After The Crown debuted on Netflix in 2016, it’s fair to say that the royal drama quickly became a phenomenon. And as the show – which follows the events of Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign – looks set to take viewers into the 1980s, there’s a good chance that the fourth season may feature Prince Harry. But what does the prince himself think about the show? Well, he let his true feelings slip to a biographer – and what he had to say may surprise you.
And given the scandals that The Crown has covered so far during its run, Harry may be forgiven for not wanting to have his life raked over on screen. The first season of the show, for example, dealt with the events surrounding Princess Margaret’s controversial romance with RAF Group Captain Peter Townsend. The second season, meanwhile, delved into the royal family’s dealings with the 1956 Suez Crisis.
Season two of The Crown also explored a particularly thorny topic: the rumors that have swirled about infidelity on Prince Philip’s part. During the course of several episodes, we see Philip – portrayed by actor Matt Smith – making eyes at a female journalist and dining at a covert gentlemen’s club. And while the show never directly paints the Duke of Edinburgh as having been unfaithful, it does hint at him having an eye for the ladies.
The Crown even appears to address how the British royal family are viewed by outsiders. In season two, for instance, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy are seen visiting Buckingham Palace for dinner. And during the visit, the Queen – who is shown to already be worried about being perceived as old-fashioned – overhears Jackie criticizing the monarchy as “outdated.”
But, of course, the royals have had plenty to deal with in the decades since. And 2019 in particular proved to be a rocky year for the British monarchy, with several damaging scandals emerging that would be perfect fodder for a show such as The Crown. It all began in January 2019, when the then-97-year-old Philip was involved in a car crash.
Philip had been driving his Land Rover near the royal estate of Sandringham when he hit another car. And while the duke’s vehicle subsequently flipped, he managed to escape injury. The driver of the other car suffered cuts, however, while a passenger broke a wrist. There was also a nine-month-old baby in the back seat of the vehicle, who thankfully was unhurt.
It seemed, then, that as neither Philip nor the people in the other car had been seriously injured, the duke had had a very lucky escape. However, when the royal was photographed driving again the very next day, a media uproar ensued. And this was only exacerbated when the driver of the other car revealed that Philip hadn’t contacted her to check on her wellbeing following the crash.
Philip did eventually write a personal letter to the woman – dated five days after the accident – and the driver duly accepted this. Even so, damage had already been done to the royal’s reputation. And perhaps in an attempt to avoid further furor, Buckingham Palace ultimately made the announcement that Philip was voluntarily surrendering his driving license.
Then in November 2019 the Queen’s son Prince Andrew became embroiled in his own controversy. During that month, the Duke of York was interviewed by the BBC about his longstanding connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein had been implicated in sex trafficking and sexually abusing underage girls and had later taken his own life while in jail awaiting trial.
Andrew himself, meanwhile, has been accused of sleeping with then-17-year-old Virginia Giuffre, who had allegedly been provided to him by Epstein. In the interview, though, the prince maintained that he had “no recollection of ever meeting [Giuffre].” He also claimed that he didn’t regret his close relationship with Epstein and is said to have shown no sympathy towards the former financier’s reported victims.
Unfortunately for Andrew, though, his words were torn apart in the media, with journalists and regular citizens alike pointing to inconsistencies in his recollection of events. One of the royal’s arguably most preposterous assertions was seemingly debunked, too. Specifically, Andrew insisted that, at the time of his alleged crimes, a medical condition had stopped him from sweating – yet photos from around that period appeared to suggest otherwise.
But following the outrage that ensued from his ill-advised interview, Andrew issued a statement in which he did express regret about associating with Epstein. The prince added, “I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure” and concluded by saying that he was “stepping back” from his usual public duties.
Then there have been Harry and Meghan Markle’s battles with the British press as well as the extensive social media abuse targeting the duchess. In March 2019 it was revealed that staff at Kensington Palace were becoming more vigilant about insults and threats made towards Meghan on Twitter and Instagram. Software was being used to filter out a list of offensive words, and abusive accounts were being blocked.
Then in October Meghan sued the Mail on Sunday, alleging that the newspaper had illegally published a private letter she had written to her father. And Harry issued a damning indictment of the media in defense of his wife. “Unfortunately, [Meghan] has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences,” he stated.
Harry even went on to compare the way in which Meghan had been treated to the fate of his late mother, Princess Diana. He wrote, “My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother, and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Harry himself would go on to take legal action against British publications The Sun and the Daily Mirror. In particular, he accused employees of the two newspapers of having hacked his phone in order to facilitate, as a Buckingham Palace spokesman put it, the “illegal interception of voicemail messages.” The announcement of these legal proceedings came only a few days after the prince’s scathing attack on the press.
But would Harry be comfortable with these events being covered on The Crown? Well, in January 2020, biographer Angela Levin gave an answer to that question during an interview with BBC Breakfast. Levin had previously had conversations with the royal while writing Harry: A Biography of a Prince, and she claimed that the Duke of Sussex had dived right into an unexpected topic of conversation as soon as they had met.
“Harry, when I went to interview him in the palace,” Levin explained, “the first thing he said to me when he shook my hand was, ‘Are you watching The Crown?’ And I hadn’t been at the time. I felt very embarrassed, and I got it.”
