What Season 6 Of The Crown Gets Wrong About History

Few families are in the spotlight in the same way as the British royals, and it's been that way since long before there was a spotlight in the modern-day sense. They've been a driving force — for better or worse — for centuries, so it's understandable that it might be a bit daunting to write an entire television series about them. While some of the scenes and dialogue in "The Crown" were plucked from very real events and conversations, that wasn't the case with everything.

The show's head researcher and historian Annie Sulzberger told Variety, "This is a drama, and dramatists have to look at history differently. These are not inaccuracies. They were decisions to deviate from history." What's the difference? It's tricky: Sulzberger explained that some things might simply get condensed for the sake of television. They may have happened, just not in the way that's presented.

Season 6 of "The Crown" presented a few unique challenges, starting with the fact that dealing with Princess Diana's death was always going to be difficult — and explaining her relationship with Dodi Fayed meant that a lot of things were going to have to be interpreted. Also, showrunners occasionally had to deal with conflicting versions of the same events. Diana is shown meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair at his home in the summer of 1997, but Blair's recollections in his biography don't actually line up with what Diana said in interviews. What happened? Who knows! That said, let's look at a few times "The Crown" painted history with a bit of fiction.

Kate Middleton never met Princess Diana

The relationship between Prince William and Kate Middleton has been relentlessly documented, and when William proposed with help from his mother's engagement ring, it was the sort of thing that could push even the biggest cynic one step closer to becoming a hopeless romantic. So, when "The Crown" depicted an early, pre-college meeting between William and Kate, it stood out as something that followers of the family should have known about. According to the show, Kate and her mother, Carole Middleton, met William and Diana when they were selling magazines for charity. Was there any truth to it? Absolutely not. 

While William and Kate haven't said too much about Diana, they have confirmed that Kate never met her mother-in-law. After the pair married, William spoke with Katie Couric on how his mother's absence was the one shadow on their wedding day. He said (via the Irish Independent), "I think she... she would have loved the day and I think, hopefully, she'd be very proud of... of us both for the day. I'm just very sad that she's never going to get a chance to meet Kate."

Kate, too, has confirmed that they never met. In a now-deleted video cited by People, Kate said she felt a special connection to Diana through the engagement ring that fit her perfectly without being resized, but added, "I never, sadly, got to meet her. She'd be brilliant. We miss her every day."

Queen Elizabeth didn't consider abdicating

The idea that Queen Elizabeth II might have abdicated in favor of handing the monarchy over to Charles sooner has been approached a couple times on "The Crown," and the show has included things like a public opinion poll that came out in 1990. That poll suggested that around half of Brits thought that her eventual abdication was probably a good idea, but when the show depicted her actually considering it at the end of Season 6 — ultimately ending on her decision not to — was there any truth to it? 

Multiple people have said that abdication was simply never an option. After the death of Prince Philip, The Guardian looked at whether or not she was likely to step down, and it was royal historian Hugo Vickers who explained why it was unlikely in perhaps the most insightful way. "One main reason why the queen will absolutely not abdicate is, unlike other European monarchs, she is an anointed queen. And if you are an anointed queen, you do not abdicate." What's that mean? In a nutshell, she's there because God willed it, and that's a bond that's not broken easily.

In the same year, an excerpt from Matthew Dennison's "The Queen" (via Town & Country) reported that according to her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, Elizabeth had outlined the conditions under which she would consider stepping down. They were health-related: She had said that "unless I get Alzheimer's or have a stroke... I'm going to carry on to the end."

Mario Brenna says The Crown got that famous photo shoot wrong

When Princess Diana was photographed in 1997 while sharing some intimate moments with Dodi Fayed, it was a huge deal. The photos were taken by Mario Brenna, sold for somewhere around $2.1 million, and kicked off a feeding frenzy as paparazzi tried to get the next big photos. According to the way things are depicted in "The Crown," Brenna knew where the couple were going to be because he was tipped off by Dodi's father, Mohamed al-Fayed. Truth?

Brenna says that it's not the least bit true, even though "The Crown" researcher Annie Sulzberger told The New York Times that they settled on this version of events because they found it the most likely. The photographer's version of the story is pretty different. According to him, it boiled down to a complete accident.

Brenna said that he regularly headed to Sardinia, as it was a hotspot for the rich and famous — especially in the summertime. After seeing a boat with a blonde woman on board, Brenna said he initially thought it was someone else entirely and only realized it was Diana when he passed by on his own boat. He said that it took a few days for him to get photos that were good enough to sell, and admitted that he knew he had hit the jackpot: It "solved [his] personal and family problems." He went on to say, too, that "The Crown" team never reached out for his side of the story.

