How accurate is The Crown? What did John Major say about season 5, is there any truth to Netflix royal series

Netflix has added a disclaimer to marketing of The Crown series 5, calling it a ‘fictionalised dramatisation inspired by real-life events’

Netflix came under fire in recent months for its representation of hit historical drama The Crown as a historically accurate series. In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, actors including Dame Judi Dench called on Netflix to add a disclaimed to the show, which the company has now done.

Whilst based on the real lives of senior members of the royal family including the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Camilla, as well as former British Prime Ministers, Netflix has accepted that the season five is not totally historically accurate. Last month John Major, who is a major focus of the latest season, spoke about the accuracy of the series.

Jonny Lee Miller as John Major in The Crown season 5Jonny Lee Miller as John Major in The Crown season 5
Jonny Lee Miller as John Major in The Crown season 5

Is The Crown a true story?

The Crown is based on the true story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and the lives of her family and the senior statemesmen she worked with over her long reign. The first series followed her, then played by Claire Foy as she ascended to the throne. The second season followed the Queen through the Suez crisis and the birth of her youngest children, Andrew and Edward, and season three saw the Queen, played by Olivia Colman work with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and struggle with family tragedy.

Major events covered in season four included the Falklands conflict, Princess Diana’s relationship with Prince Charles, and the Buckingham Palace intruder Michael Fagan. In season five, Imelda Staunton plays the Queen, and the show covers the breakdown of Diana and Charles’s relationship as well as the fire at Windsor Castle.

The events explored in the series happened in recent history, but most of the dialogue is a work of fiction, with many conversations created for dramatic effect. In fact, as the conversations between the Queen and the Prime Minister are treated with stricted confidence, we will never know what they reallt discussed.

What did John Major say about The Crown season 5?

Trainspotting star Jonny Lee Miller plays Conservative Prime Minister John Major in season five of The Crown - one episode features a discussion between him and Prince Charles about the Queen abdicating so that Charles can ascend to the throne early.

John Major attends the funeral of Queen Elizabeth IIJohn Major attends the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II
John Major attends the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

In October, a spokesperson for Major said: “Sir John has not co-operated – in any way – with The Crown. Nor has he ever been approached by them to fact check any script material in this or any other series.

“Discussions between the Monarch and Prime Minister are entirely private and – for Sir John – will always remain so. But not one of the scenes you depict are accurate – in any way whatsoever. They are fiction, pure and simple. There was never any discussion between Sir John and the then Prince of Wales about any possible abdication of the late Queen Elizabeth II – nor was such an improbable and improper subject ever raised by the then Prince of Wales (or Sir John).

“Neither Sir John nor Dame Norma have discussed the Monarchy remotely in the terms you suggest in your email. What you report as depicted in the script has never been their view, never would be their view, and never will be their view.

“Thus, if the scenes you describe are broadcast, they should be seen as nothing other than damaging and malicious fiction. A barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false – dramatic impact.”

What did Jason Watkins say about The Crown?

In 2021 Jason Watkins, who played Prime Minister Harold Wilson alongside Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth II in season four, spoke on That Gaby Roslin Podcast about the show’s accuracy. He said: “There’s lots of talk about how accurate it is. As far as my understanding is, it’s very accurate with a little dramatic licence along the way. It’s depth the audience want to know about, not just a Madame Tussaud’s presentation of that world.”

Why has Netflix added a disclaimer to The Crown

Calls for the streaming platform to add a disclaimed to the series go back years - in 2020, then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden called for a disclaimer to be added to the show saying that it was a work of fiction. At the time Netflix said it had "no plans - and sees no need" to add a disclaimer to explain it is a work of fiction.

In the wake of the Queen’s death in September this year, support for a disclaimer intensified and Netflix eventually acquiesced. The official Netflix synopsis for the full show now reads: “Inspired by real events, this fictional dramatization tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and the political and personal events that shaped her reign.”