Has ‘The Crown’ become ‘royalist propaganda’ or is it actually criticizing the royals?

I haven’t finished watching the first part of The Crown Season 6, because when it comes down to it, I don’t actually want to see Princess Diana’s final hours dramatized. There are too many what-ifs and unanswered questions and I know that the dramatization will leave me feeling unfulfilled and sad. I do appreciate that it feels like the show is giving space to how transitory that summer felt for Diana, that she was figuring out her next steps to her post-royal life. I also appreciate that you could see why Dodi and Diana were drawn to each other – while they never would have made it as a couple, they would have been good friends, despite Mohamed al Fayed’s meddling.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the Charles and Camilla storyline, especially the stuff about Camilla’s birthday party. I felt revulsion to the storyline too, which made me wonder if we were supposed to have a bad reaction. They’ve portrayed Charles as a man consumed with legitimizing his mistress at any cost, and a man who surrounded himself with sycophants who thought nothing of encouraging him to exploit his sons to further his cause and Camilla’s cause. Which is all… the truth. Still, I found this piece in Rolling Stone interesting: “‘The Crown’ Has Become Lame Royalist Propaganda.” Some highlights:

Is there a villain in Act Six of this melodrama? The first batch of episodes features various antagonists. Mohamed Al-Fayed, the controlling and angry father of Dodi, is portrayed as practically forcing his son to pursue a romance with Diana — one that we now know led to his death. But the main villain is clear: The media. From the paparazzi who stalked Diana’s every move — speeding after her into the Paris tunnel that night — to the newspaper editors who paid big money for the pictures or her, and even spin-doctors employed to secure the royals favorable coverage, it’s disturbing to watch the Diana content factory in action. There is a particularly ridiculous moment when the princess’s trip to Bosnia as part of a global landmine campaign is overshadowed by pictures of her kissing Fayed. These images were published as part of an 11-page spread and syndicated for millions around the world, breaking all kinds of records.

The media is, in many ways, an appropriate choice of villain. It’s hard not to conclude that if these men (they were all men) had acted differently, Diana might still be alive today. The behavior of the tabloids is also reminiscent of how famous women like Britney Spears and Meghan Markle have been hounded by the press. If Prince Harry’s record-breaking memoir, Spare, is to be believed, the royals are still cozy with the same tabloids that engaged in this behavior. It’s a relevant issue.

The Crown villainizing the media also feels strategic. Convenient, even. They are a nebulous and unspecific target. Crucially, they are outside the royal fold. The closer The Crown has gotten to the present-day, the show has become more hesitant about assigning blame to specific people — particularly its royal leads.

The Crown has always been a form of royalist PR. Let’s face it: Even subconsciously, this is a show that humanizes obscenely wealthy and powerful people who were literally born to rule over and colonize others. Portraying them as flawed is a key part of that, but toward the end, its criticisms of the royal institution and those who navigate it have felt more cautious. The Crown has become too simpering, and has suffered for that reverence.

[From Rolling Stone]

I think RS is right, but I also think there is some nuance there. While it’s true that Peter Morgan has largely soft-pedaled Charles’s decades of malevolent machinations, Morgan hasn’t completely ignored them. By dramatizing some terrible behaviors in such a banal way, Morgan IS criticizing the family. The fact is, the family was still jealous of Diana after the divorce and they still wanted to punish her, which is why Tony Blair wasn’t allowed to give her a real job. The fact is, Charles would rather do Camilla’s bidding then spend time with his sons. The fact is, the family still monitored Diana at every level post-divorce. The fact is, Diana dreamt of getting away and moving to America and the family would have done anything to stop that.

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Hadden (Diana photos) and Keith Bernstein and Netflix.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

28 Responses to “Has ‘The Crown’ become ‘royalist propaganda’ or is it actually criticizing the royals?”

  1. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    The show was always more sympathetic and portrayed the royal family in a better light than they deserve, and never delved into any real misdeeds. It’s ALWAYS been propaganda, it hasn’t “become” it.

  2. Amy Bee says:

    It was always Royalist propaganda that’s why the Palace and the British press loved the series so much in the beginning. I do think that Peter Morgan succumbed to the criticism of the press and the Palace when the series turned to Diana’s story. Both BP and press had a vested interested in piling pressure on Morgan because they didn’t want people to be reminded of the terrible things they did to Diana and that they caused her death.