The Balmoral photo shoot wasn't a response to those famous pictures of Diana and Dodi

On one hand, the scenes of Princes Charles, William, and Harry having a series of photos taken commemorating their 1997 summer in Balmoral were among the most stunningly accurate moments in "The Crown." Outfits were pretty spot-on, and so was the inclusion of the dog, Widgeon. (Pictured is the real thing.)  But for all that accuracy, historians have had a major problem with the scene: The show turns it from a sweet moment with a father and his sons into a carefully planned act of revenge, designed to put forward a wholesome image on the heels of Diana's shockingly scandalous yacht pictures.

Richard Kay is a royal reporter and historian, along with being a friend of Diana's. When he appeared on the podcast "The Crown: Fact or Fiction," he said (via The Daily Mail) that he was on-hand when the photo shoot was arranged, and it definitely had nothing to do with the publishing of those pictures of Diana and Dodi Fayed. The shoot was arranged several days before the other photos even ran, and contrary to what's shown in "The Crown," it wasn't a hastily arranged, private thing: There were around 40 people on hand, including reporters.

There were a few other details that the show got wrong, too. It was bright and sunny, not overcast and rainy. There was also another dog that got left out of the show's version of events, a Jack Russell terrier named Tigger.

Duncan Muir wasn't a real person

Season 6 of "The Crown" features not only the Balmoral photo shoot, but a photographer named Duncan Muir. He's depicted as adoring the royal family and photographing them whenever he can, but purely out of love: "My passion, and what I'm best known for, is photographs of the royal family," he explains in the show. "Where the queen goes, I go." But here's the thing: He doesn't exist. 

So, why introduce him? There may be a couple reasons, starting with the fact that it's simply easier to cast one devoted photographer who's a combination of half a dozen real-life photographers, than to cast everyone who was on hand for the actual photo shoot (pictured). Meanwhile, TheCinemaholic suggests another reason: It's entirely possible he was meant to be a character at the other end of the spectrum from Mario Brenna, the paparazzo who had snapped and sold the photos of Diana and Dodi Fayed. Where Brenna was shown intruding on private moments for his own financial gain, Muir was perhaps created to show a photographer invited into the private circle of the royals, capturing personal moments with permission.

The show's recreation of one of Diana's most famous moments isn't accurate

At a glance, it looks like "The Crown" may have gotten this one right. Princess Diana was, of course, famous for her work in raising awareness about the devastation that was still being caused by landmines, and the photos of her walking through a minefield are among the most famous ever taken of her. But when it came time for the scene to be recreated in "The Crown," there were surprising changes.

The show depicts the walk as happening in Bosnia, but it actually happened in Angola. And even stranger, while Diana's outfit was recreated with impressive accuracy, she was still shown wearing the badges and logo of a group called "Relief Aid." The real charity? Halo Trust.

It's unclear just why the change was made, and a spokesperson for Halo Trust addressed the switch with The Daily Mail. "We weren't asked or consulted about the scene. Obviously, we would have been delighted had our logo been on the PPE, which is what really happened. Princess Diana's advocacy helped to get the 1997 landmine ban over the line, and that is an incredibly powerful legacy." Meanwhile, the New Zealand-based charity ReliefAid also confirmed that they had not been contacted, they had not given their approval to have their name featured, and they have nothing to do with clearing landmines.

Liberties were taken with the start of William and Kate's relationship

As it's presented in "The Crown," the start of William and Kate's romantic relationship is pretty straightforward. They were potential romantic interests, she wore a see-through dress at a fashion show, they kissed, and were interrupted by news that the Queen Mother had died. Bad timing, but the start of a relationship that the world has seen play out in international headlines. True? Nope.

The fashion show happened, but both were dating others at the time. There was no post-show meet-up, and there was no kiss interrupted by bad news. The designer who created that iconic dress in the first place actually intended it to be worn as a skirt, and while it's unclear whether or not Kate volunteered to wear it, it seems as though it was sort of accidentally made into a dress. Friends who were at the after-party have made it very clear that although William flirted, Kate refused his advances. They were, after all, both seeing other people, and fate would have to wait. 

Also fake? The awkwardly named Lola Airdale-Cavendish-Kincaid. In "The Crown," there's quite a bit of drama with this college student and reported girlfriend of William. But she never existed, and it may be a case of just streamlining the storytelling process. There were a few people William reportedly dated while he was in college, and Lola was simply created to represent all of them.

Dodi Fayed almost certainly didn't propose to Diana

To those with a passing familiarity with the story of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, this one might ring some bells... no pun intended. There were, for a long time, rumors that Dodi had proposed, but did he? While it's impossible to really know what happened behind closed doors, "The Crown" takes the liberty of filling in the blanks by having Dodi propose and Diana politely decline.

Harper's Bazaar says those rumors really got traction thanks to Dodi's father, Mohamed al-Fayed, and an article in The Guardian that reported on his accusations that Prince Philip had something to do with the tragic accident. He claimed that not only had the couple gotten engaged, but also that Diana was pregnant.

