One of the reasons that we love Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ is that it is not the History Channel. It doesn’t just stick with the facts. Instead, it tells a story with a superb cast, beautiful backdrop, and lots of drama. Yet, don’t be fooled, no matter how good the actors are at slipping into character, you can’t believe everything that you see. If the walls of Buckingham Palace could talk, they’d probably tell you that a few of those scenes are lies.
Sure, the show has been able to pick up on some scandalous details about their lives that are in fact 100% true, but they sometimes go off on a different limb to add to the story to make it more interesting for viewers. So, just what is real and what is false on the show?
Some historians have spoken about the show, telling us what is a lie and setting the record straight about what’s true. There are even a few stories, that while they’re not completely true, aren’t completely false. Sometimes, we’ll just never know the truth about those rumors that were around even when Elizabeth first took the throne. So, just how much do you know about the royal family? Are you able to guess which plot points on ‘The Crown’ are true? Do you know what’s false? Read on to test your knowledge of one of the world’s most secretive and most watched families.
15 True: Prince Phillip Was Fine Back In The Day
The Royal Family does not age well. By now we’ve figured out that hair loss runs in the family for the men. Yet, for the older patriarchs it’s easy to forget that once upon a time, they were easy on the eyes. Prince Phillip announced his official retirement last year. The long-serving consort was a stud when he first caught the eye of his wife Queen Elizabeth II. He played cricket with a popped collar, he looked good in his Royal Navy uniform, and when he struck a pose for his engagement photo with Princess Elizabeth, man did he nail that dapper look. So, when the ‘Crown’ chooses Matt Smith to put his chiseled features to good use as Prince Phillip on the show, that was one fact that they got right.
14 True: Lord Mountbatten’s Influence Over Prince Phillip
It’s eerie just how much the show got right about Phillip’s relationship with his uncle. He was a father figure who strongly influenced the young royal’s decisions. After all, when Phillip was just seven years old, he was sent to live with his uncle and the Mountbatten family after his parents were no longer around. Phillip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and sent to an asylum. His father Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, flew off to Monte Carlo after he was exiled from Greece. So, the Mountbattens were Phillip’s family and even set up the first meeting between the Princess and Phillip in 1939. Although, Lord Mountbatten was also the reason that Phillip might have had some rumblings about taking over the throne as he did not want to see the Mountbatten family take over the Windsors.
13 True: The Nicknames For The Royal Family
Yes, as formal and cold as the royal family seems on the outside, they‘re a family just like anybody else and had/have nicknames for each other. The show managed to nail down that little detail. So, let’s review them shall we? Queen Elizabeth, a.k.a ‘The Queen Mother’ had the delightful nickname ‘Cookie’ or ‘Cake’ from the Duchess of Windsor. The verdict is still out on whether it was meant to be endearing or an insult. King George IV was ‘Bertie’. Queen Elizabeth II was ‘Lillibet’. Prince Charles, for Phillip, was ‘Fiend’. Yeah, we’re not sure about that one, but it came from the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. Another adorable nickname that we probably won’t hear on the show, is Princess Diana’s. Rumor has it that when she was young, her sisters would call her ‘Duch’. It’s short for Duchess as Diana had the determination to ‘at least become a Duchess’.
12 True: Princess Margaret & Peter Townsend’s Romance
Princess Margaret was Queen Elizabeth’s, fun-loving little sis. So, she wasn’t the type to live her life by sheer duty. When given the choice between the man she had to marry and the man wanted to marry, the divorced Peter Townsend, she tried to follow her heart. Peter was equally in love. Apparently, he said, “She was a girl of unusual, intense beauty. She could make you bend double with laughing and also touch you deeply in your heart.” Unfortunately for the lovebirds, the church would not give their approval, so the two kept their relationship secret. However, once the papers caught wind of their romance, Margaret had to make the final decision to either marry Peter and lose her money and royal privileges or simply find someone else. So, in the end, she finally made a heartfelt public statement that she would not put herself first and she married someone else.
