Judi Dench isn’t a fan of the ‘cruelly unjust’ depiction of the royals on ‘The Crown’

A woman with cropped white hair leans her face on her closed hand while seated
Judi Dench wrote an open letter in the British newspaper the Times criticizing Netflix’s “The Crown.”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Actor Judi Dench will probably press skip on the next season of Netflix’s “The Crown.” In an open letter she wrote to the British newspaper the Times, the Oscar winner dismissed the Emmy-winning series as “inaccurate and hurtful.”

“The closer the drama comes to our present times, the more freely art seems willing to blur the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism,” Dench wrote in her letter published Thursday in the U.K. with the headline “The Crown is crude and cruel, says Dame Judi Dench.”

Weeks before the hit show’s fifth season debuts, the “Belfast” and “Shakespeare in Love” actor said she worries viewers, specifically those overseas, will see the streamer’s “brilliant but fictionalized account” of the royal family as “wholly true.”

“The Crown” stars Josh O’Connor and Emerald Fennell respond to the British culture minister’s proposal that Netflix add a disclaimer labeling the show fiction.

Dec. 9, 2020

Since debuting in 2016, “The Crown” has tracked major milestones in the history of the British monarchy, including the ascension of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Season 5, which drops Nov. 9, will further explore Princess Diana’s time as a royal.

Dench, who was honored with damehood by the British monarchy in 1988, said the upcoming chapter of “The Crown” includes “wounding suggestions” around newly crowned King Charles’ upbringing and relationship with his mother.


“This is both cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent,” Dench added.

Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ should come with a disclaimer for its depictions, which include Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher, an official says.

Nov. 29, 2020

The actor’s sentiments echoed those of former prime minister John Major, who dismissed the series as a “barrel-load of nonsense” over the weekend. Netflix responded to Major, who is depicted in the series by Jonny Lee Miller, and doubled down on its assertion that the series “has always been presented as a drama based on historical events.”

After previous backlash from U.K. culture secretary Oliver Dowden in November 2020, Netflix has said that it will not include a disclaimer to its episodes reminding viewers that “The Crown” is fictionalized. Dench, who said there is no “greater believer in artistic freedom than I,” wrote that “the time has come for Netflix to reconsider” its disclaimer decision.

Representatives for Netflix did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.

‘The Crown’ creator Peter Morgan also said that the Netflix period drama is ‘a love letter’ to Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at 96.

Sept. 9, 2022

“For the sake of a family and a nation so recently bereaved, as a mark of respect to a sovereign who served her people so dutifully for 70 years, and to preserve its reputation in the eyes of its British subscribers,” she concluded her letter.

Dench, of course, was referring to Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September at age 96 at her summer home in Balmoral, Scotland. “As a mark of respect,” Netflix paused production on Season 6 of “The Crown.”

“‘The Crown’ is a love letter to [Queen Elizabeth] and I’ve nothing to add for now, just silence and respect,” series creator and writer Peter Morgan told Deadline. “I expect we will stop filming out of respect too.”