'I've never liked The Crown': Royal historian Hugo Vickers says Netflix series 'perverts facts'

It was always going to be tricky for the writer of The Crown to cover the death of Diana - but it's unlikely viewers were expecting to see her portrayed as a ghost. ITV News' Faye Barker reports

Royal historian and biographer Hugo Vickers says that he has "never liked The Crown" and that it "perverts facts", as its sixth series is released on Netflix.

Part one of the final series depicts the budding romance between Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed, as well as the events surrounding their deaths in a car crash in Paris.

Speaking to ITV News, Vickers said: "I really hate the series. The problem is they are real-life people, and the incidents either did happen or nearly happened - so the show is making things up and presenting this as fact.

"I completely understand that fiction can help you understand a truth, but it shouldn't pervert facts."

The first episodes of The Crown's final series have been met with mixed reviews by critics, with some noting the focus on Diana, and the sidelining of Imelda Staunton's Queen Elizabeth.

Khalid Abdalla plays Dodi Fayed in the final series of Netflix's The Crown. Credit: PA

Mr Vickers added: "One of the problems with The Crown is that it is beautifully acted and beautifully filmed, it all looks very convincing. I have no issue with the timeline, but I do take issue with the character presentation.

"Diana is assured, they are obviously thinking of the American market. Prince Charles beforehand was an angry wimp, were as in this series he is rather sympathetic. The Queen comes out of this very badly, they make her seem like a reactionary frump and unfortunately Prince Philip is portrayed curmudgeonly, which is the opposite to the real Prince Philip."

Speaking on ITV's Lorraine, former royal butler Paul Burrell said: "I personally think the Princess was misinterpreted and misrepresented all her life, and here we go again with The Crown.

"It is not the real Diana. The real Diana I knew was a fighter, she wasn't shy and retiring."

It is not the first time The Crown has faced criticism. In 2022 Netflix defended the fifth series as a “fictional dramatisation”.

Dame Judi Dench and former prime minister Sir John Major were among those who criticised the storylines before they aired.

One of the fears from critics and Vickers is that "a lot of people will be sat at home thinking it is accurate."

Royal historian Hugo Vickers has taken issue with how The Crown presents real people and real events

Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief executive, said: "The history of every episode is meticulously researched and then it is dramatised, but it is meticulously based on reality."

Actress Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Princess Diana, said it felt like “groundhog day” filming the car chase scene for the final series of The Crown.

The scene depicts a paparazzi-led pursuit that took place before Diana and Dodi Fayed’s chauffeur crashed the car in a Paris tunnel, leading to all three of their deaths.

Australian actress Debicki she said: “I always was very clear that, rather than feeling like a victim in it, I was really just trying to get from A to B.

“It’s just about getting somewhere, and that should be a set thing but because of the way the media were pursuing them so relentlessly and aggressively, what happens is the energy around your journey is just so panicked, it’s so kind of frazzled.

“It’s really uncomfortable and especially being stuck in traffic when you can’t move and they (the media) were, by all accounts very aggressive, sort of banging on the cars and yelling and flashing.

“It’s just completely invasive. And it sort of feels like a stunt. Your body reacts to it quite strongly.

“You have this very strong fight or flight response. You want to be able to, sort of like, escape what’s going on, but you just need to get to your destination.

“So we shot those sequences a lot."

Netflix handout photo of Diana, Princess of Wales (Elizabeth Debicki) and Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla). Credit: Netflix.

“Obviously, they happened over weeks of re-entering that kind of environment where we’re in a car and we’re moving and people (are) sort of yelling and then, stop, start, stop, start.

“After a while you sort of feel like you’re in this kind of groundhog day experience and it’s super unpleasant.

“One thing that becomes immediately clear to you is that nobody should ever have to endure that.

“People should be able to be protected from that kind of behaviour.”

In 2022, Netflix said the sixth and final series of The Crown would not depict the Paris car crash that killed Diana in August 1997, contrary to media reports.

The final series of The Crown depicts the blossoming relationship between Diana and Dodi, played by Khalid Abdalla.

It also explores the relationship between a young Prince William, played by Ed McVey, and the-then Kate Middleton, played by Meg Bellamy, when they attended the University of St Andrews.

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