It has previously been described as ‘trolling on a Hollywood scale’ – and Buckingham Palace is likely to find little comfort in the fifth series of royal drama The Crown.
It features graphic reconstructions of the most private of conversations in lascivious detail, imagined chats between Prince William and his late mother, and Princess Diana‘s infamous interview with Martin Bashir.
Last year the then Duke of Cambridge made a deeply emotional public statement asking that the Bashir interview, which was obtained through deception, should never be seen in public again. Sources have since made clear that this applies to using it for dramatic purposes too.
The Daily Mail can today reveal in detail just how far the makers of the series – and writer Peter Morgan – have gone in chasing viewers for the streaming giant Netflix.
The depiction of senior royals, particularly the then-Prince of Wales, is so relentlessly negative – and the dramatic licence used to recreate relatively recent events in their lives so great – that some scenes verge on the defamatory.
Royal insiders also point out that The Crown will air almost two months to the day after Queen Elizabeth died, on November 9, making the twisting of facts even more distasteful.
Dominic West and Olivia Williams as Charles and Camilla from the fifth series of The Crown
Royal insiders also point out that The Crown will air almost two months to the day after Queen Elizabeth, depicted above by actress Imelda Staunton for the fifth series, died
The ‘hatchet job’ on Charles
In one episode Charles is seen holding court at an invented dinner party complaining about his ‘predicament’.
He says: ‘And how does one describe being Prince of Wales? It’s hardly a job, still less a vocation. What am I? I’m just a useless ornament stuck in a waiting room gathering dust. There I go again – always a little whine with my cheese.’
He leaves the table to call Camilla Parker Bowles who, given that it is Christmas 1989, is at home with her own family.
The prince chats awkwardly with her husband Andrew, until she picks up the phone in the bedroom and the pair begin to speak, unaware that their highly intimate conversation is being illicitly recorded by, supposedly, an amateur radio ham.
Olivia Williams as Camilla and Dominic West as Charles, from season five of The Crown
Dominic West and Olivia Williams as Charles and Camilla in The Crown’s fifth season
The eavesdropper goes on, as the programme details, to sell the tape to The Daily Mirror. It was eventually published by The People newspaper, along with the audio recordings, in 1993.
The programme makers are not content to spare the King and Queen Consort with the merest reference to the incident. They insist on returning to what was cruelly dubbed ‘Tampongate’ many times in the episode – in excruciating word-for-word detail.
Footage shows a succession of figures – Princess Anne, Prince Phillip, a tearful Diana (still wearing her wedding and engagement rings), prime minister John Major, Camilla with husband Andrew and the Queen – reading the newspaper excerpts with Charles and Camilla’s voices humiliatingly echoing out as a perverse soundtrack.
A scene depicting the Queen with Prince Charles and Diana in the fifth series of The Crown
Although Diana is shown by the programme makers looking ‘crushed’ by the experience, her former bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, said in 2017 that she actually revelled in her husband’s embarrassment as she attempted to build a new life, declaring it ‘Game, set and match’.
Philip is also shown to be furious and demands a family meeting in which he tells his son how ashamed he is of him – an entirely dramatic invention.
Charles is also seen throughout the ten-episode series as a divisive figure, repeatedly being negative about a committee known as ‘The Way Ahead’ group of senior family members and advisers to formulate plans in the wake of one of the most damaging periods in royal history.
He is also seen being derogative about his mother to prime minister Tony Blair to curry favour with him in another dramatic invention.
The series recreates Charles’ notorious television interview with Jonathan Dimbleby in 1994, designed to show him as a progressive future monarch, but which was dominated by his confession of adultery.
Camilla is shown watching it with her husband Andrew, before he storms out of the room.
She is later – erroneously – shown moving out of the family home while the Press heckle outside.
The prince is also depicted as an uncaring father and tells Diana to stop ‘smothering’ William when he starts at Eton, saying: ‘You don’t have to make such a fuss of him.’
Philip and Penny
The relationship between the late Duke of Edinburgh and his close friend, aristocrat Penny Knatchbull, is at the centre of one significant plot.
It even depicts Prince Philip asking the Queen if she can publicly embrace the elegant blonde wife of his godson, Norton, to show that all is well between the two women.
