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‘The Crown’ captures the ugly reality of the royal family

Bloomberg Opinion Today
Bloomberg

'The Crown' Gets a Little Wrong and the Big Thing Right — Max Hastings

There is a killer moment in the latest season of the Netflix series "The Crown," the biggest event of the new TV year in Britain and many other places. Prince Charles tells his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, as she visits his new country mansion at Highgrove in 1982: "I really think I shall be happy here." The personal pronoun reflects his self-obsession, oblivious of the fact that his bulimic wife lies sobbing upstairs, expecting their first child.

This intelligent and intrusive soap is hard to resist. Tens of millions around the world are watching the series — including more than 1 million Americans — and when the opening titles include a warning of "sex, nudity and violent scenes," this does not refer only to cruelty to all the wildlife that gets shot and skinned. Writer and creator Peter Morgan makes it plain that the sudden death the Windsors inflict upon birds and beasts they also brought upon the fawn-like Diana Spencer.

But how much of it is true? Some British commentators have attacked the series as exploitative, cannibalistic, maligning people almost all of whom are alive, but cannot answer back. Critics leap on wrong details: The Queen is too buxom and frumpy, and bungles her salute at the Trooping of the Colour (the celebration of her birthday). The Queen Mother was nothing like the coarse washerwoman on screen, instead a companionable Scottish grandee. Prince Philip, the Queen's royal consort, would not shoot pheasants in August. Princess Margaret would never use such a word as "limousine." 

None of this matters. "The Crown" is gripping viewing, and even if many of its scenes and all the dialogue are invented, Morgan conveys a central truth: Britain's royals are among the most dysfunctional families on the planet.

Read the whole thing.

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