• Weird History

Here's Everything 'The Crown' Just Got Straight-Up Wrong About History

Netflix’s The Crown is an addictive blend of pulp and prestige that charts Queen Elizabeth II's time on the throne. But how much of it is accurate? Yes, The Crown gets many scandalous things right about Queen Elizabeth’s life and the British Royal Family, like Princess Margaret, Porchie, and Louis Mountbatten. But, because of those facts The Crown got right, along with the overall historcial accuracy and the jaw-dropping production value, audiences may wrongly assume that the show is a reliable history lesson.

The lavish series spares no expense in its dramatization of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Indeed, critics, The Crown cast, and historians alike point out that The Crown really does take history seriously - the creators and writers have clearly done their research. But, every now and then, inaccuracies in The Crown rear their head. Just as often as it faithfully portrays actual events as they happened, such as the Aberfan Disaster, the show also bends the truth and relies on rumors to flesh out storylines and characterizations. Shows like The Crown revel in the murky, hearsay-saturated space between fact and fiction, where it can turn gossip into entire plots. Sure, there’s plenty of fun and drama in that, but not much verifiable, evidence-based history.

Now in its third season, the show continues to have a rocky relationship with the past. As in the previous seasons, Season 3 inaccuracies mount up, suggesting the show still prioritizes rumor over fact. 

What does the queen think of The Crown? Though she reportedly enjoyed the first season, chances are her opinion will go downhill if she ever gets around to watching the second one - the show does her husband no favors. The series embellishes plenty of events for its narratives, and often those embellishments come at the expense of Prince Philip’s character. The fictionalized Duke of Edinburgh is portrayed as a petulant, vain, and downright obnoxious character who makes Queen Elizabeth’s life unfairly difficult.

Completely accurate or not, The Crown makes history look glamorous as it re-creates and straight-up creates events from Elizabeth’s life and the United Kingdom’s past. 

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  • Princess Margaret Never Urged The Royal Family To Call Off Charles And Diana's Wedding

    Photo: Netflix

    What The Show Portrays: Shortly before Prince Charles and Diana Spencer's high-profile wedding, Princess Margaret urges the rest of the family to call it off. Recalling her own wounds, she believes the marriage will be a disaster and thinks it will be better for everyone if it doesn't happen at all. 

    What Really Happened: If Princess Margaret objected to the wedding, she forever held her peace about it. In fact, Princess Margaret's plea came from actor Helena Bonham Carter's imagination rather than the pages of history - Bonham Carter reportedly suggested that Margaret vocalize her reservations about the marriage.

    Though Margaret didn't try to derail the wedding, both Prince Charles and Diana apparently harbored their own doubts; they each wondered if they should cancel the wedding.

    Princesses Margaret and Diana enjoyed a positive relationship initially, but they eventually fell out

  • The Queen May Not Have Directed Her Press Secretary To Voice Her Displeasure About Margaret Thatcher To The 'Sunday Times'

    Photo: Netflix

    What The Show Portrays: Queen Elizabeth II, frustrated by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's refusal to approve sanctions against apartheid-era South Africa, gives a directive to her Press Secretary Michael Shea to share her displeasure with the press. Since monarchs are supposed to be apolitical, Elizabeth's opinion becomes major news.

    What Really Happened: The Sunday Times reported in 1986 that the Queen believed Margaret Thatcher was "uncaring, confrontational, and divisive." Buckingham Palace officially denied the report, and there is no evidence that Elizabeth actually encouraged Michael Shea to leak her opinions. According to Thatcher biographer Robert Hardman, "No one at the Palace or Downing Street... seriously believed that the Queen had authorised, or even nudged, anyone to speak in those terms about her government."

  • Princess Margaret Didn't Uncover The Truth About Her Bowes-Lyon Cousins

    Photo: Netflix

    What The Show Portrays: In the 1980s, Princess Margaret discovers the truth about two maternal cousins whom she believed had passed decades ago. Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon - daughters of the Queen Mother's brother - had actually been placed in a mental institution in the early 1940s. When Margaret confronts her mother about her discovery, the Queen Mother admits that she knew about her nieces' fate. They had to be institutionalized, she claims, because the family feared that the sisters could be used as evidence of an unhealthy royal bloodline. Locking them away, she explained, was the best way to protect the Windsors.

    What Really Happened: In 1942, 22-year-old Nerissa and 15-year-old Katherine Bowes-Lyon were committed to the Royal Earlswood Hospital in Surrey. But they weren't institutionalized as a way to protect the royal family - it's more likely that they were committed to protect the Bowes-Lyon family's standing.

    Princess Margaret didn't uncover the truth about her cousins, either. The Queen Mother apparently only learned about her nieces' institutionalization in 1982. Though the royal family apparently didn't know the full extent of the Bowes-Lyon sisters' situation, they never made an attempt to visit or support them once they found out the truth. 

  • Michael Fagan Didn't Break Into Buckingham Palace To Complain About Margaret Thatcher, And The Show Downplays The Effects Of Her Policies

    Photo: Netflix

    What The Show Portrays: Michael Fagan is one of the victims of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Like millions of other Britons, he is unemployed and frustrated that no one seems to care about him or his plight. So Fagan takes matters into his own hands: he decides to appeal directly to Queen Elizabeth II and let her know about that consequences of Thatcher's policies. So he breaks into Buckingham Palace and talks to Elizabeth in her bedroom for several minutes before palace security takes him away.

    What Really Happened: Michael Fagan really did find his way into the queen's bedroom in 1982, though his motives weren't political. Fagan even claimed he didn't have a real plan in mind at all. As he recalled, "I don't know why I did it, something just got into my head." 

    Though Fagan didn't break into Buckingham Palace to have a word with the queen about Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister's policies really did create social and economic crises throughout Britain. In fact, The Crown overlooks Thatcher's controversial domestic policy - such as her role in The Troubles in Northern Ireland, her response to a miners' strike, and the inequalities that her administration heightened - in favor of her foreign policy in the Falklands and South Africa. By using Michael Fagan as a stand-in for all the livelihoods Thatcher damaged, the show diminishes the lived experiences of millions of Britons.