It is a longstanding tradition to name eras in English history after the monarchs who ruled them. Following that format, one day in the not-too-distant future, the world will come to refer to this point in history as the second Elizabethan era, stretching from the immediate post-WWII years through the UK's leaving the European Union. The Crown is the first significant piece of modern media to attempt to get its arms around these years by retelling the life and times of the current ruler, Queen Elizabeth II. But what does the royal family think of The Crown? Like the show itself, the answer seems to be a complicated one.
One would think the royal family might be in favor of The Crown. It is certainly far more flattering than other TV series that purport to portray the current ruling family (lookin' at you, The Windsors). That said, it certainly has its stated point of view. The series has hammered away at the idea of superhuman sacrifice for those at its center for three seasons: Season 1 had a significant storyline forcing Elizabeth to deny her sister a happy marriage to Peter Townsend. Season 2 focused on the longstanding rumors of Elizabeth and Philip's struggle to stay married. And Season 3 continued that theme with confrontations between Elizabeth and Charles over his quiet attempts at rebellion with his investiture speech and his relationship with Camilla.
Not all of these storylines have painted the royal family in the best light. The Queen has always been the central sympathetic figure in the show, holding it all together by a supreme effort of will. But dragging up old unconfirmed infidelity stories and re-staging other, rather more famous ones (like Margaret's trip to the Caribbean) wouldn't seem to make anyone particularly happy.
The royal family has never taken a public, unified stand regarding how it feels about The Crown. But hints have been dropped here and there. For instance, Vanity Fair reported that Princess Eugenie said her "Granny" watched a couple of installments. The Daily Express claims another source said the Queen likes it but thought it was "too heavily dramatized."
But not all stories suggest the royals are fans. The Express has other "senior royal" sources who claim Elizabeth was less than pleased with some of Season 2's dramatic choices, especially around Philip's portrayal. Olivia Colman, who currently plays Queen Elizabeth in the third and fourth seasons, said Prince William politely but firmly said he didn't watch the show when she met him in 2019.
In the end, it seems what the Palace wants is to be seen as not having any opinion at all. When show creator Peter Morgan said in an interview that he does try to keep royal courtiers apprised of what's to come, the Palace was quick to put out a statement reaffirming its neutrality on the subject lest anyone get the wrong idea.
It's a savvy way to handle the series and leaves plausible deniability in case of any controversy. As for whether Queen Elizabeth and fam will be marathoning Season 4, that's best left up to fan's imaginations.
The Crown Season 4 arrives on Netflix with 10 episodes on Nov. 15, 2020.