A Broadway play about King Charles II premiered as a film on BBC Two and has caused a lot of controversy.
In the film, life after Queen Elizabeth II’s death is imagined starting with Charles’ ascension to the throne. Unlike his mother, King Charles III is fictionally portrayed to use the newfound power to take over the government. The power struggle with Parliament causes a constitutional crisis that threatens to bring down the country.
The themes in the play-turned-film reportedly should be taken “very seriously” according to Dr. Kate Williams, a Professor of History at the University of Reading. Charles once tried to use his status to influence the government, and in 2015, a court ruling forced the “black spider letters,” secret memos to his cabinet members, to be published.
“Every time there has been a standoff between the monarch and Parliament, it has been to the detriment of the monarch’s reputation,” Williams wrote for The Telegraph. “Charles, no doubt, will be acutely aware of these historical precedents.”
The image of Charles isn’t even the most controversial part of the film. The late Princess Diana makes several appearances as a ghost in the film and play, and the film opens with a shot of the Queen’s coffin.
Duchess Catherine, who is often seen smiling in appearances is portrayed as a dark and “scheming modern-day Lady Macbeth,” according to The Telegraph.
“We have a sovereign who commands universal respect across the nation and the rest of the World. It is extraordinarily insensitive for an organization which is so consumed with political correctness,” former Conservative defense minister Sir Gerald Howarth told the publication. “It is pure indulgence by the BBC to run a play featuring the demise of the sovereign and ascribing to a popular member of the Royal family [the Duchess of Cambridge] base motives.”
The play was written in 2014 and seemed to offer some foreshadowing for Prince Harry. In the play, the royal falls in love with a “commoner” girlfriend, Jess, who faces the tabloids and media scrutiny, much like his current girlfriend, “Suits” actress Meghan Markle, struggled with after announcing their relationship.
The royal family is reportedly aware of the film but has not issued a public statement about it.
“King Charles III” airs Sunday, May 14, at 9 p.m. ET on “MASTERPIECE” on PBS.