Robert Lacey isn’t the only royal-commentator with an advisor gig for The Crown. For Season 5, Andrew Morton also advised Peter Morgan on the show, particularly around Princess Diana’s storylines, and the book Diana: Her True Story. That’s one of the reasons why Morton comes across so well in The Crown – he was an advisor! Which isn’t to say that they were making things up – Diana is seen recording her story and getting the tapes to Morton through an intermediary, her friend James Colthurst. Morton previously spoke to the Royalist column in the Daily Beast, and now he’s speaking to Vanity Fair. He spoke about The Crown, the real Diana, plus the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s moves. Some highlights:
Working on Diana: Her True Story: “It was like the royal version of All the President’s Men, where danger lurked in shadows. One scene I’m surprised they didn’t do was James letting me listen to the first tape in a working-man’s café in Ruislip in North London. All these working men were sitting around eating their eggs and bacon. I put the headphones on and I was transported to another world, a world of bulimia, Camilla, and things which I’d never heard of. It was literally like entering a parallel universe where you had a secret and that secret was quite dangerous.”
Every reason to be paranoid: “Looking back, I think we had every right to be paranoid given what happened with [the leaked royal phone calls] Squidgygate and Camillagate,” says Morton, adding that the real-life experience was occasionally “even spookier” than depicted in the episodes. “It was a time where you didn’t know if you were being followed, where you didn’t know if you were being watched. Diana was worried about her phones being tapped.”
Morton is shady about The Crown’s portrait of Charles: “I don’t know if [series creator] Peter Morgan wants his peerage but Charles is an intelligent, questioning, courageous, positive character in this depiction, so it makes me laugh when everybody’s getting up in arms about [the new season]. King Charles, if he ever sits down and watches, will be quite pleased with his character…it’s done [him] a big favor.”
On the Sussexit: “The big difference between Diana and Charles and Harry and Meghan is that Diana was trapped in a loveless marriage, whereas these two seem extremely happy together. That’s a huge difference. Secondly, Diana gave it 10 years before she rebelled and helped me [on the book]. They didn’t even give it 10 months. He was meeting with Oprah in November 2018, which was six months after they married, to discuss a tell-all [interview]. So it seems that they headed for the exit door fairly rapidly. Prince Harry’s made it perfectly clear that he found the royal world suffocating and difficult to cope with. In Meghan, I think he saw a pathway out.”
On the Sussexes’ Oprah interview: “My reaction was quite frankly bafflement. So many of [Harry and Meghan’s] statements just didn’t add up to me. So it was very different to the Diana interview, which came from her heart and came at a point when she’d already discussed much of it for Diana: Her True Story. You’ve also got to remember that Diana and Charles are more important people for the monarchy and for the nation than Prince Harry or Meghan will ever be because of their position. They were future king and queen. When you’ve got the future queen saying that the future king is not fit for the job, then that is something that you have to take very seriously. Harry’s allegations of racism, given what’s going on with reparations for the slave trade and so on, did strike a chord. [But] everything is about context, and there was no context for those allegations…. Harry and Meghan always mistook popularity for position. Harry will never be king. As every year passes, he becomes less relevant to the monarchy. Just like Prince Andrew, who was once second in line to the throne.”
On Harry’s memoir: “The fact that he’s called it Spare means that he’s going to deal with his relationship with his brother. It’s going to be a Cain and Abel saga. It will have a biblical resonance.” The author notes that Princess Diana would likely be heartbroken to learn that one of her sons had turned on the other. “Where she would part company [with Harry] is if he puts the boot into his brother. She wanted Harry to be William’s wingman, not a hitman.”
“They didn’t even give it 10 months. He was meeting with Oprah in November 2018, which was six months after they married, to discuss a tell-all…” What in the world is he talking about? The early meetings Harry had with Oprah in 2018 and 2019 were about the series which would become The Me You Can’t See. It was a long-gestating project which Harry started before the Sussexit. Then they organized the 2021 Oprah interview to coincide with the one-year anniversary of their “stepping down” as working royals. Honestly, what Morton says about the Sussexes is so… odd. You need “context” for very specific stories about racism and questioning what color Meghan and Harry’s children would be? The whole “wingman” thing is so tired too. “Wingman” doesn’t mean “William is allowed to smear and destroy Harry and his wife just because Peg is the heir!”
The thing about Peter Morgan going easy on Charles… that’s very true.
Photos courtesy of Netflix/The Crown, Instar.