The King Who Never Was Review – this true crime is stuffed with royal fluff

By Marc Miller
Published: July 5, 2023 (Last updated: July 27, 2023)
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2023 Netflix true crime series The King Who Never Was Review


The King Who Never Was is more interested in celebrity than the victim and rarely takes a critical eye on the alleged crime.

Here is our review of the 2023 Netflix true crime series The King Who Never Was, released on July 4th, 2023.

At first glance, the Netflix true crime docuseries The King Who Never Was has it all: an exiled Italian prince, a drop-dead gorgeous German fashion model, and a mysterious crime, all set on the small French island of Cavallo, creating an allure surrounding a mystery that captivated and divided audiences for decades.

However, the series, directed by Beatrice Borromeo (Bang Bang Baby), is essentially a rehash of older crime documentaries, with a few scattered interviews in between.

Moreover, it falls victim to a nasty little Netflix habit of unnecessarily stretching docuseries beyond their limits.

The King Who Never Was Review

The King Who Never Was covers the tragic death of Dirk Hamer, who was killed by a bullet while sleeping on a boat off the coast of the French island of Cavallo.

The young man was only there because his parents made him accompany his model/actress sister, Birgit Hamer. How exactly did the young German teenager end up with a bullet in his leg, and who put it there?

That’s the question many have tried to sort out for decades. This is strange because the crime is well documented and reported on.

The main suspect is Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia, the last heir to the throne of Italy before the monarchy ended. Even though multiple witnesses on the night of August 18th, 1978, pointed the finger at di Savoia during the documentary, he was acquitted twice.

Even though he admitted in a letter of civil liability to Hamer’s death, he was caught on camera “boasting” of the killing in 2006.

Borromeo’s docuseries moves like a slog and offers a rather stale rehashing of the crime, even taking viewers on a long and winding road through the court system without much interesting or factual information.

The series seems more focused on witness accounts, which is acceptable. Yet, the series rarely provides evidence or addresses factual statements made by individuals.

For example, when the Prince claims that bullets go straight and demonstrates with a hand motion that this one would go up and down, there is no scientific explanation for his claim—the scene feels as though we are expected to accept the accused killer’s word without further examination.

Then, when di Savoia is finally brought to trial, the complaint arises that witnesses who could have pointed to him as the killer were never called. However, his lawyers called one witness who did not witness the crime.

The documentary fails to highlight the shortcomings of Birgit’s legal team in not calling witnesses who claim to have seen the Prince pull the trigger or explain this failure.

Is The King Who Never Was good or bad?

The King Who Never Was is a below-average true crime docuseries. When Borromeo finally begins to look at di Savoia’s flimsy excuses critically, the series finds the hubris in citizens’ infatuation with royal celebrity and the self-importance these figures have (even the journalists here).

Even the filmmakers give ample opportunity for the Prince to defend himself as if he had the final cut.

Is The King Who Never Was worth watching?

The King Who Never Was is not worth watching because of the treatment of the main subject. For instance, during the interview, he claims he never remembered admitting to killing Hammer. In archival footage, di Savoia says since he doesn’t remember shooting the young man, he must not have done it.

The fascination with the last Monarch questions whether the film intentionally leaves enough rope for the Prince to either hang himself or treat him with bias. The whole exercise feels like an aforementioned statement than a critical eye.

What did you think of the 2023 Netflix true crime series The King Who Never Was? Comment below.

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