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Lawyers Say The Royal Family Has Grounds To Sue Netflix Over ‘The Crown’

Season five of ‘The Crown’ will include Princess Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles.

Photograph: Chatham House via Flickr / Netflix

The Royal Family has been told that they have grounds to sue Netflix for its portrayal of them in ‘The Crown’.

Close friends of the family, who were also depicted in the series, consulted with the Queen’s favored legal firms, Farrer & Co. and Harbottle & Lewis. The advice they received suggests they have the potential to file a lawsuit against the streaming service for defamation.  Solicitors claim Her Majesty and her staff will carefully survey the material coming out in season five of ‘The Crown’ to decide whether it poses a significant threat to the monarch’s reputation.

Last week, Jemima Khan, a close friend of the late Princess Diana, quit the show’s consultancy staff over what she believed to be insensitivities in how the showrunners were presenting the Princess’s story. The upcoming fifth season will deal with Diana’s death and divorce from Prince Charles. There are also plans for a sixth and final season.

The British government has requested that Netflix add a disclaimer at the start of each episode, making it clear that the series is a work of fiction.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said, “It’s 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.”

Reports suggest the Queen was particularly aggravated by a scene in season two which shows Prince Philip, who passed away in April this year, calling a young Charles “bloody weak”, leaving his son in tears. Friends of Charles have also criticized the series’ depiction of his adult life and relationship with Diana as “trolling on a Hollywood budget”.

Photograph: Netflix

Season four has been lambasted for historical inaccuracies, such as Charles calling Camilla Parker Bowles (who became his second wife after Diana) every day during the early part of his first marriage, and Diana’s tantrum during a tour of Australia.

Recently, ‘The Crown’ provoked controversy by filming the scene in which Diana arrives outside the Serpentine Gallery wearing her iconic ‘revenge dress’ in Kensington Gardens. The spot chosen for filming was almost within view of Prince William’s bedroom. William has also said he believes his mother’s Panorama interview should never be shown again, but reports suggest season five of ‘The Crown’ may give it an entire episode.

The series has been even further embroiled in controversy since Prince Harry, William’s brother, signed a £110 million deal with Netflix last year, alongside his wife, Meghan Markle. A source told the Sun, “Given Harry’s money-spinning deal, ‘The Crown’ has become even more of a talking point.

“Worryingly, a lot of people, especially Americans, seem to think it is effectively a documentary … but these are real people and many are still alive. The next series could potentially be very damaging.”

Netflix has said it sees “no need” to add any form of disclaimer before episodes, as it has “every confidence” in its viewers to understand the broader historical context of the events portrayed on screen.

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