What is true is that a ring had been purchased, and just a matter of hours before both Dodi and Diana died. Was it for an engagement? That's up for debate. Staff recalled Dodi browsing in a jewelry store, then sending someone back to pick up a ring, which was later found in his apartment. Several of Diana's friends reported that they had spoken to her and confirmed that there was nothing that serious going on between them — she had no interest in getting married again, and she was still getting over a prior breakup. The formal investigation into the accident and deaths found that the ring had not been chosen by Dodi and Diana as an engagement ring, as Dodi's father had claimed.

The VE Day escape wasn't quite as it was depicted

The story about Elizabeth and Margaret sneaking out on VE Day and joining in London's revelry is crucial to the eighth episode in Season 6 of "The Crown." It's a brilliant juxtaposition between Margaret's failing health and inevitable death and the wild, heady days of youth, but did it happen? It did — just not in the way it's depicted in the show.

Yes, it was Margaret's idea, but they didn't exactly sneak out: They had full permission from their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and they traveled not in a small group, but with a retinue of guards. Yes, they went to the Ritz, but one of Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting said they conga-lined their way in one door and then right out the other. She said (via Tatler), "The Ritz has always been so stuffy and formal — we rather electrified the stuffy individuals inside. ... I think they thought it was just a group of drunk young people. I remember old ladies looking faintly shocked."

While the "Pink Sink" club in the Ritz was real, there's no indication that Elizabeth ever kicked loose and learned to jitterbug that night. Also not accurate? The song "It Ain't My Fault." They wouldn't have heard it, as it wasn't written until 1964.

Evidence of Mohamed al-Fayed's manipulation is lacking

Much of an entire episode of "The Crown" is dedicated to the machinations of Mohamed al-Fayed (pictured, in real life) and the implication that he manipulated a relationship between Diana and Dodi for his own ends. While some things depicted are true — he did buy the former home of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, and he did hire Edward's former valet — rumors that he arranged a relationship between his son and the princess have been disputed for a long time.

One of the loudest voices that's worked to debunk this theory is al-Fayed's former spokesperson, Michael Cole. He confirmed to Deadline that in all the time he spent with his former boss, he never saw or heard him speak of any such plans. Cole continued: "Netflix and the production company describe 'The Crown' as 'dramatized fiction,' and I am not going to disagree with that characterization. That means it is made up."

Cole went on to say that the entire premise put forward in "The Crown" was absolutely false: "Mohamed was a remarkable man in many ways. He was delighted that his eldest son and his family's dear friend Diana were together. But making two people fall in love with each other? That was beyond even his great talents." The elder al-Fayed passed away in August of 2023.

William and Harry's reactions to Diana's deaths weren't entirely accurate

Ahead of the release of the sixth season of "The Crown," executive producer Suzanne Mackie said (via the BBC) that they wanted everyone to know that a lot of thought and care went into the depiction of Diana's death. Still, those in-the-know pushed back pretty hard on some of the things depicted in the show, including the reactions of William and Harry. 

For starters, Prince Harry was shown crying in reaction to the news, but the real-life Harry wrote in his 2023 book "Spare" that tears only came when he was face-to-face with his mother's coffin for those last moments before her burial. He wrote: "My body convulsed and my chin fell and I began to sob uncontrollably into my hands. I felt ashamed of violating the family ethos, but I couldn't hold it in any longer. It's ok, I reassured myself, it's ok. There aren't any cameras around."

What about Prince William's 14-hour disappearance? Did that happen as depicted in "The Crown," or was there some artistic license taken? Experts say it's the latter. Dickie Arbiter was the queen's press secretary at the time of Diana's death, and when he spoke with Deadline, he called some of the scenes involving the princes "insensitive" and "unnecessary." He added that while they took walks in the Scottish highlands, the idea that William just disappeared was absolutely false.

No, the queen didn't respond that way to Diana's death

Anyone who has ever had an unexpected death in the family knows that there's no playbook and no instructions. In "The Crown," there's a heated debate about bringing Diana's body back to England from France and the logistics involved, but Queen Elizabeth's press secretary at the time, Dickie Arbiter, told Deadline that the idea that anything was debated was ridiculous.

"The scenes between Charles and his mother, in which he blurted out that she wanted Diana to come back in a Harrods van, were absolute nonsense," he said. "It just didn't happen like that. Of course an aircraft was going to be made available [to bring Diana's body home]. The queen was the first one to agree to that."

Arbiter also gave some insight into why Diana was given the public funeral she was, instead of a private one. He said that it was her family — specifically her brother, Charles Spencer — who made the call. "Spencer thought that because Diana was a public figure, because she was very popular and people adored her, that it should be something handled by the royal family to make it a public event rather than a private family event."