Subsequent meetings are, however, depicted as being frosty, with the Queen privately in tears.
While it is true that Penny, now Countess Mountbatten of Burma, was so much a part of Philip’s life that staff nicknamed her ‘And Also’ – because his guest lists always ended with ‘and also Penny’ – the two women were actually extremely fond of each other.
The relationship between the late Duke of Edinburgh and his close friend, aristocrat Penny Knatchbull, is at the centre of one significant plot
Indeed, when Philip was in a serious accident in 2019, the Queen dispatched Penny to Norfolk to encourage him to surrender his driver’s licence.
She was one of 30 mourners invited to the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, was given a front row seat at his long-awaited memorial service – and also attended the Queen’s own funeral in September.
Other scenes show Philip and Penny visiting the grave of her daughter Leonora, who died of cancer aged just five.
Philip was a great source of comfort to the family at such a difficult time and they are understood to be greatly distressed about the inclusion of her death in the programme.
Bashir interview recreated
Last year Prince William gave a rare on-camera statement blaming Martin Bashir’s 1995 BBC Panorama interview with his mother for fuelling her ‘fear, paranoia and isolation’ and worsening his parents’ relationship.
He expressed his ‘indescribable sadness’ at the BBC’s failings in allowing it to be obtained by fraudulent means, which he says ‘contributed significantly’ to his mother’s state of mind in her final year.
He concluded: ‘It is my firm view that this Panorama programme holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again’ and urged any media organisation looking to re-visit it to think again.
The series also recreates significant portions of the interview – with both real and invented dialogue – including the by now infamous comment about there being ‘three of us in this marriage’
But Netflix have put the entire shameful event at the heart of not one but two episodes.
It shows Bashir convincing his BBC bosses to let him ‘throw his hat in the ring’ and chase an interview with Diana, as well as forging bank documents to convince both the princess and her brother, Earl Spencer, that their staff were being paid by the media and security services for information on them.
Bashir, after meeting Diana personally and feeding her paranoia with tales of how the Establishment is out to get her, is shown swaggering back to the BBC telling his bosses: ‘I tell you, she’s desperate to talk, desperate.
‘She opens her mouth and hand grenades come out. She wants to tear down the temple. I think she’s got a thing for me.’
Later, in a particularly dramatic scene, Diana can be seen driving her Audi convertible when the brakes fail.
The scene is a reference to her tragic belief at the time that members of the Royal Family were out to kill her – something that fed into her decision to speak to Bashir – which will clearly prove distressing to her family.
Bashir, after meeting Diana personally and feeding her paranoia with tales of how the Establishment is out to get her, is shown swaggering back to the BBC telling his bosses: ‘I tell you, she’s desperate to talk, desperate’
A pensive Elizabeth Debicki as Diana, Princess of Wales in The Crown
Although Diana is shown by the programme makers looking ‘crushed’ by the experience, her former bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, said in 2017 that she actually revelled in her husband’s embarrassment as she attempted to build a new life, declaring it ‘Game, set and match’
Footage depicting the run up to the interview flicks to William at Eton, going about his day unprepared for what us about to be unleashed.
Scenes also show him with his grandmother, the Queen, at Windsor Castle and looking mortified when his mother rings to ask for a meeting with the Queen to inform her of what she has done – another flight of fantasy by the programme-makers.
Diana later tells her mother-in-law: ‘I felt the need to clear a few things up about my marriage… about the fact I’ve so often been shut out and left to cope on my own and that I’ve suffered from a lack of sympathy and feeling and compassion.’
The Queen replies uncaringly: ‘Oh honestly, it’s a like a broken record… Haven’t we heard all this before a thousand times?’
She even goes on to tell her daughter-in-law – in a meeting that never actually happened, according to contemporaneous sources – that she still wants her to be Queen one day, saying: ‘The enemy you imagine I am, the hostility you imagine we all feel is a figment of your imagination.
‘All any of us want, Diana, is for you to be happy and one day to be our next queen.’
The series also recreates significant portions of the interview including the by now infamous comment about there being ‘three of us in this marriage’.
William, just 13 then, is shown alone at Windsor, watching his mother on television. In fact he was taken under the wing of his sympathetic housemaster, Andrew Gailey, and they viewed it together.
