The public seems to be dividing over The Crown, the drama series on Netflix. On the one hand there are those who stress the programme’s entertainment value, high production standards, good acting etc. On the other, there are those who deplore its departure from strict historical accuracy.
(For what its worth, I think that most of the acting, especially that by Olivia Colman as the Queen, is almost criminally bad.
Even normally good actors such as Helena Bonham Carter are not good in this show. The Mrs Thatcher actress does not even act, she just does that unfunny Mrs Thatcher imitation everyone used to do in the 1980s which in fact bore no resemblance to the real lady. The only exception is the Lady Di actress, Emma Corrin, who seems as good as it is possible to be.
Behind each opposing group, of course, there are those with an axe to grind. Some of those who have rushed to attack the Crown in the press seem to be signalling, rather desperately, towards the Monarch, or whoever arranges these matters, that they would like to be able to write the meaningless letters CBE or OBE after their names. Equally, some of those who praise the production standards of Netflix might be doing so from the perspective of republicanism. There can be no doubt , if you hate the way Lady Di was treated by her husband and his family, that you think they deserve a good kicking, even quarter of a century after the tragic events which led to her death.
And then again, the whole thing is complicated by the absolutely chilling revelations by Channel Four that Martin Bashir secured his Panorama interview with Lady Di by a clever series of outright lies and forgeries. Worst among these was surely the forging of bank statements, purporting to show that the Princess’s secretary – in fact one of her most stalwart protectors and supporters – was secretly accepting bribes to work for the other side.
The sinister facts unearthed by the Channel Four documentary do remind us how very murky the whole story was, and is. True, the BBC has been shown up. The Producer of the Panorama programme, who knew how dodgy Bashir’s methods were, is dead, but he died with the Princess’s blood on his hands.
But this is where I think that some of those who attack Netflix’s The Crown are being a little naif in their suggestion that there were no dark forces at work, trying to undermine and threaten the Princess. There is a trail of unanswered mysteries surrounding her death itself, including the fact that the white Fiat Uno which forced her car to crash in the underpass, has never been found. Nor, as far as we can tell, has there ever been a very strenuous effort to find it.
Two or three years before her tragic death, I had lunch in a Kensington hotel with a couple of my fellow journalists and two officers in the SAS , who were drinking, even by the standards of our profession, very heavily. As they became plastered, the soldiers told us that they had been offered enormous sums of money to assassinate the Princess, and that they were sure that one day, sooner or later, she would be killed.
This brings me to the strong implication, in The Crown, that the Duke of Edinburgh actually threatened his daughter-in-law with the possibility of her being murdered to shut her up. It has been pointed out that the Duke is now a frail old man of ninety-nine and that he surely deserves better than for a playwright, Peter Morgan, to invent a scene in which Prince Philip came up to Lady Di’s bedroom at Sandringham before Christmas Dinner to hint that if she did not buck up, she would be in danger.
Watching the Crown has, no doubt, brought out the inner Royalist or Inner Oliver Cromwell in most of us.
Having for years told myself that I was a keen monarchist, I have realized, watching it, that I think the monarchy has outgrown any meaning or usefulness it once had, and that there is a simple reason for this.The reason everyone feels awkward in the presence of the Queen and her family is not because they are royal, it is because they are freaks. In Lady Di’s presence, everyone felt immediately at ease.
Seeing an actress depict Lady Di reminds me of why the whole world fell in love with her. This is not because she was a princess in a “fairy tale” – as Bob Runcie said at the wedding in his amazingly camp voice. It is because – if we must have princesses and kings and queens in the real world, – she is precisely the sort of person we should like to have in such a role – starry, sympathetic, unpompous, and – one thing which it is really quite easy to be – polite.
The staggering personal rudeness of Princess Anne and Prince Philip is too well known to be worth mentioning. But the truth is that none of the Royal Family have ordinary, decent good manners of the kind you would naturally expect from another person if meeting them for the first time. Lady Di was not a saint, but she did put herself out for others and she had the most beautiful manners. Her removal from the scene was a huge national tragedy from which Britain has never recovered. I think that Peter Morgan’s drama reflects this fact and it is a greater truth than whether or not the – let’s be honest – horrid old Duke actually threatened her.
For what it is worth, my guess is that evidence will eventually come to light , not only that Lady Di was deliberately murdered, but that this crime was committed, if not with the collusion, at least with the knowledge of at least one member of her ex-husband’s family. ENDS