We all learned a new word in September. It’s catafalque, the platform on which a coffin rests if, say, a monarch has died, there’s a lying-in-state to be staged and a couple of million people (plus the odd famous footballer seeking a knighthood) want to queue overnight and pay their respects. Or not queue at all, as in the case of TV presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield.

Nobody is ever going to let them forget that, are they?

We learned other things, too, following the death of Queen Elizabeth. Some were barely credible outside a Harry Potter novel. Like there is such a thing as a royal beekeeper, and one of their duties when there is a change of sovereign is to attach black ribbons to the royal beehives, knock lightly on each one in turn and say to the occupants in hushed tones: “The mistress is dead, but don’t you go. Your master will be a good master to you.”

And did you know that among the great offices of the royal household in Scotland there is a Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod, an equivalent for the White Rod, a Washer of the Sovereign’s Hands and assorted astronomers, historiographers, carvers, botanists, falconers, sculptors, painters and limners? No, me neither. But I do now, and the thing is it’s all true.

So, while our opinions on the rights and wrongs of hereditary monarchy may not have changed much either way, we’ve come through the process of the royal succession with our knowledge of the institution enhanced. Which makes it an interesting but potentially awkward time for Netflix to release season five of The Crown, especially as it’s now approaching the red meat of the tale – the collapse of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Diana’s establishment of a rival power base to communicate her side of the story and, of course, her shift from willowy Princess to globe-trotting, couture-friendly mega-celeb. The sort of person paparazzi on motorbikes chase into Parisian underpasses when they sneak out of the Hotel Ritz with their Egyptian playboy lover.

It’s interesting because the rest of the world has only recently turned its gaze from us, having been transfixed by the pomp and ceremony of the succession and (probably) a little baffled by it. Having watched the real thing play out on news bulletins, they can binge watch a fictional version.

It’s awkward because facts matter. The death of the queen and the long-awaited arrival on the throne of her son have demonstrated this. Sure, the stuff about the royal beekeeper is of no great consequence. But other stuff to do with the process of handing over from one monarch to another is. Why? Because it highlights (or exposes) truths about who’s in charge, how they go about being in charge, what superstructures loom over them and what foundations their authority rests on. Who signs what matters. Bearing witness matters. Legal chains of command matter. To paraphrase a well-known political slogan of the 1990s, it’s the constitution, stupid.

Sticking with facts and their importance, Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki asked to see everything The Crown’s sizeable research team had amassed on her character when she was cast as the Princess of Wales for season five. “And when I got all of it I remember thinking ‘Well that’s a lot of research’,” she told one interviewer. Speaking to film and television industry bible Variety, meanwhile, she said: “The amount of research and care and conversations and dialogue that happen over, from a viewer’s perspective, something probably that you would never ever notice, is just immense.”

Then again she would say that, wouldn’t she? You see a little lost among the applause for The Crown, but becoming more audible as season follows season, is a complaint – that the show purports to be entirely accurate when actually much of what it portrays is either made up, or is supposition, or is an interpretation of facts skewed towards a particular view of its subjects (and one which is not altogether generous).

As a result of these complaints, Netflix have now given the show a sort of government health warning in the form of a disclaimer. The official publicity bumf now calls The Crown a “fictional dramatisation” which is “inspired by real-life events”.

So while you can take it from me that the House of Windsor does keep a royal beekeeper and the monarch does get their mitts washed properly in Scotland, you cannot take as gospel some of The Crown’s assertion. Like the one in an early episode of season five that a 1991 newspaper poll suggested the Queen abdicate in favour of her eldest son, or that said son had a meeting with then-Prime Minister John Major to discuss how he might engineer a timely succession.

Major himself has called the scene “a barrel-load of nonsense”. Actress Dame Judi Dench has gone further and issued a stern telling-off in the form of an open letter to Netflix published ahead of last week’s season five ‘drop’ (I believe that’s the technical term).

“[T]he closer the drama comes to our present times, the more freely it seems willing to blur the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism,” she wrote in what I hope were capital letters, dissing the monarch being close to a capital offence in some people’s book.

She continued: “I fear that a significant number of viewers, particularly overseas, may take its version of history as being wholly true. Given some of the wounding suggestions apparently contained in the new series – that King Charles plotted for his mother to abdicate, for example, or once suggested his mother’s parenting was so deficient that she might have deserved a jail sentence – this is both cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent.”

It was in part Dame Judi’s wagging finger which made Netflix issue its disclaimer. Co-incidentally (or maybe not) the streaming giant has also just signed up to the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), the industry body which measures viewing figures in the UK. It’s the first and, so far only, such organisation Netflix has joined in all the territories it covers.

And so we know for definite that over a million Britons tuned in for episode one of season five of The Crown last Wednesday. A further 666,000 watched episode two, 300,000 made it through episode three and a brave 100 souls made it all the way through to episode 10, though I’m guessing most of those were journalists looking for stories about how inaccurate the thing is. To put that in context, 7.9 million Britons watched I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here last Sunday in the hope of seeing former health secretary Matt Hancock eat some form of animal genitalia. Make of that what you will.

At the end of the day – or even the reign – does it matter how truthful The Crown is? No, in the sense that the more latitude the programme-makers allow themselves, the more entertaining the spectacle. But in every other sense it does matter, because this is very recent history and when you mess with that you are on what cricket-loving John Major would describe as a very sticky wicket.

From The Government Inspector, Peter Kosminsky’s 2005 film about the sordid lead-up to the Iraq War, to 2019’s Brexit: The Uncivil War – and not forgetting The Queen, Crown creator Peter Morgan’s 2006 film set in the aftermath of Diana’s death – British writers and directors have a strong track record of parlaying controversial events into filmed dramas which are exact and well-researched. As a result, these dramas are powerful and meaningful, an important crucible in which to examine and understand national trauma.

We’re known for loving our traditions in the UK. Indeed we’re quietly mocked for it in many of the countries which love watching The Crown. And yeah, lots of those traditions are absolutely potty. Queuing is one. But in a wider world which is often described as post-truth, where politicians lie about little things like who won the election or whether they’re at war or not, our tradition of dramatic verisimilitude is worth hanging on to. “Inspired by” really doesn’t cut it.