11 True: Elizabeth’s Job As A Mechanic
1945 was a long time ago, but it was the year that Elizabeth served her country as a truck mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was 18 years old and extremely eager to join the women’s armed forces. It was there that the young royal learned how to change a wheel, rebuild engines, and drive ambulances. Within five months she was given the rank of honorary Junior Commander. However, as she was a princess her hard work was rewarded each night with a comfortable bed in Windsor Castle. She returned every night to her royal residence. However, Elizabeth enjoyed the work of getting her nails dirty and hands grease-stained. In the end, King George IV was probably proud of his daughter’s decision to join.
10 False: Churchill’s Assistant Venetia Scott And Her Death
Who was Venetia Scott? Did she really exist? Kate Phillip’s break-out role on ‘The Crown’ as Winston Churchill’s assistant is partly based on fact with a healthy dose of TV drama. Yes, Churchill did have an assistant. No, she was not a young love-struck beauty fawning over his every move. And, she wasn’t headed towards beginning a hot and heavy love affair with the Prime Minister before her untimely death. This fictional death of being mulled over by a bus didn’t ‘wake’ Churchill up to finally be active and address the nation. We’re not sure who sparked the ‘fire’ back into Churchill to finally tackle the issue of the smog. What we do know is that Venetia Scott was invented purely for drama and a plot point to bring tears to viewers' eyes.
9 False: The Great Smog And London’s Reaction
It was a killer smog that hit London in 1952 killing 12,000 people. However, there were previous smogs that London had endured. So, as sad as it sounds, Londoners were used to bad air quality. They just hadn’t seen a fog last as long as the one in 1952. And, they weren’t aware of how deadly the fog was at the time. It wasn’t until weeks later that the long-term effects were realized. In some cases, historians state that it took years for all of the data to come together about the effects the smog had on the city. ‘The Crown’ depicts Londoners as going into a panic and starting a political crisis over the fog. That was a gift from the writers for a nice dose of dramatic effect to add to the show. However, one thing for sure is that the Great Fog of 1952 did influence environmental legislation.
8 False: Prince Phillip’s Refusal To Kneel In Front Of The Queen
Prince Phillip’s refused to kneel in front of Queen Elizabeth at her coronation on ‘The Crown’. However, many historians argue that there is no logical reason as to why the thought would have even crossed his mind. Sure, he was known to disagree with her on their children’s last names and their education. Even so, he was a traditional man and would have understood the importance of the protocol of him kneeling in front of his queen. Christopher Wilson, an expert on the royal family stated that "I doubt Prince Phillip ever spoke those words to his wife because he came from a royal household which had borrowed so much of its ritual and protocol form the British Royal Family. He knew full well what was expected of him in public, and was prepared to go along with it."
7 False: Jackie Kennedy & Queen Elizabeth’s Relationship
Can you really imagine soft-spoken and proper Jackie Kennedy calling Elizabeth “incurious, unintelligent, and unremarkable?” What about referring to Buckingham Palace as “second-rate, dilapidated, and sad”? Well, according to ‘The Crown’ they are the exact words that came out of Mrs. Kennedy’s mouth. In reality, Jackie was unimpressed by the palace furnishings and Queen Elizabeth’s style. Which is fair considering that Elizabeth has never been a trendsetter and has always looked dated (even in her 20s). She’s a traditionalist while Kennedy’s style is still copied today. When the two met for a private lunch, Jackie was reported to have nothing but gracious words for her host. “I don’t think I should say anything about it except how grateful I am and how charming she was.” So, maybe they weren’t best friends, but Jackie certainly never let it slip how she really felt about the monarch.
6 False: Prince Phillip’s Flashback Of Killing His Sister
Prince Phillip’s childhood was in fact traumatic. His mother had a nervous breakdown and his father ran off with his mistress after a military revolt. Legend has it that Phillip had to be smuggled out of the country in an orange crate. Talk about harsh. To add more salt to his wounded childhood his older sisters married German nobility giving them the nickname ‘Nazi Sisters’. Then, when his sister Cecilie was on the way to a wedding, she gave birth during a flight that crashed. Yet, Phillip had nothing to do with it. ‘The Crown’ would have you believe that Cecile only stepped on the plane that leads to her death, because of Philip. But, don’t be fooled, it’s merely an emotional climax meant to keep you tuning into the show. She was boarding the plane, not because of Phillip, but to go to a wedding.
