Dame Judi Dench has said The Crown has begun to verge on “crude sensationalism” and called for a disclaimer to be added to each episode of the hit Netflix drama.
The beloved actress said despite previous statements by Netflix that the show is a “fictionalised drama”, there was a risk that “a significant number of viewers” could misunderstand it to be historical.
She added that “wounding suggestions apparently contained in the new series” will prove “damaging” to the monarchy and cannot go unchallenged.
Dame Judi made the remarks in a letter to The Times, following previous concerns voiced by former prime minister Sir John Major, about the content of The Crown’s highly anticipated fifth series.
Sir John is said to have described the forthcoming scenes, which reportedly depict the King plotting to oust Queen Elizabeth II, as “malicious nonsense”.
“Sir John Major is not alone in his concerns that the latest series of The Crown will present an inaccurate and hurtful account of history,” Dame Judi wrote.
“Indeed, the closer the drama comes to our present times, the more freely it seems willing to blur the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism.
“While many will recognise The Crown for the brilliant but fictionalised account of events that it is, I fear that a significant number of viewers, particularly overseas, may take its version of history as being wholly true.”
She called the suggestions expected to be made “cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent”.
Dame Judi continued: “No-one is a greater believer in artistic freedom than I, but this cannot go unchallenged.
“Despite this week stating publicly that The Crown has always been a ‘fictionalised drama’, the programme-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.”
The forthcoming series, which will premiere on November 9, will see Dominic West as then-Prince Charles, Elizabeth Debicki as Diana, Princess of Wales and Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II.
A spokeswoman for The Crown previously said: “The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events.
“Series five is a fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family – one that has already been scrutinised and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians.”
The programme’s creator, Peter Morgan, also defended his show in an interview with Entertainment Weekly published this week.
“I think we must all accept that the 1990s was a difficult time for the royal family, and King Charles will almost certainly have some painful memories of that period,” he said.
“But that doesn’t mean that, with the benefit of hindsight, history will be unkind to him, or the monarchy. The show certainly isn’t.”