The Crown's depiction of Australia tour 'absolute fiction': historian

Prince Charles, Josh O'Connor, and Princess Diana, Emma Corrin, in The Crown's portrayal of the Royals' 1983 Australia tour. Picture: Netflix
Prince Charles, Josh O'Connor, and Princess Diana, Emma Corrin, in The Crown's portrayal of the Royals' 1983 Australia tour. Picture: Netflix

The Crown's depiction of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1983 Royal tour of Australia has been labelled as "absolute fiction" by an Australian National University historian.

Professor Frank Bongiorno said episode six of the recently released fourth season of the Netflix series, titled Terra Nullius, received "about a five out of 100" for accuracy.

The episode was set amid a growing wave of republicanism in Australia led by former prime minister Bob Hawke, which is then thwarted by the popularity of Princess Diana.

But Professor Bongiorno said republicanism was barely on the agenda when they toured.

"The depiction of Charles and Diana's visit as having saved the monarchy is absolute fiction," he said.

"Australia was experiencing its worst recession since the 1930s, double-figure unemployment and recovering from the Ash Wednesday bushfires with lots of devastation to lives and property.

"Australia was in a pretty grim corner at the beginning of 1983 and Hawke likely saw the royal tour as a feelgood opportunity for Australians, not a rallying call for a republic."

Social media was set alight last week after ABC's Four Corners uncovered an original interview from Mr Hawke that was portrayed at the start of the episode.

The episode showed Mr Hawke, played by Richard Roxburgh, being interviewed by Four Corners in February 1983 ahead of the election. He was asked about the probability one of his first tasks, if elected, would be to welcome Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown: Picture: Netflix

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown: Picture: Netflix

In the show, Mr Hawke responded by expressing his wish for Australia to become a republic, he then went onto call the Queen a pig, saying: "You wouldn't put a pig in charge of a herd of prime beef cattle, even if it does look good in twin set and pearls."

In reality, while Mr Hawke did convey a desire for Australia to become a republic his answer was far more diplomatic and he certainly did not call the Queen a pig.

Four Corners' social media post also busted other elements of the portrayal of the interview. The show said the interview took place on February 12, 1983, but it was actually February 26. As well, it said the interview was in Canberra but it was in Melbourne.

Other keen watchers were also quick to point out errors with the settings.

A scene supposed to be set in Brisbane pans a skyline with architecture more reminiscent of a European city. And that's because the episode was not filmed in Australia; it was filmed in Spain.

Despite the inaccuracies, Professor Bongiorno said the dramatisation of historical events through TV was a positive for further engagement with past events.

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"A historian's role is not to spoil people's enjoyment but to educate people on how to best discriminate between sources of information," he said.

"A television series such as The Crown has many virtues but it shouldn't be treated as an authority on historical detail."

This story Enjoying season four of The Crown? The royal tour of Australia part is 'absolute fiction' first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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