TV & Movies

How Accurate Is Prince Charles' Interview With Jonathan Dimbleby In The Crown?

The Netflix series dramatizes a key moment in Charles’ life.

Prince Charles (Dominic West) in 'The Crown' Season 5

In the fifth episode of The Crown Season 5, Prince Charles (Dominic West) entertains — and eventually follows through — on the idea of giving an interview. The Royal family historically kept themselves out of the press in terms of commenting on public and personal affairs. However, Charles was determined to fix his public image amid his separation from Princess Diana, which led him to speak with television journalist Jonathan Dimbleby (portrayed by Ben Warwick) in 1994.

The Crown reimagines the conversations between Charles and his advisors about giving an interview. “Right now, the problem is, no one knows you,” the adviser tells Charles. “They don’t know who you really are, nor what you think or feel.” The “intimate and authoritative profile” would give him the chance to explain his thoughts on what a modern monarchy would look like. The choice to speak with Dimbleby wouldn’t be “puffery,” and hopefully, it would help viewers take him seriously as Prince of Wales — and the future king.

The documentary reportedly took 18 months to film, and 180 hours of footage was compiled (per The Times). It was ultimately titled Charles: The Private Man, the Public Role and aired in June 1994. In the documentary, he plays with puppies, interacts with his sons, and chats with Dimbleby walking around royal grounds, making for sufficient B-roll.


In The Crown, Charles is asked if he thinks the monarchy can still survive and about his future role as head of the church. The interview also addresses the elephant in the room, his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles. He calls her a “dear friend” that he’s “jolly lucky to have.” In real life, there was much more to the interview than shown on the Netflix series. Charles spoke about his children, saying he enjoys seeing William and Harry “develop interests” and looks forward to their teenage years. In the same segment, he plays outside with them. He also said he didn’t like the constant surveillance of the media and always felt like there was a camera around watching.

Additionally, Dimbleby was a bit more direct when it came to asking about his affair with Camilla. Charles tells the journalist that his friendships outside of his marriage make his life much less “intolerable,” especially when going through a separation. Camilla was a friend of his for a long time and will “continue to be a friend for a very long time,” he adds.

As for his faithfulness to Princess Diana? Charles says he remained loyal to her — "until [the marriage] became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried." He does answer the question similarly in The Crown, saying that tried to stay together, but nothing could be done. In the real-life interview, he explained that his marriage falling apart "is the last possible thing that I ever wanted. I mean, I'm not a total idiot. ... It's not something that I went into, marriage, you know, with the intention of this happening, or in any way in a cynical frame of mind. ... I have always tried to get it right and tried to do the right thing by everybody."

He also said he was considering divorcing Diana and didn’t call the breakup of their marriage “an impediment” to one day becoming king. As sovereign, he would be the leader of the Church of England — and some had frowned upon the idea of a divorced king. When asked if he would accept the role of King if the Queen were to die, he says: "I would certainly imagine so. ... As far as I'm concerned, in the ordinary course of events, this is what would happen." (Spoiler: He had to wait another 25-plus years.)


Charles had made a huge mistake, everyone agreed, by even submitting to the interview at all,” Christopher Andersen, who has written several books about the Royal family, told The New York Times. The Washington Post said the documentary had the “tone of a wartime propaganda film — obsequious and elaborately flattering.” The publication adds, “He speaks with unusual candor and humor about why it's not easy being prince in an era of salacious media coverage and intrusive technology.” The Guardian said the interview “stunned the nation.”

According to Radio Times, over 13 million people tuned in for the Prince of Wales’ conversation with Dimbleby (including Prince Philip, who was outraged). Unfortunately, the full interview is not available for streaming, and only bits of it can be seen on YouTube.

As per The Crown’s retelling, the Queen is told that there are mixed reactions to the interview and Charles’ admissions. In actuality, The Sun ran a survey following the interview, and two-thirds of the respondents said that Charles wasn’t fit to be king. Overall, The Crown did a decent job hitting the major points of Charles’s interview, but the recreation felt flat compared to Diana’s BBC Panorama interview.

As for Diana’s response, wearing the now infamous Revenge Dress the same night the documentary aired? That totally happened.