10/21/22 UPDATE: On Friday, Netflix adjusted the description underneath the YouTube trailer and on The Crown's title page on its own site. The new language says, "Inspired by real events, this fictional dramatization tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and the political and personal events that shaped her reign."
Less than three weeks out from The Crown's fifth season, Netflix has dropped a trailer for the new episodes, whose cast is led by Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana and Dominic West as Prince Charles.
The sweeping, Emmy award-winning drama, which imagines what went on behind-the-scenes at Buckingham Palace and elsewhere and recreates historic events, promises to delve into the final days of Diana and Charles's unhappy marriage — and the fallout. "The royal family is in genuine crisis," a voice says, as a newspaper leads with the headline, "Princess 'will not go quietly.'" The phrase uses Diana's actual words from the BBC interview with Martin Bashir that she sat for in 1995. We see the paparazzi's obsession with Diana, too, as they trail her, and she laments, "People will never understand how it's really been for me. I never stood a chance."
At one point, Her Royal Highness tells her son, now King Charles III, "You, as future king, have a duty."
The new clip arrived the day after actress Judi Dench, whom the late Queen Elizabeth II honored several times, including with the title of Dame in 1988, publicly called out the show for being "a hurtful account of history."
In an open letter to The Times newspaper, Dench, who has played multiple royals in her storied career and is reportedly friendly with Queen Consort Camila, called for the show to add a disclaimer stating that it was a "fictionalised drama" at the beginning. She endorsed the words of former British Prime Minister John Major, who has referred to the new season as a "barrel-load of nonsense."
"Sir John Major is not alone in his concerns that the latest series of The Crown will present an inaccurate and hurtful account of history," Dench wrote. "Given some of the wounding suggestions apparently contained in the new series — that King Charles plotted for his mother to abdicate, for example, or once suggested his mother's parenting was so deficient that she might have deserved a jail sentence — this is both cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent."
On Thursday's episode of The View, co-host Joy Behar argued that a disclaimer is unnecessary.
"This dame disagrees with Dame Judi Dench because they tell you at the top that it is not a documentary, and if you have a brain, you can figure out that the writers have used history," Behar said. "If it's documented history, then we can believe it, but we're not going to believe a conversation that's going on in the bedroom of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Nobody was there but the two of them, so you don't believe that part. But the historical part, you believe."
Netflix defended its show in a statement this week: "The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events. Series Five is a fictional dramatization, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family — one that has been scrutinized and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians."
Debicki told Variety on Tuesday that show creator Peter Morgan and others involved in making the hit show are thoughtful about its depictions, which will include Diana's tragic death in a sixth season.
"Peter and the entire crew of this job do their utmost to really handle everything with such sensitivity and truth and complexity, as do actors," she said. "The amount of research and care and conversations and dialogue that happen over, from a viewer's perspective, something probably that you would never ever notice, is just immense. From that very first meeting [with] Peter, I knew that I'd entered into this space where this was taken seriously [in] a deeply caring way."
The new season of The Crown premieres. Nov. 9 on Netflix.