5 False: Phillip’s Involvement In The Profumo Scandal
A few days after Elizabeth and Phillip celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, ‘The Crown’ debuted one of its most scandalous episodes yet. It implicated Prince Phillip in one of England’s most damaging sex scandals. Although, let it be noted that despite rumors and the show, Phillip’s involvement in the scandal is heavily denied by Buckingham Palace, of course. The show, however, places Prince Phillip right in the thick of it attending parties with beautiful ladies for many nights out away from the Palace. The Profumo Scandal of 1963 surrounded John Profumo, the Minister of War at the time, and his affair with Christine Keeler. She was a hostess who was also having an affair with Russian military attache, Yevgeny Ivanov. Stephan Ward, the man who ‘procured women’ for leading members of the establishment, supposedly introduced Christine to Profumo at one of his parties.
4 False: King George And His Vulgar Jokes
In one episode on ‘The Crown’, King George VI is seen with his valet who is struggling to adjust his collar. The king loses his temper and responds, “There was an old Countess of Bray, and you think it odd when I say that despite her high station, rank, and education she always spelled cunt with a k.” It sure did sweep away ideas that the royal family is terrifyingly polite. Although, how accurate is ‘The Crown’s’ depiction of George VI as a man who tells crass jokes? Well, according to historians, he was known to flare up here and there and to say a bad word. Although, he wasn't known for telling crass jokes or for being too bad-tempered. “In private, Georg VI sometimes swore and could be short-tempered,” historian Carolyn Harris told Mashable.
3 False: Elizabeth And Winston’s Relationship
Other episodes of ‘The Crown’ have shown a little tension between Queen Elizabeth and her Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Although, let it be known that in real life Churchill was known to be relaxed, jovial, and beloved by his people. He and Elizabeth had a very good relationship. So, good in fact that when asked about who her favorite Prime Minister was, Elizabeth replied, “Winston of course because he was always such fun!” That doesn’t sound like the two had drama. The writers of ‘The Crown’ chose to focus on his negative qualities and in one episode even had Elizabeth contemplate firing him. Again, it’s another deviation from the truth meant to add tension and drama to the show. Although, it would also be interesting to see the two laugh and enjoy a drink on the show together.
2 False: King Edward VIII’s Abdication
So, while ‘The Crown’ did embellish this story and take it in its own direction, the truth is equally as scandalous. It’s so scandalous in fact that Winston Churchill was reported to work frantically to squash the story after it was sent to the US. So, just what is the truth? In 1940 the Nazi did concoct a plan to kidnap the Duke of Windsor (Edward) to reinstate him as a puppet leader. This was discovered after his visit to Germany as a guest of Adolf Hitler. By this time, King Edward had abdicated the throne that was then handed to Elizabeth. Even so, Hitler is said to have desired a future use for Edward on the throne after their invasion of England. What’s more scandalous is that the Duchess of Windsor is said to have agreed with the idea of helping the Nazis to make her Queen.
1 False: Elizabeth’s And Philip’s Marital Hardships
Who’s to say what their marital life was really like. However, historians note that there is no evidence that their life as a couple was anything like the depiction on the Netflix show. “I have never come across anything which suggested the marriage was under any real strain at any point,” says royal biographer Phillip Ziegler. “The queen’s friendship with Porchester was a platonic and personal one. They were both passionate about horses.” One thing that is known about their marriage is that Phillip did have difficulty adjusting to his wife becoming Queen. Not only was he shut out of the Queen’s matters, but he also had to give up his naval career. While it didn’t fling either of them into the arms of other lovers, he was spotted at the ‘Thursday Club’ in Soho, a social club for Britain's elite.
Sources: TheRoyalPost.com, TownandCountryMag.com, RadioTimes.com, People.com, DailyMail.com, Mashable.com