Why royals don’t take legal action over unflattering TV show depictions of the family

From The Crown to South Park, TV writers love to attack the royal family

The royal family
(Image credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Future)

Members of the royal family have been depicted on TV shows countless times, in both flattering and not-so-flattering lights. But no matter how damaging the depiction, the royals have never taken any legal action. Here's why.

Earlier this month, public opinion was divided as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were fictionalised in the US comedy show South Park and relentlessly mocked, with the show featuring them as characters going on a "Worldwide privacy tour." 

Since the episode aired, many media outlets have speculated about whether Meghan and Harry would take legal action over the harsh joke. But following a statement from the Sussex household sharing that the couple would not take any action, calling the speculation 'totally baseless' and 'boring,'  many royal fans are wondering why the couple would not sue.

The royal family

(Image credit: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Similar questions arose when it was reported that Prince Philip was upset over an episode from series two of The Crown that portrayed a fictionalised account of his sister's, Princess Cecilie's, death. While the show stuck to the true fact that she died in a plane crash on her way to England, the drama made the implication that Philip was to blame for her death, with her boarding the plane to visit him. 

According to royal expert Hugo Vickers, the late Duke of Edinburgh was incredibly hurt by the episode. However, no action was taken. Again, the question of 'Why not?' was ripe. 

The royal family

(Image credit: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Various PR experts have commented on how taking legal action against these portrayals will only backfire. If the royals gave their attention to the fictional depictions, it would only draw more attention to them. This in turn could take precious coverage of their royal engagements and good deeds away from them as the press focus on their reaction to whatever fictional depiction is the latest.

Instead, the family embrace their ongoing mantra of "never complain, never explain" by not taking action, legal or otherwise.

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Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for Goodto.com. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.