Why can’t all upper-crust British period dramas live together in perfect, escapist harmony? Because frankly, life is less like a Lady Edith and more like a Duke of Windsor. Julian Fellowes, who was Downton Abbey’s creator and showrunner until the show curtsied away in 2016, is personifying those values quite well this week, when during an interview he opined how there’s a few glaring issues with Peter Morgan’s The Crown. “It was very well done, it was beautifully acted, beautifully written,” he explained on Katie Couric’s podcast, stressing how “brilliant” he thinks the show is. “For me, I’m not completely comfortable with dramatizing people who are still alive and still living their lives because I think it’s possible to be unfair. And in the second series, I didn’t think it was fair to Prince Philip, to the Duke of Edinburgh, based on very little.”
The Crown’s second season dives into the increasingly unhappy marriage between Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth, with one of the episodes implying Philip engaged in an affair with a ballerina. (We should note that while his affairs are long-rumored, they’re all unsubstantiated.) Taking such a creative stance when the facts are unknown, Fellowes believes, is harmful to storytelling. “I think that a lot of it was based on, obviously, very good research, but some of it was not,” Fellowes said. “Some of it was extrapolation from a rumor or someone’s rather prejudiced account. And then it was presented as fact, and I’m not sure that’s just.” Additionally, he questions the merits of portraying Philip in a bad light at all: “I think when people are still alive, living their lives, doing a good job and popular and loved, do they deserve it? And in that sense, I’m not sure they do.”
Hey, but if the royal family likes it, maybe Morgan’s in the clear.