  3. Monlette says:

    I watched it and it seemed like royalist propaganda to me. For those who intend to watch it, spoilers ahead, but for those who already watched it, do you agree:

    1) Diana was painted as the victim of her own attention seeking antics. It looked like she courted the press to show up Camilla, who was portrayed as oafish but well meaning.

    2) Charles seemed way too broken up over Diana’s death. I think they even put him in a black suit (or dark enough navy that I mistook it for black.)
    While Diana was out trying to outshine the woman he loved, Charles was becoming fonder of Diana? It does not compute.
    Royals have to carry a black mourning suit when they travel, but Charles couldn’t find one at home? Oh please. This was not a man who was broken by his ex’s death. More like devasted that he can’t frolick with his mistress in public with the armies of devasted grievers. (I could be wrong, but I could be right)

    3) I honestly don’t believe Elizabeth snubbing Diana and her mourners was doting grandma fighting for what was best for the grandkids. The show has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body for actual humans, even in this season, but she was willing to drag her own reputation through the mud to shield her grandkids? No. She dragged her feet on honoring Diana because Diana was a problematic in-law and she didn’t need her getting more attention than the actually royals.

    So yes. This seems like some major brownnosing and revisionist history to paint the royals in a flattering light.

    • Lurker25 says:


      I found it especially egregious this season that they put words that we KNOW were from Tony Blair into Charles mouth.

      It’s historical record that BLAIR told the Queen that the public needed to see her mourn for Diana, that she was misreading the mood, that ostriching would backfire badly…

      So why THE F*CK am I seeing Charles say all this on my screen!!!!

      Charles who we all bloody know was relieved at best and caused it by pulling her security and maybe more at worst??!!

      Not to mention the barely veiled racist depiction of the brown ppl. Everyone single scrap of blame is heaped on Dodi, his dad, and Diana herself.

      The media is shown as a shrug… Like this is what they do, whaddya expect?

      The Crown really sh*t the bed this season. It’s going to be like Game of Thrones – final season so bad that everyone stops caring and it disappears from cultural conversations.

    • WaterDragon says:

      100% agree on all counts. They are really pushing “Diiana’s death was an accident”, which knowing Charles’ malevolent jealousy and hatred toward Diana for years, i do NOT believe. He and the RF wanted her GONE.

  4. Shana says:

    I find that I’m going slowly thru these episodes. I am also not enjoying this last season as it is a depiction of Dianas final days.

  5. Bettyrose says:

    I know Dodi’s father was pushing for the match, but I wasn’t familiar with the narrative that he was alerting the paps to their whereabouts (and all that implies). Is it fair to implicate him like that? Seems cruel unless it’s documented.

    • Legally Black says:

      The photographer who took that photo said that the Crown was wrong in depicting it as Dodi’s father setting up the picture – he was just in the right place at the right time basically. He also took umbrage with the way he was depicted as a character.

      • bettyrose says:

        Thanks for sharing that info. It’s really a cruel way to depict it if not true. I realize the entire series is someone’s perspective and not a historical chronicling, but that’s extra harsh. He’s very recently passed, but would’ve been alive when that script was written, and I assume his other children are all thriving adults somewhere not unaware of this show.

  6. Jais says:

    Sooo… I’ve never watched an episode of the crown. Cannot get into it. But I’ve been reading reviews and criticism and one that’s come up is how Dodi’s dad is treated as such a villain. To the point that it feels like he is characterized as more of a villain than even Charles and Camilla. Again, haven’t watched so I can’t say for sure if that’s true. I did rewatch the queen and there are absolutely deep criticisms of the family. But at the end of the day, its still royalist propaganda. Look at how it ends. The cute walk with the queen, the corgies and tony Blair at the end? Please. Blair’s wife in the film was the only one I was feeling.

    • Brassy Rebel says:

      I don’t think it’s at all coincidence that a man with brown skin is portrayed as the main villain or that his son comes off as weak and whipped.

      • bettyrose says:

        It’s absolutely cringe inducing. A self-made billionaire and Oscar winning film producer, but I guess that’s more of an American thing to value glitzy success over inherited privilege. (I’m not ignoring the Fayed connection to arms dealers, but that’s a different story having nothing to do with this portrayal).

      • Becks1 says:

        (I have not watched this season yet as a disclaimer.)

        But its interesting to portray him that way when last year, I thought they used him to show the royal family’s racism – how his money was seen as “less than,” the Queen refusing to sit with him at that horse race, etc.

