United Kingdom

Janet Street-Porter doesn't care if The Crown twists royal facts

Thank God for the arrival of series four of The Crown, TV's most over the top quality soap opera which has stopped millions of us going bonkers during these dreary days of lockdown.

Stuck at home for these long winter nights - we can't go out to eat or meet friends for a moan and a drink, but we can order a takeaway and feast on glorious scenery, grand houses, gorgeous ball dresses, dazzling jewellery and ridiculous hats with pom-pom tassels.

And what about the men? Over the top ceremonial uniforms, with feathered helmets, bearskins, medals galore, plus fabulous roomy overcoats for funerals and state occasions - so on trend in 2020!

So does it matter whether The Crown is a true picture of everyday life in the world's snootiest dysfunctional family?

Thank God for the arrival of series four of The Crown, TV's most over the top quality soap opera which has stopped millions of us going bonkers during these dreary days of lockdown

To be frank, the last thing I care about is truth or fact checking, or asking questions like 'would the Queen really be indulging in polite chit chat with a man who had broken into her home (twice) and had the cheek to sit at the end of her bed and drone on about the failure of his career as a painter and decorator'.

I want to wonder whether Zara will soon be copying that cute bottle green tweed suit the Queen wore to meet her children, and whether it's time to pull my mum's ancient silk headscarves out of the drawer for a retro fashion moment.

Janet Street-Porter (pictured): To be frank, the last thing I care about is truth or fact checking

Because it deals with recent history this series has enraged the army of self-appointed royal 'experts' - the people who once poured tea for the Royals, who were paid to wipe up Corgi poo and open carriage doors – more than any of the previous three.

The former flunkeys who regularly take cash for quotes and little factoids about their former bosses, in spite of signing confidentiality agreements – are livid.

The second division 'royal authors' aren't happy either. They claim to have a special skill, the ability to interpret exactly what Charles, his sons and their wives are thinking at any one time and then turn these suppositions into a best selling unauthorised book.

For years all these people have claimed to know what's really going on in the Royal Household. Exploiting the royal family was their nice little earner, not Netflix's and now The Crown has kicked them all into touch.

It's bigger, better, glossier and represents a totally new kind of entertainment - reality fiction.

Proper moments in history with fake dialogue and a bit of creative casting.

Of course real historians don't like The Crown, because it plays fast and loose with the facts.

TV presenter Andrew Marr reckons that if the series contrives to persuade us it's telling the truth about what happened forty years ago, 'it's grossly unfair and really quite sadistic'.

Of course real historians don't like The Crown, because it plays fast and loose with the facts

Historian Hugo Vickers, who wrote The Crown Dissected, about the modern monarchy, wants a disclaimer broadcast before each episode saying it's fiction.

Former Buckingham Palace Press Officer Dickie Arbiter tells the Radio Times this series is 'full of wooden characters' and 'unfair to Charles', adding 'sometimes you must forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth'.

I find that a pathetic argument, whoever said everything in the Bible really happened? It doesn't detract from its purpose or merit as an inspirational book to millions.

The Crown used a clever mix of known truths and imagined polish to shine a light on what the Royals have tried to suppress for years - their distinctly odd (and often unfair) way of operating. Their sense of entitlement, when millions were unemployed.

As for relationships, this family's attitudes seem almost medieval, stuck back in the Tudor era when wives were in and out whenever the wind changed.

Princess Anne is told to suck it up and get on with it when her marriage is coming apart. The bodyguard she was conducting an relationship with is summarily moved out of her life to another job.

Historian Hugo Vickers, who wrote The Crown Dissected, about the modern monarchy, wants a disclaimer broadcast before each episode saying it's fiction

Everyone has an opinion about whether Prince Charles was really so uncaring to his virgin bride, about whether Camilla really told Diana all about his little foibles at a girls lunch before the wedding, and whether she was just plain nuts.

According to his biographer Penny Junor, the series portrays the wrong Charles and Diana was 'fragile and vulnerable' and 'had difficulty with life and relationships'. As if Charles was any better?

The series has at least had an unexpected result for one older woman. At 94, suddenly the Queen is a source of controversy and centre stage again, after years of being overshadowed by Diana, then Waitie Katie, and finally Mind-blowing Meghan with her Yoga Mat, new age b******s-speak and body-cleansing food fads.

These days the Queen might be a doting granny in real life, but The Crown shows a different version - an incompetent mother lacking in emotional intelligence, who fills in gaps in conversations with one word - 'quite'.

The Crown scores on so many levels - a brilliant political drama, each episode is cleverly shaped around big moments in our nation's recent past to explore how the Royals reacted and united to repel external modernisers, anyone who threatens their privileges.

Most of all, this series exposes the fragile relationship between two powerful women surrounded by weaker men. One a steely female politician who fought so hard to get to the top (Maggie Thatcher), the other given her job because she had the luck – or lack thereof - to be born into the right family.

So what if facts are re-arranged? If Charles did not actually see Camilla during his marriage, if Andrew never had a conversation with his mum about Koo Stark - the star of a saucy movie he was dating at the time?

Instead of nit-picking, historians and royal commentators should be rejoicing that The Crown is re-acquainting young people with our recent past, teaching millions of kids who think that history started when Rap hit the charts in the 1980's or Fresh Prince got shown on BBC television.

At least now they know there was a miner's strike, that millions of people lost their jobs during the Maggie Thatcher years, and there was a time quite recently when posh women wore gloves to meet the lower orders in case they touched their flesh.

It teaches us that politics has a way of repeating itself, that Prime Ministers make mistakes, and get swayed by their emotions. That it's not just people in the third world who force arranged marriages on their kids and tell them to 'buck up, love will come later'.

The biggest mistake the Queen has made is not charging Netflix for use of her brand - let's call it her Intellectual Property.

If they've got the money to outbid the world's top TV and movie companies for content surely they could spare a few million for a favoured Royal charity.

It's the least they can do.

And if you are still concerned that The Crown is twisting facts, there's always Google.

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