to restrict comments on the Twitter page for the Prince of Wales and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall after numerous users began posting abusive comments.
It is believed the negative comments were aimed at Camilla, now 73. In “The Crown,” Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Camilla (Emerald Fennell) continue to have a romantic relationship despite being married to other people. In real life, the pair went on to marry in 2005.
“I think one misconception people still have around Charles and Diana is that there wasn’t any real love in the early stages of the marriage,” Bullen explained. “… The people I know who were there in the early days of the marriage still insist that there was real, genuine love there.”
“There’s a scene in ‘The Crown’ where they go to Australia for a royal tour and the wheels come off in the relationship,” Bullen continued. “I know people who were on that trip who said, ‘Charles was literally patting Diana’s bum.’ They were very flirtatious with each other. They were clearly a couple in love. There was very real love at one point. And they were faithful to each other for a significant portion of the marriage. It was only when the marriage broke down that they both started looking for comfort elsewhere.”
In 1994, Charles admitted in a television documentary that he tried to be “faithful and honorable” when he married Diana in 1981, the New York Times reported.
“Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried,” the heir to the British throne added.
According to the outlet, Charles and Diana were estranged and separated since December 1991. They divorced in 1996, a year before Diana’s death.
“Charles definitely gave up Camilla [at the beginning of the marriage], whereas ‘The Crown’ suggests that he never did,” said Bullen. “It all felt one-note. Diana was a complex woman, but she was depicted as simply a victim. Those that knew her say she was so much more than that.”
Bullen also took issue with the way Charles’ father, Prince Philip, was portrayed in season four.
“That last scene where Philip appears to threaten Diana? It’s just ludicrous,” said Bullen. “Philip really tried to help Diana even at the end. He knew better than most what it was like to marry into the most famous family in the world. He really tried to support Diana as much as he could. If you read Diana’s letters to Philip where she calls him ‘dearest pa,’ you get a sense there was this sense of warmth between (them). Those who know Philip have always said he was very fond of her and tried his best to help Diana before her marriage broke apart.”
Bullen said that Charles and Camilla “have spent decades” working on their fractured reputation as a royal couple. As for the duchess, Bullen said she has been “incredibly aware” of her role and has been devoted to her royal duties.
“She works very quietly and away from the public,” said Bullen. “She lets Charles be the star of the show. I know people who work with her and they’re hugely fond of her. She’s very passionate about her roles in a charity that works with victims of sexual and domestic abuse.”
“She’s been incredibly effective with them here in the U.K. and those who work with her say she has made a huge difference,” he continued. “She’s very hands-on with them, which you don’t expect from a royal. But nobody ever talks about this because she doesn’t seek publicity. I think she’s been incredibly good to the Prince of Wales. ‘The Crown’ has just become a distraction.”
Despite the backlash that Charles and Camilla have faced, Bullen acknowledged that “The Crown” has made the British royal family incredibly popular among younger viewers. He hopes the series will encourage them to “seek out the truth,” as opposed to solely accepting the episodes as history lessons.
“I would have liked to have seen a more well-rounded story,” said Bullen. “Charles is played as this villain, Camilla is the mistress who wants to run off with a married prince, and Diana is the princess in a tower who becomes a victim of a tough establishment. These were complex, living people with complex, real-life situations. And you simply can’t capture all of that in a few hours.”
Former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter previously called “The Crown” a “hatchet job” on Charles and Diana. Arbiter has also accused the series of “stretching dramatic license to the extreme,” The Hollywood Reporter shared.
Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, has also said the show should carry a notice that “this isn’t true but it is based around some real events.”
“I worry people do think that this is gospel and that’s unfair,” the 56-year-old told broadcaster ITV.
Netflix has since rejected calls from British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to add a disclaimer to the series that states it is a work of fiction. The streaming giant said the show is presented in enough context.
“We have always presented ‘The Crown’ as a drama — and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events,” according to a statement released by Netflix.
“As a result, we have no plans — and see no need — to add a disclaimer.”
“The Crown” creator Peter Morgan, whose work also includes recent-history dramas “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon,” has defended his work, saying it is thoroughly researched and true in spirit.
In a 2017 discussion of “The Crown,” Morgan said, “you sometimes have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.”
Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, said the suggestion that “The Crown” carry a disclaimer was “reasonable and yet pointless.”
“The Royal Beat: Top 10 Royal Moments of 2020” premieres Dec. 21 on True Royalty TV.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.