      • bettyrose says:

        @Becks1 – I didn’t necessarily perceive that as a treatise on racism in the RF. I mean, yes, on one level it does reveal racism, but it could also be perceived as just plain ole snobbery. They don’t consider him English, he’s new money, and a shameless social climber. Race is absolutely a factor, but prejudice on the three aforementioned criteria is socially acceptable in their world, not a criticism of the RF to portray it. Meanwhile, Diana and “Mou Mou” became fast friends, but Morgan didn’t necessarily mean that to be flattering to either one.

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        I think the portrayal of the Fayeds foreshadows the royal reaction decades later to Meghan. POC are not welcome in or anywhere near the royal family. Hard to tell if Morgan approves of the racism or is just showing it to us. And, yeah, they are also horrible snobs.

      • bettyrose says:

        @Brassy Rebel – Just to clarify, I’m not saying the BRF aren’t horribly racist. I’m saying that wasn’t necessarily what Peter Morgan was trying to portray about them because he’s a monarchist and calling them snobs isn’t controversial. But I like the perspective that it’s a foreshadowing of how Meghan was treated. Whether or not that was intentional, it absolutely is a foreshadowing.

      • Jais says:

        The way I’ve read about dodi’s portryal is it seems like it’s racism from Morgan. Not that he meant to be intentionally racist(which is still racist obv) but in depicting the brown character as setting up pap pics when in fact it’s not at all known that he did while Charles is getting a fairer shake. Again, it’s not fair for me to say bc I haven’t watched so maybe I’m wrong in feeling that.

  7. Brassy Rebel says:

    It was already royal propaganda even before Diana entered the picture. But it was better done propaganda and did manage to be (mostly) historically accurate. Now, it’s too heavy handed, based on my viewing of last season and the reviews of this season. Having said all that, I absolutely love Elizabeth Debicki, and when The Crown concludes, I will watch her in anything. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

  8. EasternViolet says:

    I’ve watched the Crown, and really enjoyed all seasons of it. I also was old enough to remember Diana’s last summer and was one of the people on the planet who mourned her – I went to a service in town and signed her book of remembrance. It was a HUGE deal. From my outsider perspective, I remember all the tabloid covers at the grocery store that summer (There were more tabloids in Canada like the National Enquirer etc). Even from my distant perspective, I could sense the increased interest in her. I remember thinking “Would you leave the poor woman alone!”. During her death, I recall thinking Charles did the right thing – whether it was just for PR or genuine – he was the one who looked sensible. I remember being angry with the queen for her non response.

    So they are playing Charles in the Crown exactly how I remember him. Problematic – but showing up when it mattered.

    I wonder if the sounds of him sobbing in the morgue were from eye-witnesses at the Hospital in Paris?

  9. Lau says:

    I just thought it was rushed and it felt like royalist propaganda to me. It’s really curious how they took away all of Tony Blair’s role in the aftermath of Diana’s death and gave it to Charles just to make him look better. Also the only real problem with Ghost Diana was that she only served the purpose of flattering Charles but I can see what they were going for there because it’s just Diana as Charles wanted her to be.

  10. Becks1 says:

    I don’t know if it was always propaganda per se, but it definitely always softened the royals’ history. And I do think what Peter morgan said initially was probably best – that he likes to look at things with at least 20 years of perspective. He was never going to get the more recent royal history right.

    but the first few seasons were good – they showed Margaret as the wild party girl, but you also understood why she was that way and how she was kind of lost and drifting for decades because of her role. They showed the cracks in Elizabeth and Phillip’s marriage but they also humanized Phillip so we saw him as someone who was just trying to find his way in this role that he wasn’t expecting to have so young (thinking he would probably have 20 or 30 years in the military before becoming the husband of a queen.)

    So was it whitewashing? yes, it was definitely softening things and making the royals seem more human. It covered up some things but it also kind of made clear how ridiculous this family was (thinking of the episode in Balmoral where they just seemed so out of touch.)

    But somewhere in the last season it veered towards propaganda for me. I wonder if its just because the 80s and 90s were so well documented for the royals, so some of the softening just fell flat? Like we all know Charles had multiple mistresses, but Morgan is still trying to shove the Charles and Camilla love story down our throats.

    • Nic919 says:

      I think the earlier seasons didn’t seem as much as obvious propaganda because there aren’t many people still alive to recall how it really played out.

      The problem with the Charles and Diana years is that several generations currently have a memory of a lot of these events and the twist to make Charles a hero is contrary to real life. And we also see the repercussions of their actions during this time play out in various ways today. That some despise Camilla to this day is because of events from that time and completely whitewashed since season 4.

