The Crown’s Controversial “Tampongate” Recreation vs. the Real-Life Phone Call

As if things couldn’t get any worse for the royal family. Hot on the heels of The crown“Annus Horribilis” – a season five episode that dramatizes what is arguably the worst personal year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign between her children’s broken marriages and tabloid scandals and her fire at Windsor Castle – the Netflix series depicts one of the most humiliating moments of Prince Charles after . In the episode “The Way Ahead,” which airs about two months after Charles finally became king, Dominic West and Olivia Williams Recreate the intimate 1989 telephone conversation between Charles and Camilla, illegally recorded, then years later printed and parodied around the world, dubbed ‘Camillagate’ by some and ‘Tampongate’ by others.

“God, I want to feel my way along you, all over you, up and down,” West says as he reads verbatim from the actual transcript of the infamous phone call. “God I just wish I could live in your pants, it would be so much easier.”

“What are you going to turn into?” laughs Williams as Camilla. “Underpants?”

“Or, God forbid, a tampax,” jokes Charles. “Just my luck.”

The fifth season of The crown has already garnered criticism for its premiere so soon after the Queen’s death, and has brought back likely uncomfortable scandals to public consciousness with 10 new episodes depicting the British royal family from 1991 to 1997. Mrs. Judi Dench has asked the series to add a title card before each episode that clarifies that the episodes are dramatized. (Netflix added a disclaimer to the description of its Season 5 trailer.) These critics might have particular issues with “The Way Ahead,” which particularly blurs the line between fact and fiction, as certain details of the incident appear in the episode (such as when Camilla’s husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, taking Charles’ call), while others, like much of the transcript, are taken word for word.

On a phone call with Sally Bedell Smith, who wrote about the conversation Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, tells the best-selling royal biographer vanity fair, “It struck me as beyond ironic that when so much of the show is fictional – dialogue fictional, scenes fictional – that it would take refuge in facts when it suited its purpose and attitude[ed the royal family]. So here we have an instance in a series that is mostly fictional and where they reenact the facts of what [Charles and Camilla] said because the [actual words] put them in a very bad light.”

If you overlook the racy language, Smith admits that the lengthy interview – which covered subjects that were more serious than sexy – offered interesting new insights into Charles and Camilla’s relationship when it was first published by British newspapers in 1993 .

“What I found fascinating about it really wasn’t so much the language they used, which was eye-opening for the heir to the throne and his girlfriend, but that it showed their dynamism — that she was attuned to nuance and she was smart and she understood them.” Other people’s motivations and how people, even in their social circle, bowed and scratched at him for who he was,” says Smith. “Also, she really understood that he needed constant reassurance because he was feeling very vulnerable… She was very motherly to him. He wasn’t sure. Those are the things I’ve been trying to emphasize [in my book]. But I think it takes on a whole new and potentially damaging aspect when you recreate those words… I definitely quoted the language, but I did it, I think, in a way that put everything in sympathetic context .”

The original phone call should remain private. In December 1989, Parker Bowles was at her family home speaking to Prince Charles at night. Her husband was at work, according to Smith’s biography of Charles, but their children were at home for the holidays. And Prince Charles, who had just finished a grueling tour, was speaking from the home of a friend, Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster. Somehow, in a mystery that has still not been solved, the audio of the call was recorded. The official story was that an amateur radio enthusiast accidentally stumbled upon the conversation using high-tech scanning equipment. But according to the LA times, Given that the tape emerged within a month of a private call from Princess Diana being recorded and contained a high-quality recording, the possibility was raised that “British internal intelligence services may have been involved in recording the original conversations and getting them out.” leaked to the press for unknown reasons.”

In January 1993 – just a few weeks after the end of the Queen’s annus horriblis – the British newspapers appeared sunday mirror and persons printed out the entire transcript of the call. As if the transcript wasn’t damning enough, a telephone hotline was set up so listeners could hear the actual audio. There were also cartoon parodies and television skits – further live on saturday night, Dana Carvey ended his run by playing Charles in costume as a tampon. Speaking of the PR impact Camillagate had on Charles and Camilla, Smith says, “It did a lot of damage to him and her. His popularity plummeted and people questioned his suitability to be king.” The Crown’s Controversial “Tampongate” Recreation vs. the Real-Life Phone Call

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