It’s a question you can’t help but wonder while tuning into Netflix’s cult series The Crown: Do members of the royal family—the very people the show is based on—actually watch it?
The answer is mixed—some have admitted it’s a guilty pleasure, while others are hell-bent on avoiding it. When the fifth season premiered in November, the question plagued fans more than ever given the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth, whom the show is largely based on. What’s more, the new season also focussed on the events of the 1990s, which encapsulates a time many of its fans will still remember clearly.
Of course, none will remember this period more than the royal family themselves, so are they choosing to relive their most scandalous and problematic moments? Below, we look at exactly which royal family members watch The Crown, and what they’ve ever said about it.
Queen Elizabeth II
According to Matt Smith who played Prince Philip in the first two seasons of the show, the late Queen Elizabeth was partial to an episode or two of The Crown on a Sunday evening via a projector screen. How very extra of her.
The snippet was backed up by Vanessa Kirby (who played Princess Margaret in seasons one and two), who told The Graham Norton Show she bumped into one of the York sisters (Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie—she didn’t specify which one) who told her, “My granny kind of likes it.”
“It’s quite a reliable source-ish—so I’m sure [The Queen] is a fan,” Kirby added.
The Duke of Sussex has spoken at length about the accuracy of the The Crown‘s narrative, telling The Late Late Show With James Cordon that it’s fictional, but “loosely based on the truth”.
“It gives you a rough idea about what the lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that,” he explained.
Harry even added that he prefers the viral-ness of The Crown‘s portrayal of him in comparison to the real-life tabloid reports consistently scrutinising his every move.
“I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family, or my wife, or myself… [The Crown] is obviously fiction, take it how you will, but [the news stories] are being reported on as fact, because you’re supposedly news. I have a real issue with that.”
Matt Smith also joyfully shared proof that Prince Harry watches The Crown, previously telling The Today Show that the royal once walked up to him and called him “Granddad” as a joke.
I met [Prince] Harry once at the Polo,” Smith explained. “He walked up to me and he went, ‘Granddad,’ because he watched the show.”
Harry also famously told royal biographer Angela Levin that while he was happy watching The Crown for the time being, he might steer clear of later seasons.
“When I went to interview [Prince Harry] in the Palace, the first thing he said to me when he shook my hand was, ‘Are you watching The Crown?'” the writer explained to the BBC.
“And he said, ‘I’m going to make sure I stop it before they get to me.'”
Given Harry is portrayed as a child in the 1990s focussed fifth season, perhaps the Duke will leave his days of Crown-binging just there.
King Charles III
King Charles III has watched previous seasons of The Crown and he “enjoyed it”, according to well-known royal commentator Kate Nicholl.
But she added that season four, which covers off the 1980s where Charles meets and marries Princess Diana, might have been “a little too close to the bone” for him to watch.
Before you get to excited, we’ll start by saying Prince William definitely doesn’t watch The Crown, but he has referenced it before.
Olivia Colman, who played Queen Elizabeth in seasons three and four, recalled a conversation she had with Prince William during an interview on The Graham Norton Show.
“I met Prince William at a dinner, and he asked what I was doing at the moment before he quickly added, ‘Actually, I know what you’re doing,'” she explained, suggesting the Prince of Wales was aware she was filming for The Crown at the time.
“I was so excited and asked, ‘Have you watched it?'” Colman continued. “His answer was a firm, ‘No.’ But he was very charming and very lovely.”
One of the more memorable scenes in the fifth season of The Crown comes when Sarah Ferguson, then-wife of Prince Andrew, becomes embroiled in the infamous 1992 toe-sucking scandal. While her actual presence is limited in the show, the reference would no doubt have interested the Duchess of York, who once told Town & Country magazine that she had actually reached out to The Crown producers asking why she hadn’t been in the show yet.
“I said to him, ‘Why can’t I help my character?'” she said in the interview.
A longtime fan of the show, Fergie has also commented on how “beautifully” The Crown was shot: “The cinematography was excellent.”
For those previously unaware of Princess Anne’s confidence and admirable frankness, The Crown did a great job at bringing it to our attention. Played by Erin Doherty in seasons three and four, the actor previously told marie claire Australia that she did a double take when researching her character: “I was like, ‘Who is this woman?!’ And the more research I did I was like, ‘As if! She’s so cool!'”
And the royal herself is clearly not mad about her portrayal on the show. In a 2020 documentary marking her 70th birthday, Anne revealed that she found The Crown “quite interesting”.
We certainly can’t argue with her there.