U.K. Culture Secretary Wants Netflix to Tell Viewers 'The Crown' Is a 'Work of Fiction'

The Culture Secretary joins Princess Diana's brother in saying that Netflix should add a warning to viewers of The Crown

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana The Crown
Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown. Photo: Netflix

The Crown is continuing to attract high-level controversy in the wake of its season 4 depiction of the relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

The U.K. government’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has now stepped into the debate, saying Netflix should make it clear that the show is a drama based on the lives of real people.

“It's a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that,” Dowden told The Mail on Sunday. “Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

Diana’s brother, Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, agrees that a warning for viewers is needed. He told a U.K. morning show last week that Netflix and the producers should be “honest with the consumer.”

“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,’ he said on the Lorraine show on ITV. “Because then everyone would understand it’s drama for drama's sake.”

Emma Corrin; Princess Diana
Emma Corrin; Princess Diana. Des Willie/Netflix; Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Spencer added, “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 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," he continued.

Spencer says he is “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.”

He also has his issues with how his grandmother Ruth, Lady Fermoy is characterized in the show's fourth season.

“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 ten grandchildren alive. Is it fair for people to be destroyed in that way? I don’t think so really," he said.

princess diana, <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-charles/" data-inlink="true">prince charles</a>
Emma Corrin and Josh O'Connor on The Crown. Des Willie/Netflix

A source close to the palace told PEOPLE that the family “isn’t hugely concerned” about the show. They have had to weather more intense storms and controversies than this, the source suggests.

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Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall aren’t watching The Crown – Charles especially doesn’t watch much television, though he does like Poldark, which is set in the Cornish countryside.

A spokesman for the couple had no comment.

The Queen's grandson-in-law, Mike Tindall, who is married to Princess Anne's daughter Zara Tindall, confessed that he's watching the Netflix drama during an episode of his podcast — but revealed that's he's not caught up on season four.

"I need to catch up," the former rugby pro said. "I actually saw the advert for it and I was like, 'Ooh, I need to catch up.' Because I only got about halfway through season three, so I started watching season three last night and then I'll catch up. But I've seen it all over the place, and on these popular midday TV shows."

Emma Corrin; Princess Diana
Emma Corrin and Princess Diana. Des Willie/Netflix; Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The Crown creator and writer Peter Morgan recently admitted on the show's official podcast that he had taken some license with the facts. In one key moment, Charles's mentor and great uncle Lord Mountbatten wrote a letter accusing the prince of bringing "ruin and disappointment" to the family — and insists he finds "some sweet and innocent well-tempered girl with no past" to marry. The letter is received by Charles only after Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.

"I made up in my head — whether it's right or wrong — what we know is that Mountbatten was really responsible for taking Charles to one side at precisely this point and saying, 'Look, you know, enough already with playing the field. It's time you got married and it's time you provided an heir,' " Morgan said.

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