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  • Writer's pictureYelena McCafferty

Reminder: Don't Believe Everything you See in The Crown

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

The final season of The Crown on Netflix received a lot of criticism even before it was released. Newspapers published comments from the former British prime ministers John Major, Tony Blair who categorically denied stories that made it into the plot of this TV drama. Having watched a few episodes myself, I do find some storylines difficult to accept as factual.

What else would you expect from a television series? Even though it’s based on real personalities and events, conversations and details can’t always be verified, especially as the late queen did her best to be discreet throughout her life. Admittedly, this discreetness didn’t extend to the rest of the royal family.

In one of the episodes of The Crown the focus was on the relations with Russia. Putting the historical background with the execution of the tsarist family aside, it was centred around the visit of the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin to London and the reciprocal visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II to Moscow. Both had interpreters which is a standard practice in diplomatic circles. In one scene the delegations pose for a group photo and Yeltsin starts making controversial comments.

What happened next led to some criticism on social media from people who appear to have taken what they see on the screen for a true account. Yeltsin’s character makes insulting comments about the queen, and when she asks for the interpretation, Yeltsin’s interpreter says something completely different, complimenting the host. This development made some linguists express online their incredulity. Again, this doesn’t take into account that The Crown isn’t a documentary, but a film with fictional elements, therefore the interpreter twist is here for show. I doubt very much that a situation as we saw it would have arisen in real life, both on the part of a head of state and an interpreter, especially with the other interpreter acting for the other country being present. As for the interpreting standard in the rest of the episode it was top notch from both interpreters. A pleasure to listen to, as we say.

What can we take away from this? It’s always good to see interpreters in movies as they often throw light on this interesting profession, but we have to remember that fiction films are just that, made for entertainment and drama.

[Tip: if you require a Russian interpreter, remotely or face-to-face, please email us or call 0207 0436940 to discuss. And if you want to see the real footage of Boris Yeltsin meeting the Queen, why not watch the incredible series Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone by Adam Curtis of the BBC.]



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