Dame Judi Dench—who won an Academy Award for playing Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love—criticized the hit Netfllix series The Crown, saying it amounts to little more than "crude sensationalism."
Dench's remarks came ahead of the show's fifth season, which features Imelda Staunton as the late Queen Elizabeth II. The series is a historical drama about the late Queen's reign and has been praised by critics for its acting, directing, writing, cinematography and production values, though its historical inaccuracies have received some criticism.
You can watch the trailer for the latest season below.
The Crown | Season 5 Official Trailer | Netflixwww.youtube.com
Dench says Netflix should add a disclaimer to the series so viewers know what they're watching on their screens isn't necessarily true. She believes there is a risk "a significant number of viewers" would think the series is historically accurate.
In a letter to The Times, Dench echoed the concerns of former Prime Minister Sir John Major, who had taken issue with some of The Crown's content, particularly a scene said to include a conversation between him and Prince Charles, as he was then, about the Queen abdicating.
Dench said the series "will present an inaccurate and hurtful account of history," adding:
"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."
Though emphatic in her belief the series is "cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent," Dench stressed she believes in artistic freedom. Nevertheless, she thinks the sins of The Crown should not go "unchallenged."
She further took umbrage with Netflix, which has previously defended the show by stating it was never meant to be anything more than historical fiction.
"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."
Dench has portrayed royal figures on other occasions, receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1997 for her role as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown and revisiting the character in 2017's Victoria & Abdul. She is close friends with the newly-minted King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort.
Many have criticized Dench's remarks, which have been perceived as her apologies on behalf of the royal family.
The Crown's fifth and sixth seasons will cover the Queen's reign into the 21st century, with particular focus on the relationship between Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who was his first wife and is the mother of Princes William and Harry.
Widely respected for her advocacy work on behalf of children, and those affected by cancer, mental illness and AIDS and landmines, Diana's premature death in a car wreck in Paris in 1997 led to extensive public mourning and global media attention. Her funeral—viewed by an estimated 2 to 2.5 billion people worldwide—was one of the biggest televised events in history.
The return of The Crown comes at a sensitive time for Charles and the royal family at large, reviving criticism for the part they and the late Queen played in ostracizing Diana at the same time that Britain faces an unprecedented cost of living crisis and energy crisis.
Moreover, a slew of recent crises on Downing Street culminated in the resignation of Liz Truss, throwing the ruling Conservative Party into disarray as she leaves her mark as Britain's shortest-serving Prime Minister.