Including who’s definitely watched it.
It’s been an especially monumental year for the United Kingdom’s royal family, as the death of Queen Elizabeth II led to the ascension of a brand new monarch in King Charles III. But Windsor-obsessives who still want more have something thrilling to look forward to: a brand new season of The Crown.
The Netflix drama is one of the streamer’s most popular series, thanks to its juicy, intimate take on what happened behind closed doors among one of the most famous families in the world. And while there’s been plenty of speculation about what’s true and what’s dramatized, most of us can simply sit back, enjoy, and maybe do a little research for some independent fact-checking. But it’s probably much more complicated to absorb if you’re one of the people whose life is being portrayed on the show. Does the royal family even watch The Crown, though?
Does anyone in the royal family watch The Crown?
If you’ve ever watched a scene and thought to yourself, “I wonder what the royals thought about that,” this post is for you. Below, we’ve rounded up what we know about who’s watched the show, what they thought, and what they’ve said about it to others.
Did Queen Elizabeth II watch The Crown?
As we all know, the Queen passed away earlier this year at the age of 96, but four seasons of the Netflix series were released before her death. All signs point to the fact that she did see the show — but her opinion on it seems to have shifted over the years.
In 2017, a senior royal source told the Daily Express that the Queen had seen all 10 episodes of The Crown’s first season, thanks to the recommendation of her youngest son, Prince Edward, and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.
“Edward and Sophie love The Crown. It has been a longstanding arrangement that they drive to Windsor at the weekend to join the Queen for an informal supper while watching TV or a film. They have a Netflix account and urged her to watch it with them. Happily, she really liked it, although obviously there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatized,” the source said at the time.
If you’re curious about how a monarch fires up a streaming service, here’s a hint from actor Matt Smith, who played the Queen’s husband Prince Philip in the series: He heard Her Majesty liked watching the show on a projector screen. (Fittingly cinematic.)
More evidence of the Queen’s fandom comes from Vanessa Kirby, who played Princess Margaret, Elizabeth’s sister. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, the actress recounted an illuminating overheard comment from Princess Eugenie, the daughter of Prince Andrew.
“A friend of mine was at a party and didn’t know anyone, so he sidled up to this group who were talking about The Crown,” Kirby said. “One girl said, ‘Well, my granny watches it and really likes it.’ It slowly dawned on him that the girl was Eugenie, and her granny was the Queen.”
By The Crown’s second season, however, the Queen’s appreciation apparently began to sour. Reports indicated she had a problem with the ninth episode, in which Prince Philip is depicted as calling Prince Charles “bloody weak” for the way he handled hardship at his boarding school.
“The queen realizes that many who watch The Crown take it as an accurate portrayal of the royal family and she cannot change that,” another royal source said. “But I can convey that she was upset by the way Prince Philip is depicted as being a father insensitive to his son’s well-being. She was particularly annoyed at a scene in which Philip has no sympathy for a plainly upset Charles while he is flying him home from Scotland. That simply did not happen.”
In 2019, the Queen’s Buckingham Palace communications director, Donal McCabe, wrote a letter to the editor of The Guardian in response to a story that seemed to indicate members of the royal family were occasionally consulted about The Crown. That was not, in fact, the case.
“We appreciate that readers of the Guardian may enjoy this fictionalized interpretation of historical events, but they should do so knowing that the royal household is not complicit in interpretations made by the programme,” the statement read. “The royal household has never agreed to vet or approve content, has not asked to know what topics will be included, and would never express a view as to the programme’s accuracy.”
What King Charles III and Camilla Parker Bowles think of The Crown
Leading up to the premiere of The Crown’s fourth season in 2020, a pal of Camilla’s told Vanity Fair that Charles’s wife was a fan and would be eagerly tuning in for the latest batch of episodes.
“I imagine she’ll be tuning in with a glass of red wine to watch it. She has seen the previous [episodes]. She has a wonderful sense of humor and this won’t fuss her in the slightest,” the friend said. “She has watched it, of course she has, and I believe [Charles] has too. I don’t think she has any real issue with it. Her feeling is very much ‘Never complain, never explain.’”
But once those episodes were released, the royal tune seemed to change, at least for Charles. Those fourth-season installments centered on the relationship between then-Prince Charles and Princess Diana (which will also be at the forefront of the fifth season), and sources connected to “the very top of the royal family” spoke to The Daily Mail to shake the royal scepter in admonishment — metaphorically speaking.
“This is drama and entertainment for commercial ends being made with no regard to the actual people involved who are having their lives hijacked and exploited. In this case, it’s dragging up things that happened during very difficult times 25 or 30 years ago without a thought for anyone’s feelings. That isn’t right or fair, particularly when so many of the things being depicted don’t represent the truth,” the source said. “The new series paints the Prince and Duchess in a very unflattering light. … There is no sense of telling carefully nuanced stories — it’s all very two-dimensional. This is trolling with a Hollywood budget. The public shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this is an accurate portrayal of what really happened.”
What Prince William and Kate Middleton think of The Crown
The same insider source for The Daily Mail added that Prince William was particularly peeved by the way the series depicted his parents’ relationship.
“The Duke of Cambridge is none too pleased with it,” the insider said. “He feels that both his parents are being exploited and being presented in a false, simplistic way to make money.”
We also got a small window into William’s thoughts from Olivia Colman, who played Queen Elizabeth in seasons three and four. During a 2019 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Colman recounted an interaction with the prince that “didn’t go very well.”
“I met Prince William at a dinner, and he asked what I was doing at the moment before he quickly added, ‘Actually, I know what you’re doing,'” Colman remembered. “I was so excited and asked, ‘Have you watched it?’ His answer was a firm, ‘No.’ But he was very charming and very lovely.”
What Prince Harry and Meghan Markle think of The Crown
During their blockbuster 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, the royal family’s most dramatic couple (in recent years, at least) confirmed they’ve seen The Crown: “I’ve watched some of it; we’ve watched some of it,” Harry said. (That non-endorsement still clearly made an impact; viewership of The Crown jumped by 85% in the week after the Oprah special.)
That same year on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Harry told the host he appreciated that the Netflix show is completely clear about being a fictionalized account.
“They don’t pretend to be news. It’s fictional, but it’s loosely based on the truth,” Harry said. “Of course it’s not strictly accurate, but loosely, it gives you a rough idea about … what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that.”
Harry even added that he prefers the drama series to some of the content out there that purports to be a true-to-life picture of the royal family.
“I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself. Because it’s the difference between, [The Crown] is obviously fiction, take it how you will, but [the press] is being reported as fact because you’re supposedly news. I have a real issue with that,” he said.