Should historical tv-series stick to the facts?

Since season 4 of The Crown was launched on Netflix, there has been a lot of drama about the representation of the marriage of Charles and Diana in the series. Of course, Diana was and is still highly loved by the public so everyone was looking forward to this particular season. Their marriage isn’t really shown as a love story. On the contrary, the series shows Charles madly in love with Camilla Parker Bowles before and during his time with Diana.

I haven’t started watching The Crown yet. Not even the first season. So I don’t have an opinion of this series in particular. But I find it quite stunning that everyone is demanding Netflix to place a disclaimer before every episode that it’s purely fiction.

Isn’t it strange that we all are expecting of The Crown to be historical accurate? It’s a Netflix drama. It’s meant to be entertaining. And yes, it’s based on real persons and events. And some of these persons are still alive today. But it has always been historical fiction. As is Victoria, The Last Kingdom, Braveheart, The Tudors and so on.

In some way, ‘The crown’ fits in people’s mind as ‘a based on true events’ story. Probably because it tells the story of people still alive today. But actually, it’s a wrong genre label. The crown is first and foremost historical fiction. None different from Victoria or The Tudors, where another English queen’s life is portrayed. The dialogues and interpretation of events are imagined. And yes, the series might stick to the objective facts, but places them in a subjective context, written for our entertainment.

The strength of historical fiction is that the story element really helps you remember the facts and also helps you see the bigger picture. That’s why it’s my favorite genre: I’m a history buff, but a mere history book won’t sweep me away as much as a fiction book that is written from the perspective of a famous person (or someone close to him/her).

But this also means that when doing that in a tv series that has fans worldwide about events not so long ago, this popular culture will influence the public opinion of these events. Diana was already beloved and Charles’ marriage to Camilla contested. But now a worldwide audience ‘learns’ of the secret affair between Charles and Camilla that broke Diana’s heart. It won’t do good for Camilla’s image. Even when we know there wasn’t an affair during Charles’ first marriage to Diana at all (that element of the story is entirely fictional). We have seen this story on tv and it has resonated with our emotions.

So should there be a warning before every episode. Perhaps. Should tv makers be aware of the impact they make on our idea of history? Yes! But history is and always will be a collection of framed events. There is no real truth in looking at historical sources, they are all biased. No tv series will ever succeed in representing only the facts. Remember Shakespeare? He’s one of the best historical fiction writers ever ;).

I’ll keep enjoying my favorite genre and keep a critical mind when forming opinions about past events. We can’t expect everyone to do that, but blaming either Netflix or Camilla for Diana’s pain is bit too far fetched, isn’t it?

Do you think Netflix should put a warning before every episode of ‘The Crown’ that it is historical fiction?