How ‘The Crown’ portrays the British Monarchy – The biggest historical inaccuracies

The British royal family’s life is undoubtedly something that the whole world is interested in, hence the extensive media and television coverage. Not to mention that on 9th April 2021, the whole world was in shock to hear Queen Elizabeth II announce the death of her husband, Prince Philip, who peacefully passed away earlier that day. The Prince had been admitted to the hospital earlier this year between February and March and underwent a procedure relating to a certain heart condition.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who would have turned 100 years old this June, was married to Queen Elizabeth for 73 years and stood by her through the ups and downs of life and being royalty. His funeral was held on 17 April 2021 and he was put to rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. 

The Prince was considered to be a devoted husband and loving father by most, however his image has been tainted due to misinformation spread by the media and especially television, like the popular TV show, The Crown. (In January, we published a critique about the series in Hungarian, which you can read here.)

Today I am going to write about The Crown, that is a historical drama television series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the life of the British Monarchy. Despite the series being lauded for its dramatization of history, it is not entirely accurate historically according to historians. 

First of all, according to the show, Princess Margaret found out the truth about two of her cousins that were believed to be dead. They were Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon and actually, they had been placed in a mental institution. Later, the Queen admitted that she already knew about them. They were put into an institution because the family did not want evidence for the unhealthy royal bloodline, thus locking them away was the best choice. In real life, the cousins actually were committed to a hospital but they protected the Bowes-Lyon family’s name, not the royal family’s and Princess Margaret did not discover the truth herself. The royal family knew about them but they never visited them.

Secondly, I would like to mention Michael Fagan and his ambitions to break into Buckingham Palace. According to the show, Fagan’s motivation to break in was political, he broke into the Palace to complain about the policies of Margaret Thatcher. In real life, he did not even have a plan when he broke in, and years after the event, he told a magazine that “I don’t know why I did it, something just got into my head.”. But at the same time, the writers killed two birds with one stone: they mentioned this unpopular event and the political issues of the United Kingdom in the 1980s. 

Talking about Margaret Thatcher, I would like to mention the relationship between her and Queen Elizabeth II. The series concentrates on the Queen’s personal relationship with Thatcher rather than on their political rivalry. In the show, the Queen instructed her secretary to leak her displeasure out with the Prime Minister, but it has not happened in real life. According to a newspaper, the Queen was honestly displeased with Thatcher, but the leak had not come from the Queen’s secretary, she even denied the report at that time. 

In the first season there was a character called Vanetia Scott, who was – in the show – the secretary of Winston Churchill. According to the series, this woman was killed by a bus that she could not see coming because of the heavy fog in London. This event was created by the writers and they used it as an opportunity to talk about the London fog issue, but in real life, there was not a person that pushed the government into action. Churchill simply ignored the issue at that time because the state was not well-equipped for a situation like this. And the most surprising fact  is that Scott was nobody, but a character. 

Last, but not least I would like to write about Prince Charles. In the show, his father, Prince Philip called him ‘bloody weak’ because he had to face bullying in the school he went to – Gordonstoun – and he was incapable to protect himself. In reality, even the Queen made a statement about the event: according to her, this did not happen. She said she was very upset by the way Prince Philip was depicted. She was annoyed when in the show Philip has no sympathy for Charles while he is flying him home from Scotland. Moreover, Charles claimed that he was not that miserable in the school. 

In conclusion, I think watching ‘The Crown’ is a great way to get to know more about the British royal family, even though there are historically inaccurate parts in it. Of course, nobody knows the exact truth, but the only problem with this is that “many who watch The Crown take it as an accurate portrayal of the royal family and she (the Queen) cannot change that,”. Despite all of these, the royal family watched all the ten seasons of the series and found only a few serious inaccuracies.

Jázmin Anna Komjáti

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