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‘The Crown’ Season 6 must walk tightrope on Prince William, Harry and Diana

Prince William’s grief after Princess Diana‘s death will be depicted in the final season of The Crown requiring a delicate tightrope walk between the emotional trauma of two warring royal brothers.

Peter Morgan, the show’s creator, said previously that he has “a 20-year rule” that he will not depict events that happened to the royal family less than two decades ago. However, much of the content of the latest and final season of The Crown has been written about by Prince Harry in his own words as recently as January in his memoir, Spare.

That means the events of 1997 to 2005, the timelines for Season 6, occupy a bizarre duel existence, simultaneously coming from a bygone era but with emotional resonance firmly rooted in the present.

Morgan will have therefore had a difficult decision to make about how much to lean on Harry’s book, which is only the Duke of Sussex’s perspective and may not be shared by other royals.

To ignore it completely would be to sideline Harry and his version of the truth of what really happened. But to rest too firmly on it risks treating it as definitive and therefore taking a side.

And parts of the book relevant to the era are explosive—Harry suggests, for example, that he and William did not want his father, King Charles III, and Queen Camilla to marry in 2005.

Netflix has revealed that the wedding will be depicted and both brothers have been cast in the series, raising the prospect it may have to show their feelings about the marriage.

An October 9 press release appears to suggest a greater focus on William than Harry: “Prince William tries to integrate back into life at Eton in the wake of his mother’s death as the monarchy has to ride the wave of public opinion.”

With just this kind of conundrum comes an additional problem for the latest season.

The Crown and the British Media’s Inevitable Backlash

The last two seasons of The Crown sparked fierce criticism, including from former U.K. Prime Minister John Major, who is depicted in Season 5.

Major, in October 2022, said the show’s depictions of his meetings with Queen Elizabeth II “should be seen as nothing other than damaging and malicious fiction. A barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum—and entirely false—dramatic impact.”

However, there was no significant criticism of the queen, and it was Charles, not Elizabeth, whose marriage collapse was the centerpiece of the season. Charles is both less written about and, according to polling, less well-liked than his son Prince William.

Either way, the backlash did not stop Season 5 from earning six Emmy Awards nominations and critical acclaim.

This time around, the show must walk a tightrope between two warring brothers at a point when Harry’s bombshell account of this exact period is still fresh in the memory. And beyond the British press, both William and Harry have a legion of social media fans ready to generate a storm should either brother’s perspective be sidelined, supplanted or undermined.

That all means the prospect of reputational damage for the show and for Netflix increases compared to the last two seasons.

What makes the task even more difficult is that the show had already begun filming by the time Spare came out in January. Production began as far back as the release of Season 5—though filming was still continuing after the publication of the book and at least as late as March 2023.

Some of Harry’s account is extraordinary and could potentially prove difficult to ignore.

Prince Harry Bombshells Relevant to The Crown Season Six

The final season will drop in two parts, with the first four episodes released on November 16th focusing on events leading up to Princess Diana’s death.

Harry’s book begins as he is told by his father that his mother passed away in 1997 and covers the years afterward in detail, making it highly relevant to the six episodes that make up Part 2, due to be released on December 14.

Spare describes how Charles did not hug Harry after Diana died:

“What I do remember with startling clarity is that I didn’t cry,” Harry wrote. “Not one tear. Pa didn’t hug me. He wasn’t great at showing emotions under normal circumstances, how could he be expected to show them in such a crisis? But his hand did fall once more on my knee and he said: ‘It’s going to be OK.’ That was quite a lot for him. Fatherly, hopeful, kind. And so very untrue.”

If the show is to depict this moment, it surely cannot present it any other way as to do so would be to contradict Harry’s book. But to depict it as Harry describes it would be to assert Harry’s perspective that he was not hugged, potentially painting Charles as emotionally cold.

Similarly, Morgan’s decision to include Charles and Camilla’s 2005 wedding raises an inevitable question about how to depict Harry and William’s feelings about the marriage and about Camilla more generally.

Harry’s book makes it clear he had difficult feelings—not least of all his nickname for her: “Now, with Mummy missing, the maths swung hard in Pa’s favor. He was free to see the Other Woman, openly, as often as he liked. But seeing wasn’t sufficient.

“Pa wanted to be public about it. He wanted to be aboveboard. And the first step towards that aim was to bring ‘the boys’ into the fold,” Harry wrote.

Harry goes as far as describing both his and William’s first meeting with Camilla but more to the point he says they both opposed the wedding—and then there’s his account of the queen consort leaking information to the media.

“‘We support you, we said,'” Harry wrote. “‘We endorse Camilla,’ we said. ‘Just please don’t marry her. Just be together, Pa.’ He didn’t answer. But she answered. Straightaway. Shortly after our private summits with her, she began to play the long game, a campaign aimed at marriage and eventually the Crown. (With Pa’s blessing, we presumed.)

“Stories began to appear everywhere, in all the papers, about her private conversation with Willy, stories that contained pinpoint accurate details, none of which had come from Willy, of course,” Harry continued. “They could only have been leaked by the one other person present.”

Whatever path The Crown goes down, Morgan appears to view William, Harry and Kate Middleton as central to the finale’s appeal.

“In Season 6, the arrival of William and Kate and Harry just blows the doors off,” he told The Crown: The Official Podcast last year. “You want to see them. It happened in the read-through. You could just see everyone was looking up and looking at each other across the room. And every time William spoke, it was like, ‘Oh my God, this is just riveting.'”

Jack Royston is chief royal correspondent for Newsweek, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jack_royston and read his stories on Newsweek‘s The Royals Facebook page.

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