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The Historical Inaccuracies Of THE CROWN

We’re taking a closer look at the series The Crown and pointing out scenes that did not occur in reality.

Martyna Janasik

19 April 2024

Historical Inaccuracies Of THE CROWN

The series The Crown, depicting the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has captured the hearts of viewers worldwide. This “royal” series has also garnered acclaim from the majority of critics. The production has been praised for its acting, direction, screenplay, and cinematography. It has also been repeatedly honored, including with two Golden Globe awards. However, despite the favor of fans and the industry, the series has not been immune to criticism for historical inaccuracies. The Crown has faced criticism, particularly from its fourth season onward. Therefore, we have decided to scrutinize the “royal” series and highlight some scenes that did not occur in reality.

The Crown: Truth or Fiction?

the crown

the crown

The series The Crown is available on the Netflix platform. The production has spanned 6 seasons, with the first part released by Netflix in 2016 and the final part, divided into two halves, in November and December 2023. Although the series tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and her family’s fate, from the beginning, it was evident that many issues would be omitted or extrapolated based on reports and speculation.

Often, one can only speculate about what happened behind closed doors during certain family conversations or in Queen Elizabeth’s weekly meetings with individual prime ministers. There are situations that were not meticulously documented. However, the series contains historical inaccuracies and distorted facts regarding documented events. So where does The Crown belong — truth or fiction? Series historical consultant Robert Lacey stated: “There are two kinds of truth. There’s the historical truth and there’s the greater truth about the past. […] When you depart from history, it’s not accidental. It’s because you want to deliver a specific message that you can only deliver in that way.”

Therefore, The Crown should be seen as a story inspired by real events, and delving into historical books and information provided by the royal family can provide a fuller view of the actual history of the dynasty. However, there are indeed several moments in The Crown that did not actually happen or looked quite different in reality. Here are a few examples.

Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend as portrayed in The Crown

The first example of The Crown deviating from reality is the storyline of Princess Margaret’s love for Peter Townsend and their potential marriage. This is one of those moments where Queen Elizabeth II may lose favor in the eyes of some viewers. In the series, Queen Elizabeth was portrayed as having the authority to grant or deny her sister’s marriage to a British soldier and divorcee, in accordance with the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. Initially, the Queen considered giving her consent and requested a delay in the marriage due to pregnancy and protocols. However, ultimately, both the Queen and the government opposed the marriage. The only way for Margaret to marry would have been to renounce her status as a princess and leave the royal family, to which she did not agree. However, according to some sources, there were plans to amend the law to allow the marriage to take place, supposedly while removing Margaret and her children from the line of succession but allowing them to remain in the family.

The intrusion of Michael Fagan into the Queen’s bedroom

Michael Fagan is a British citizen who, on July 9, 1982, broke into Buckingham Palace and entered the bedroom of Queen Elizabeth II around 7:15 in the morning. The Queen woke up and, while waiting for the police, who did not arrive, exchanged a few words with Fagan. In the series, this event is depicted as a lengthy conversation that begins with Fagan asking the Queen to protect her nation from Margaret Thatcher. In interviews with the media, Fagan stated that the conversation was very brief and did not mention Margaret Thatcher at all.

Winston Churchill’s personal secretary in The Crown

Do you remember the episode of The Crown where London is covered by a thick fog? That event did indeed occur. The Great Smog, which persisted in London from December 5th to 9th, 1952, was caused by a weather phenomenon and the emission of gases mainly from chimneys of homes and factories, as well as vehicle exhausts. It resulted in the deaths of 12,000 people. During this time in the series, Venetia Scott, Winston Churchill’s personal secretary, dies. She tragically dies under the wheels of a bus. However, this death, as well as the character herself, is fiction. Churchill never had a secretary named Venetia Scott. Furthermore, if such a character existed, she couldn’t have been killed by a bus because during the Great Smog of London, transportation was suspended.

Princess Margaret and her cousins in a psychiatric hospital

In the latter half of the 4th season of The Crown, we are introduced to the dark side of the Windsor family as Princess Margaret, struggling with her own mental health, uncovers a long-held family secret. Two of her supposedly deceased cousins, Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, are revealed to be alive and residing in a psychiatric hospital in Surrey. The Windsors had “removed” them from the family due to their mental illness. In the series, Princess Margaret not only discovers the history and fate of the Bowes-Lyon cousins but also informs Queen Elizabeth II of her discovery and visits her relatives in the hospital. In reality, Princess Margaret did not uncover their existence nor did she visit them. Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon did indeed exist and were placed in a psychiatric hospital. Their existence and fate were exposed by tabloids in the late 1980s. Moreover, there are no records of any member of the royal family visiting them since the early 1960s, as confirmed by the hospital staff. The sisters never received any cards or gifts for birthdays or Christmas.

Nerissa passed away in 1986 at the age of 66, with only hospital staff attending her funeral, while Katherine passed away in 2014 at the age of 87. The sisters received no financial support from the family apart from £125 paid to Earlswood Hospital each year. Earlswood Hospital was closed in 1997. According to a 2011 documentary about the sisters titled The Queen’s Hidden Cousins, “there is no record of any member of the Bowes-Lyon family or the royal family ever visiting the sisters during their time in the hospital, even though their aunt, the Queen Mother, is the patron of Mencap.” However, family sources state that their mother, Fenella, frequently visited both sisters until her death in 1966. Lady Elizabeth Shakerley, Fenella’s granddaughter, also said that other family members often visited them over the years and frequently sent gifts and cards for Christmas and birthdays. Queen Elizabeth, upon learning in 1982 that the women were alive, reportedly sent money for toys and sweets for their birthdays and Christmas. However, aside from family statements, there is no evidence that these visits occurred.

The Aberfan Disaster as portrayed in The Crown

In Season 3 of The Crown, the Aberfan disaster of 1966 is depicted. The tragedy claimed the lives of 144 people, including 116 children, after a coal slurry engulfed the Pantglas Junior School and several nearby homes. The production showed Prince Philip visiting the site the day after the disaster. In reality, Queen Elizabeth II was present at the scene, but it was a week after the disaster. The Crown’s portrayal of events sparked decades of questioning regarding the Crown’s response. In real life, in an article published by The Free Library, Queen Elizabeth II stated that not arriving at the disaster site immediately after the events was one of her greatest regrets.

Sick Churchill and the Queen’s visit

The Queen did not visit Churchill when he was ill. Queen Elizabeth emotionally bids farewell to Winston Churchill, saying he was her guardian angel, her roof over her head, and her personal compass guiding everyone. The Queen also kisses him on the forehead. According to experts, such a situation did not occur, but the Queen was regularly updated on his health condition.

Martyna Janasik

Martyna Janasik

Cultural studies scholar and writer. Enthusiast of food, cinema, and sports. Probably that's why some of her favorite movies are "Rocky" and "Julie and Julia". She always wanted to write, so she will always write. In her free time, she loves watching movies and playing tennis.

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