Would the Royal Family Be Able to Sue 'The Crown' Producers?

Close friends of the royals' have "sought legal advice."

The Royal Family
(Image credit: ADRIAN DENNIS)

The Crown, which dramatizes the story of the Royal Family from then-Princess Elizabeth's marriage all the way up to more recent events, has opportunities galore to—ahem—royally p*** off the real-life royals. On that front, the award-winning Netflix series certainly doesn't disappoint.

Members of the Firm have reportedly taken issue with many of the plotlines explored by The Crown throughout its four existing seasons and in anticipation of the fifth season's release in 2022. For instance, Prince William was reportedly "frustrated" with the show's decision to dedicate an episode to Princess Diana's controversial BBC interview with Martin Bashir. It's also been said that the family is (understandably) not super excited about The Crown's intention to detail Prince Philip's very close friendship with Penny Knatchbull.

Event, Performance, Ceremony,

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Now, The Sun reports that friends of the royals have taken legal advice on whether or not they would have grounds to sue The Crown for portraying them in a certain light in season 5—and the answer is a resounding yes. "Friends of the Royal Family sought legal advice," a source told the paper. "The advice they received would also apply to the Royal Family. Although this is not direct legal advice given to the Queen and her family—they have been made aware of this advice."

Asked to weigh in, lawyer Helena Shipman of Carter-Ruck, told The Sun, "One battleground is the main message of the programme. Is it that the Queen acted coldly following the death of Diana? That would be a statement of opinion and Netflix would have an easy defence saying it is simply their own honest account."

Shipman then laid out more solid grounds for legal action on the Queen's part. "However, where The Crown has potential to overstep the mark is by suggesting something more serious—such as the Queen failing in her duties as sovereign and harming the country.

"That’s arguably a fact a defendant would have to prove true and the defence threshold for that is much higher.

"There are also other elements to having the potential for a libel claim, which is whether viewers believe what they’re watching is true or not. If they understand the show is fiction, and it’s a drama, their opinion of the Queen would not be lowered.

"But the fact she is being given initial advice about libel action says that she considers her portrayal a false one."

For now, though, it still seems unlikely that the Royal Family would choose to sue the show's producers in the first place.

Iris Goldsztajn
Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of British Vogue, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and SELF. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.