Diana’s doomed romance with Hasnat Khan, a respected heart surgeon, is recreated in excoriating detail.
The trouble is that only two people knew what happened between them – and Mr Khan has never spoken to the makers of The Crown.
The princess tells him that she finds it ‘unexpectedly sexy’ when he talks about his love of junk food, and says she would like to live in Pakistan.
When he tells her she might find life there too challenging, she says: ‘You think the family I married into is any different? I was instructed to dress modestly, speak in a low voice and walk one pace behind my husband and address him always as sir.
‘I was discouraged from expressing opinions or having an education and I had to make a vow that I was a virgin before being considered fit to marry him.’
As they kiss she says: ‘You forget I already had a prince. He broke my heart. I’m just looking for a frog to make me happy.’
It also shows her calling William at Eton to tell him about her ‘new friend’, with the embarrassed prince telling his mother that she is making life hard for him and hanging up.
The uncaring royals (again)
In a flashback, the Queen’s ancestor King George V is approached by the then-prime minister Lloyd George who offers to provide a ship to rescue his cousins, the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, and bring them to Britain in 1917.
He will not do it, he says, without the king’s support.
The Queen’s grandfather asks his wife, Queen Mary, what she thinks: the answer is a firm no, with the Queen adding sniffly: ‘It’s possible one might come to regret it.’
The episode then shows the entire Romanoff family being brutally executed while George is out shooting and uncaring Mary is walking her dog,
While historians believe George V could have played a more effective role in trying to help his Russian relatives, he was known to have written to them expressing concern for their welfare.
And some believe the king had no choice but to deny them safe sanctuary in the UK due to political unrest.
Camilla – and the imaginary meeting with the spin doctor
Camilla is seen meeting with Charles’ then PR chief, Mark Bolland – bizarrely at a house in north London – and discussing whether she would ever be Queen if she were to marry the Prince of Wales.
The then Mrs Parker Bowles is depicted referring to ‘the Q word’ and says it is ‘treasonous to even contemplate it’ – all, oddly, while watching her car being clamped in a clumsy metaphor for the ordinariness of her current life.
She adds: ‘I think if we were to marry, I could actually be some use to him. I know how to make the Prince of Wales happy which he deserves and do a better job which the country deserves.’
Former aides have said this was a subject the Queen Consort always refused to discuss.
Sources say while she would have had limited conservations with the spin doctor, the meeting is an invention.
Elizabeth Debicki as Diana, Princess of Wales appearing in the fifth season of the streaming website’s show, The Crown
The post-divorce dissection
In another fictitious scene at the end of the series, Charles unexpectedly turns up to Diana’s apartment at Kensington Palace after their divorce terms have finally been concluded.
He starts to flirt with her, complementing her on how ‘beautiful’ she looks – and says she still blushes ‘like the very first time’.
Diana makes him a ham omelette as they sit down to discuss her romantic entanglements before Charles suggests a heartfelt discussion of why their marriage failed.
The scene is even hammier than the soggy mess he is eating, and – needless to say – never actually happened.
Prince of Wales looks stoic in first public appearance since The Crown confirmed its new series will cover Princess Diana’s bombshell interview with Martin Bashir – despite William’s pleas for it never to be aired again
Prince William was focused on the task at hand as he visited Hampton Court Palace this evening in his first public appearance since The Crown confirmed its new series will show Princess Diana‘s infamous Panorama interview with Martin Bashir.
The Prince of Wales attended the annual Tusk Conservation Awards, of which he is patron, after Netflix dropped the trailer for series five of the fictionalised royal drama which included a tease of the 1995 interview – which William had previously asked media outlets never to air again.
Describing the BBC interview as ‘unethical’, he claimed it triggered the events that caused his mother to lose her life two years later. Despite fans of the show initially thinking just a few seconds of the interview would be depicted, it has now been reported that it will instead be shortened to a four-minute and 23-second segment.
This evening the Prince of Wales, 40, looked focused as he attended the event in a display of stoicism as he carries out his royal duty. Wearing a black tuxedo with a shiny black bow-tie and a poppy on his lapel ahead of Remembrance Day on 11 November, he was professional as ever.
