After wading through “The Crown,” I’m left with one big question — does its creator, Peter Morgan, like the late Queen Elizabeth at all?
Throughout the past six seasons of the Netflix hit, the queen has been painted as a woman stymied by her pact with God and duty to her country, and emotionally unavailable even to those closest to her.
And now, for the show’s final batch of episodes, we have Imelda Staunton portraying Her Majesty as a pursed-lipped, crotchety old woman in beige whose time is spent sniping at family members and feeding her Corgis.
Yes, we’ve come to the end.
That is to say, the death of Princess Diana, and the trouble is that the producers have seemingly ignored the truth for drama.
In reality, the truth of the royal family — with their affairs, machinations, and fallouts — is so much more fascinating than anything Morgan could ever conjure up.
Intriguingly, I’m told by a good source that Queen Camilla is one of the only royals to watch “The Crown” — early episodes at least — while Kate Middleton, who will be portrayed in this final season, is believed to have watched with her mother, Carole Middleton.
And Hugo Vickers, historian, and friend of the royal family, told me the late queen was “briefed” on the series by courtiers, while Prince Philip was left “terribly upset” by an episode that suggested he was partly to blame for the death of his sister Cecile in a plane crash.
This final season is split into two parts, with four episodes having just debuted and another six streaming on December 14.
“You cannot escape that they are picking away at the souls of real people. It’s vile,” Vickers said.
“This queen looks so boring [and] nothing like her at all. The queen always managed to keep her twinkle in her eye and keep her sense of humor even in the most difficult of times — she was not slumped like this woman on TV.
“Imelda Staunton just looks like a bored housewife, a real crosspatch, and so unlike the real queen.”
Elizabeth Debicki plays Diana with doe eyes, dipping her face so low to her chin she may be left with a permanent crick in her neck.
Vickers is bothered by the liberties taken in the final weeks of Diana’s life, in the lead-up to her fatal car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, alongside her lover Dodi Fayed.
“The timeline of those final days has been gone over so many times, it’s very easy to get this part right. But [producers] could not give a damn about getting details right — they just want the drama,” he said.
Despite the show’s portrayal, Diana did not insist on leaving the Ritz Hotel and going to Fayed’s apartment; Fayed wanted to leave and concocted the plan to try to escape the paparazzi. (And to my knowledge, she did not return as a ghost, yet Morgan raises her from the dead to visit her ex-husband the Prince of Wales, and the queen.)
Viewers see Fayed propose marriage, and Diana swiftly turns him down.
Although Fayed did buy the garish “Dis Moi Oui” ring from French jeweler Repossi, his proposal has never been proven.
“There was never any question of her marrying Dodi,” Vickers said. Indeed, the princess in her final days told close friends; “I want another marriage like I want a bad rash.”
In fact, Vickers said, there is no need to fudge the truth when the real Diana was in a terribly dramatic state before her death.
“The character impersonation is so awry … Diana has to appeal to the American audience, to her army of fans,” Vickers added. “‘The Crown’ paints her as so articulate, so together — which she definitely wasn’t at that time. She was spiraling into chaos in this terribly volatile way.”
Lord John Stevens, the former head of London’s police force, carried out a painstaking three-year probe into every aspect of Diana’s death ahead of a coroner’s inquest in front of a jury.
He revealed that “The Crown” producers did not reach out to him for guidance.
“The recreation [of Diana’s death] should be done with absolute certainty and not without referring to our inquiry,” he told me, adding that his investigators researched everything from whether Diana was pregnant to her yacht vacation with Fayed before their deaths.
“This is not an issue that should be trivialized and made up. Anything that deviates is not right, for the memory of Diana and Dodi and the people left behind.”
As Page Six revealed this week, Prince Harry — who once said he watches and fact-checks “The Crown” — is refusing to view this season, which also dramatizes his last phone call with his mother.
Even this is wrong.
While Diana is seen having an emotional call with sons Harry and William, the latter has said he and his brother were both busy playing with their cousins when she rang.
“Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye, you know, ‘See you later.’ If I’d known now obviously what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have been so blasé about it and everything else.”
Harry also said that he regretted how brief the call was.
“These things are not doing anyone justice, nor justice to Diana’s memory,” added Lord Stevens.
“I spent some time with the boys, Prince William and Prince Harry on a one-to-one basis, going through what happened, they wanted to know all the details,” Stevens said. “They know what happened, so it must be very difficult.”
Asked about criticism of the accuracy in “The Crown,” creator Morgan told Variety last month: “Never in any area of my work has that come up as much as in ‘The Crown.’”
“Everyone in Britain, whether they acknowledge it or not, has that level of sensitivity and attachment to this family, which is why it is an absolute minefield for dramatists to explore. And yet dramatists are born to write about kings and queens. That’s what we do.”
As for King Charles, who was then Prince of Wales (played by Dominic West), the show features him blasting his parents for not paying heed to the public mood over Diana’s death.
“Charles would have been more concerned about his sons, not the media effect,” Vickers said.
One scene after Diana’s death depicts Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip refusing to allow Charles to take a royal jet to collect his ex-wife’s body from Paris.
A furious Charles sends a message asking whether she should come home in a Harrods van.
As royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith wrote in The Times: “Contrary to ‘The Crown,’ which has Charles pushing against his resistant mother and father to send a Royal Air Force plane to Paris to bring Diana’s body back to England, it was the queen who dispatched the aircraft to France … The queen also decided instantly that despite the divorce from Charles, Diana was to be treated as a member of the royal family, with her own royal standard covering the coffin.”
The one thing that Vickers is glad of is that producers did not include any of Mohamed Fayed’s allegations that Diana and his son’s death were organized by Prince Philip.
“On this matter the real Prince Philip retained a dignified silence, though I think enough time has now passed for me to reveal that he once described Fayed to me as ‘a creep.’” Vickers wrote in The Times this week.
“Philip is the opposite of how Jonathan Pryce plays him,” Vickers told me. “He was such a wise man, he always took the long view, and they make him out to be curmudgeonly.”
Lord Stevens added: “I wouldn’t dream of watching ‘The Crown.’ I imagine I would get quite angry if I saw things presented as detrimental to Diana, and to all the work we did, and to the jury who spent six months on the case.”
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