However, Levin continued, “[Harry] said, ‘I’m going to make sure I stop it before they get to me.’” And even though the prince’s words were couched in the context of a jokey exchange, they seemed to suggest that he wasn’t keen on seeing his life play out on screen.
Perhaps, though, Harry has no cause for concern when it comes to the hit Netflix show. Indeed, when The Crown creator Peter Morgan was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in January 2020, he made it perfectly clear that he has no intention of writing about the prince or his wife. Morgan even went as far as to assert, “I’ve got nothing to say about Meghan Markle.”
Morgan explained his stance further, saying, “I know how my show is going to end – but that’s long before where we are now.” And he added, “I feel uncomfortable writing about events within a certain time period. I think there’s a certain amount of time within which, if you write about it, what you do instantly becomes journalistic.”
In short, Morgan believed that years needed to have passed before he could comfortably incorporate real-life events into a Crown script. “If you wait a certain amount of time, if you allow 15 or 20 years – basically a generation – between you and [the events], then you can write about it freely as drama,” he added.
So, while Morgan believes there may be scope to dramatize Harry and Meghan’s story, he wouldn’t do so now. “Let’s wait 20 years and see what there is to say about Meghan Markle,” he said. “I don’t know what there is to say about Meghan Markle at the moment. I wouldn’t know, and I wouldn’t presume.”
And Morgan concluded by saying that Meghan would “only become interesting once we’ve had 20 years to digest who she is and what her impact has been.” The show creator isn’t the only person involved with The Crown to say something to this effect, either.
In an interview given to news agency PA in January 2020, the show’s executive producer Suzanne Mackie also suggested that Harry and Meghan’s relationship wouldn’t feature on The Crown. And her reasoning was virtually the same as Morgan’s: they don’t plan to take the show that close to modern-day events.
“To be honest,” Mackie said, “whatever the life of The Crown is after where we are now, I doubt we’ll ever go as far into the present day. I think we’ll probably… we don’t travel into the present day.” And hopefully this will alleviate any fears that Harry may have – although given where the series is heading, it’s easy to see why he may be concerned.
After all, the show is edging closer and closer to the 21st century. The third season of The Crown is set between 1964 and 1977 and naturally takes in several key events of those years – the end of the marriage between Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon being among them. In a plotline that may be somewhat closer to home for Harry, though, season three also sees the early stages of romance between Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.
And season four – for which filming has already begun – will take the story into the 1980s. This naturally means that Harry’s late mother, Diana, will feature. An actor portraying Harry himself may even make an appearance, as the prince was born in 1984.
But while Harry may have suggested that he doesn’t want to see himself in The Crown, the feelings of the rest of the royal family aren’t quite so explicit. Nevertheless, Vanessa Kirby, who starred as Princess Margaret in seasons one and two of the show, has suggested that the Queen has indeed seen the series.
Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar in 2018, Kirby claimed that, at a party, Princess Eugenie had told one of her friends that her “granny watches [The Crown] and really likes it.” And Olivia Colman – who plays the Queen in season three – has hinted at Prince William’s familiarity with the show, too.
During a 2019 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, the Oscar winner revealed, “I met Prince William at a dinner, and he asked what I was doing at the moment. However, Colman went on, “[William] quickly added, ‘Actually, I know what you’re doing.’” Clearly, he had an idea that the actress was playing his grandmother.
Colman added, “I was so excited and asked, ‘Have you watched it?’” Unfortunately for her and for fans of The Crown, though, William’s answer “was a firm, ‘No.’” Still, she did clarify that William was “very charming and very lovely,” so she wasn’t too upset that he seemingly had no intention of viewing the show.
And Harry’s throwaway remark that he would stop The Crown before it dramatizes his life story can be seen in a different light after he and Meghan decided to pull back from royal duties. This highly controversial decision, which was announced in January 2020, allegedly rocked the Windsors; it also provoked considerable debate and discussion among the British public and media.
In a statement, Harry and Meghan announced that they intended to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family” and instead “work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.” This led some to suggest that the couple’s message was effectively their way of resigning from official public duties.
Then, ten days after that bombshell was made, the Queen released an official statement on the matter. “Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions,” the monarch wrote, “I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.”
The Queen continued, “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved members of my family.” And she seemingly acknowledged the pair’s troubles with the British press, writing, “I recognize the challenges they have experienced as the result of intense scrutiny over the last two years.”
Overall, then, the Queen supported “[Harry and Meghan’s] wish for a more independent life.” And she thanked the couple for “all their dedicated work across [the U.K.], the Commonwealth and beyond” before revealing that she was “proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.”
Then the Queen concluded her statement, “It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.” Even so, the finer details of Harry and Meghan’s new arrangement had to be sorted out. And another message duly came from Buckingham Palace, explaining the compromises that had been reached.
The update clarified that Harry and Meghan would no longer use their ‘HRH’ royal titles, meaning no one should now refer to them as “His/Her Royal Highness.” They will also not be paid via public funds in the future, although some of their “private patronages and associations” were expected to continue.
And the statement confirmed that, even though “they can no longer formally represent the Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.” Now that Harry and Meghan have moved from the U.K. to Los Angeles, then, they’re ready for the next steps of their new life together.