The Prince of Wales (pictured) looked stoic and focused on the task at hand as he attended the annual Tusk Conservation Awards at Hampton Court Palace this evening after it was confirmed The Crown will show an interview he hoped would never be aired again
William, 40, showed professionalism and commitment to royal duties as he appeared focused despite the Netflix show confirming it would show four minutes of Princess Diana’s 1995 interview with Martin Bashir, which the Prince of Wales has since blasted as ‘unethical’
After helping to launch the ceremony in 2013, the father-of-three has continued to work with Tusk as it celebrates the work of conservation leaders and wildlife rangers in Africa.
This year, awards alumni from across Africa will come together to attend the event in London, including Benson Kanyembo, a Law Enforcement Advisor at Conservation South Luangwa in Zambia, who helped to reduce elephant mortality rates by 66% between 2018-2020.
Another guest of honour is Edward Ndiritu, the Head of Anti-Poaching at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, who has sustained a poaching level of near zero for seven years and counting across the Lewa landscape.
Other guests at the star-studded awards ceremony included Dragons Den businesswoman Deborah Meaden, journalist Kate Silverton and William’s cousin, Peter Phillips.
The Prince of Wales shook hands with Michael Attenborough, nephew of environmentalist and TV presenter Sir David Attenborough, as he arrived at the Awards Ceremony
Prince William, 40, was professional as ever on the red carpet as he attended the annual awards ceremony after he first helped to found Tusk in 2013
Despite a royal expert claiming William would likely be ‘furious’ about The Crown revelations earlier today, the Prince of Wales seemed optimistic about the evening ahead
William looked suave in a black tuxedo with a shiny black bow tie and a poppy on his lapel ahead of Remembrance Day on 11 November
Earlier today it was reported series five of The Crown, which will depict the 1990s and the split between Prince William’s parents, will show a four-minute long dramatisation of Diana’s infamous BBC Panorama interview, which the Prince of Wales has since described as ‘unethical’
As the Prince of Wales approached guests on the red carpet he appeared jovial, allowing himself to get excited about the evening’s events, which will celebrate conservation work
William looked ready for businedd as he clasped his hands together while chatting to guests on the red carpet ahead of the awards ceremony
Prince William’s cousin, Peter Phillips, attended the annual Tusk Conservation Awards at Hampton Court Palace, in his first appearance since his brother-in-law Mike Tindall was confirmed in the line up for the new series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Peter Phillips (pictured) is the brother of Zara Phillips and the son of Princess Anne, making him the Prince of Wales’s first cousin
Princess Anne’s son, 44, made his first public appearance since his brother-in-law Mike Tindall was confirmed in the line-up for the new series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here following weeks of speculation.
As the Prince of Wales remained professional while carrying out his charitable duty, royal commentator Ingrid Seaward told The Sun he is likely to be ‘furious’ about the revelations regarding the depiction of his late mother’s interview in the new series of The Crown.
The Majesty Magazine editor-in-chief told the newspaper: ‘[William] said his piece when he said it should never be aired again. This is his mother and her memory they are doing this to.
‘They should have listened to him. The interview has no credibility after the investigation. Everyone knows it has no legitimacy now.
‘Charles will think they can say whatever they want about him but leave Harry and William out of it. He won’t give a stuff about how he comes across but just don’t attack his sons this way.’
The newspaper also reported that scenes will show Prince William watching the interview on TV while in his Eton uniform while Charles will be seen shouting and sobbing as she casts doubts on his ability to be King.
After carrying out an investigation into how Martin Bashir secured the 1995 interview, in which Diana famously declared there had been ‘three people’ in her marriage, Lord Dyson concluded the journalist had ‘acted inappropriately’ in securing the interview by mocking up fake bank statements and showing them to Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer in order to get access to her.
Reacting to Lord Dyson’s damning report into how the original interview was obtained, Prince William made a televised statement which was deeply critical of The BBC.
He said: ‘It is welcome that the BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full – which are extremely concerning – that BBC employees: lied and used fake documents to obtain the interview with my mother; made lurid and false claims about the Royal Family which played on her fears and fuelled paranoia; displayed woeful incompetence when investigating complaints and concerns about the programme; and were evasive in their reporting to the media and covered up what they knew from their internal investigation.’