  11. Libra says:

    We don’t have Netflix so have never seen The Crown. We are not big TV watchers; would rather read instead or watch British murder mysteries. Having read all your comments I am grateful that I’ve not wasted my time.

  12. kirk says:

    I’ll probably get around to Crown S6 at some point. But I before I do, I’ll be sure to run Diana the Musical (5 stars) several times first before watching Crown (downgraded from 5 stars in the beginning to 3 stars today). I absolutely hate Imelda Staunton as Betty and the Chuck glowup with Dominic West is abominable. I expect the Crown will force the beautiful Elizabeth Debicki into her prescribed role in the continuing diminution of Diana… (downgrade to 2 stars entirely possible). Enjoyed the Rolling Stone excerpt that makes the role of britmedia as client of BRFCo obvious.

  13. Escape says:

    Watched the first three episodes. It does not make Charles look good at all. It is alarming that all he cares about is how people view Camilla. It is very kind to Diana and Dody. I absolutely love this Diana and Dody.

    • NaTalia says:

      Thank you for writing this. I felt the same way. I thought this season painted the royal family in a bad light. Mohamed even mentioned the racism towards him and Muslims.
      I know the show is basically fan fiction. Diana’s real death hit me hard. The episodes of this season gave me perspective. It was easy to fall into the conspiracy theories of Diana’s death.
      I think Diana wanted a fun Summer fling with a sweet man. I think Mohamed loved both Dodi and Diana. She was kind to him through so many years I could see why he would want her as a daughter.
      I think the deaths broke Mohamed.
      The Ritz dinner scene where Diana smiles at the little girl even though she is so upset was the Diana that so many of us loved and admired.
      Kaiser, watch the fourth episode. Yes, it is fan fiction at this point. Dodi and Diana were portrayed beautifully. Dodi’s funeral was beautiful and heart wrenching. I always had great sympathy for Mohamed. I have more sympathy for him now.
      It is a hard episode to watch if you are a Diana fan. I cried for hours afterward.

  14. Nibbi says:

    To me the main ‘obvious propaganda’ moments are with Prince Charles suddenly being so much more warm and passionate than he’s ever been depicted in the show or seems to be in real life. Dominic West’s Charles is positively earthy. (Spoiler-ish:) The hysterical loud sobbing over her death when he goes to identify the body struck me as the opposite of the family’s stiff upper lip thing. Surely he felt some emotion, but are we supposed to believe that one of the world’s most famously emotionally stilted cold fish was demonstrative like that? It seemed pretty heavy-handed on Morgan’s part, though I too would like to know if there were witnesses of such from the hospital staff.

    Also it bugged me that we have the actual first-hand account from Harry in ‘Spare’ of how Charles awakened him at some point in the night or early morning to tell him of his mother’s death and then left him alone for hours in the dark. That account – his description of what it was like to experience that as a young boy – was one of the most harrowing in the book, to me. And then the show portrays a saccharine, wise, fatherly Charles letting them sleep in as long as possible out of a worry to prolong their innocence, and saying so.

  15. BW says:

    I feel like there was a complete turn around on the way the Al Fayed’s were portrayed between this season and the previous season. Previous season Dad was a nice guy. This season he’s portrayed as a conniving villain. Previous season Dodi was a self absorbed, drug addict, player with an Oscar to his name and his own career. This season he’s a put upon nice guy who’s under Daddy’s thumb. I would have found it more believable that a self absorbed, drug addict, player would have dumped his fiancee’ for Princess Diana in a heartbeat.

    Also, there’s no way Charles was that nice to Diana, or grieved for her that way.

Commenting Guidelines

Read the article before commenting.

We aim to be a friendly, welcoming site where people can discuss entertainment stories and current events in a lighthearted, safe environment without fear of harassment, excessive negativity, or bullying. Different opinions, backgrounds, ages, and nationalities are welcome here - hatred and bigotry are not. If you make racist or bigoted remarks, comment under multiple names, or wish death on anyone you will be banned. There are no second chances if you violate one of these basic rules.

By commenting you agree to our comment policy and our privacy policy

Do not engage with trolls, contrarians or rude people. Comment "troll" and we will see it.

Please e-mail the moderators at cbcomments at gmail.com to delete a comment if it's offensive or spam. If your comment disappears, it may have been eaten by the spam filter. Please email us to get it retrieved.

You can sign up to get an image next to your name at Gravatar.com Thank you!

Leave a comment after you have read the article

Save my name and email in this browser for the next time I comment