Judi Dench Blasts ‘The Crown’ for ‘Cruelly Unjust’ and ‘Hurtful Account’ of Royal Family

Dame Dench is also calling on Netflix to add a disclaimer stressing that the series is a work of fiction.
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Judi Dench attends the "Allelujah" European Premiere during the 66th BFI London Film Festival at Southbank Centre on October 09, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Judi Dench
Mike Marsland/WireImage

Dame Judi Dench is calling on Netflix to firmly declare that “The Crown” is a “fictionalized drama” series.

Dench shared a letter with UK’s The Times (via Deadline), in which the Academy Award winner slammed the series for presenting an “inaccurate and hurtful account of history” without a formal label of being a work of fiction. In her piece, she invoked recent criticisms made by former Prime Minister John Major about an episode in Season 5 suggesting that, in 1991, Prince Charles (now King Charles III) complained to Major about waiting to take over the throne.

“Sir John Major is not alone in his concerns that the latest season 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. No one is a greater believer in artistic freedom than I, but this cannot go unchallenged.”

Dench continued, “Despite this week stating publicly that ‘The Crown’ has always been a ‘fictionalized drama,’ the program makers have resisted all calls for them to carry a disclaimer at the start of each episode. The time has come for Netflix to reconsider — for the sake of a family and a nation so recently bereaved, as a mark of respect to a sovereign who served her people so dutifully for 70 years, and to preserve its reputation in the eyes of its British subscribers.”

Major has stated that no conversation between Charles and himself, as depicted in the show, took place. He went on to deem the episode “malicious nonsense.” Royal insiders previously said that the family believes Season 5 to be “exploitative” as it also centers on Charles’ (Dominic West) marriage to Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki).

The final two seasons of “The Crown” span the 1990s to 2003, with Season 6 including Princess Diana’s death, which Netflix has stated will not be shown onscreen.

In 2020, the U.K. government requested “The Crown” issue a disclaimer ahead of episodes. Cultural Secretary Oliver Dowden told The Daily Mail that “The Crown” is a “beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that. Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

Netflix responded by saying at the time: “We have always presented ‘The Crown’ as a drama – and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events. As a result we have no plans — and see no need — to add a disclaimer.”

This year, series creator Peter Morgan noted that “The Crown” is a “love letter” to Queen Elizabeth II, and production on the Netflix show even paused following the Queen’s death on September 8.

“The Crown” Season 5 is slated to premiere November 9.

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