The Queen’s former press secretary says a storyline in the third series of The Crown alluding to a relationship between the Queen and her horse training manager is “absolute nonsense”.
Dickie Arbiter told Sky News rumours of an affair between the Queen and Lord Porchester – known as “Porchie” – had “been washing around for decades”.
He said: “All sorts of people have written about it and made allegations, innuendos, suggestions – there’s nothing to it.”
Mr Arbiter said it was not something he thought the public would buy into and the royals would not be nervous about the series either because “people will always rehash the past”.
“I don’t think a lot of people do believe it. They say ‘The Queen – an affair? What absolute nonsense!’
“She’s only ever had eyes for Prince Philip, she’s coming up to her 71st wedding anniversary and she will continue only having eyes for Prince Philip.
“So I think people will come away and say ‘Well did it happen? I doubt it.'”
He said the storyline would however bring in the viewers, explaining that the show’s writer Peter Morgan is “very clever at the publicity angle”.
“Because you push that into the storyline, you push it out into the public domain and everybody is asking questions about it.
“Everybody is reading about it, television and radio are wall-to-wall with that particular allegation, so it’s a big publicity drive.”
The third series of The Crown sees Olivia Colman take over from Claire Foy as the Queen and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret.
It charts the period between 1964 and 1977 and dramatises the years between Harold Wilson’s election as Labour prime minister until the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
It depicts national crises such as the Aberfan disaster, as well as personal triumphs and family challenges.
Up until this point, the show has been brilliant PR for the Queen with no damage to the royal family’s reputation.
But now the series will now start to explore more sensitive parts of history including Prince Charles’ early friendship with Camilla Shand, now the Duchess of Cornwall, which could make more uncomfortable viewing for some.
However, Mr Arbiter told Sky News the series isn’t damaging at all to the family, saying: “The monarchy has survived all sorts of innuendo and allegations in its 1,000 year history – go back to 1992 Annus horribilis.
“If the Queen can survive that, the Queen can survive everything.
“It’s not even a blip – it’s entertainment and as long as the public see it as great viewing entertainment, that’s it.”
Historian and author Robert Lacey is an adviser to the Netflix series.
He has also written a biography of the Queen and more recently the official companion guide books to The Crown.
He agreed that the series “is going to venture into very interesting territory.
“It will venture into the relationship between Camilla and Charles.”
The series dramatises the period when the two met, to which he said: “Some would say this is controversial, I would say it’s history, it happened.”
:: Listen to the Behind the Headlines podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
However, the line between fact and fiction is a fine one.
Mr Lacey told Sky News: “There’s always such interest about The Crown and what’s true.
“People say ‘What’s historical and what’s invented?’. People fail to realise that it’s a drama and that it’s all invented in one sense, but it’s all also very solidly based on history.”
Novelist Hilary Mantel says that: “Historians are like gardeners who stand there with sieves and all the past goes through the sieve and historians catch a little bit – because there’s a difference between the past that really happened and history, which are the fragments left.
“The Crown is true to the past.”
Critics warn of rewriting history but Mr Lacey suggests they are filling in the gaps.
“The Crown imagines what is going through the hearts and minds of the people living in [Buckingham Palace] and I would argue that it’s all true, because it’s true to the spirit.
“Now, everything she says is not everything the Queen says but it is still true to the Queen – and you’re watching a drama and it’s a drama that brings these people to life.”
When it was suggested in September that members of the royal household had collaborated in making the series, Donal McCabe, the Queen’s communications secretary, issued a sharp rebuttal insisting that Buckingham Palace “is not complicit in interpretations made by the programme… and would never express a view as to the programme’s accuracy”.
Netflix has a reach of millions across the UK and The Crown has been a huge commercial and critical success for the streaming service.
However much it purports to be a drama, it will undoubtedly influence the opinions and feelings of some viewers about the Royal Family.
The Crown Season 3 will launch on Netflix on Sunday 17th November.