Things The Crown Got Wrong About Royal HistoryPublished on September 12, 2019. Updated December 9, 2021
Netflix’s The Crown is one of the the streaming service’s most popular original series and has drawn attention from fans of the royal family, historians, and even members of the British royal family itself. Although based on “true events,” like all series, things have been dramatized or completely made up for the sake of entertainment. Of course, some of the events and the drama surrounding them really was true, and the show has taken the real history very seriously, but here are some inaccuracies and things The Crown got wrong about the royal family and their history:
15. Prince Philip’s Reluctance
In The Crown, the wedding between Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip is one of the biggest moments, which is of course, also true in royal history. What isn’t accurate however was how the series portrayed Prince Philip being reluctant to kneel to his wife. There is no evidence that Philip ever acted that way, and a royal family expert elaborated, “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.”
14. Prince Margaret’s Almost Marriage
It is well known that back in 1953, Princess Margaret’s romance with divorcee Peter Townsend, who was 16 years her senior, ruffled feathers, but how it was handled in the series and Queen Elizabeth’s involvement weren’t truthful. In the series, Elizabeth is posed as the one who prevented Margaret from marrying Townsend, but that isn’t the case. In reality, Elizabeth simply asked her sister to wait a year in the wake of her coronation and actually refused counsel to post Townsend abroad and then transferred him from the Queen Mother’s household to her own. Additionally, it was revealed in 2004 that Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Eden actually drew up a plan in 1955 that would allow Princess Margaret to marry Townsend but would have to give up her rights of succession. Despite her sister’s efforts to allow the marriage, three days after the final draft of the proposal was created, Margaret issued a statement saying she would not marry Peter Townsend.
13. Welcoming Prince Charles
In the series, the one year anniversary of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding is marked by a caption that says, “Twelve months later, eight months pregnant.” In reality the couple welcomed their first child, Prince Charles on November 14, 1948, six days before their one year anniversary.
12. Prince Philip’s Treatment of Charles
While many of the British royal family have said they do not watch The Crown, they are at the very least extremely aware of it. The Crown writer Peter Morgan stated that he has to “brief” royal courtiers about the upcoming content in the show so that members of the family can “brace” themselves for what will be dramatized and viewers might believe happened. Although the royal family has remained quiet on many of the inaccuracies, one part of the show did draw a reaction from the family. In the ninth episode of season two, Prince Charles has to deal with bullies at his boarding school, and Prince Philip in turn calls his son “bloody weak.” Apparently Queen Elizabeth II in particular was not pleased by this inaccurate representation. “The queen realizes that many who watch The Crown take it as an accurate portrayal of the royal family and she cannot change that,” a royal insider told Glamour. “But I can convey that she was upset by the way Prince Philip is depicted as being a father insensitive to his son’s well-being. She was particularly annoyed at a scene in which Philip has no sympathy for a plainly upset Charles while he is flying him home from Scotland. That simply did not happen.”
11. Venetia Scott Didn’t Exist
In the very first season of The Crown, the Great Smog becomes a major plot point, especially for the character of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The series depicts the government as not giving much attention to the smog, and Churchill only pays attention to the severity of the situation after his assistant Venetia Scott is hit by a bus because she couldn’t see it in the smog. While the death is what changes Churchill’s position on the smog issue, in real life Scott never existed, and while the government didn’t respond immediately to the problem, they did take it quite seriously. Additionally, the backlash in which the Queen considered asking for Churchill’s resignation because of how he handled the situation was also not true.
10. Date Issues
Although The Crown has worked to stay relatively accurate with its representations and events, more than a few of its dates have been off. The memorable trip the Queen Mother took to Scotland really did happen but in the series the event takes place in 1953; in real life it happened in 1952. Meanwhile the unveiling of George VI’s statue took place in 1955, not 1953. Additionally, The Crown opens in 1947 where King George VI is seen coughing up blood. In real life, the King wasn’t diagnosed with lung cancer until 1951, and was not yet showing symptoms in 1947, although he was known for having poor health during his reign before his death in 1952.
9. Prince Philip Wasn’t Involved in the Profumo Affair
Yet another aspect of Prince Philip’s rather controversial portrayal that was blown out of proportion for the series was his involvement in the Profumo Affair. The Profumo Affair was one of Britain’s biggest scandals post-war, and in the series, Prince Philip is depicted as developing a friendship with Dr. Stephen Ward who then invites Philip to a party, and it is revealed Ward’s “parties” involve young women having relations with powerful men. In real life, conservative politician John Profumo was implicated in the scandal and resigned from his role, and the scandal also lead to Prime Minister MacMillan’s resignation as well as Ward taking his own life. Despite this, there is no basis that Philip had anything to do with the scandal, and while it was huge in British politics, there was no link to the royal family or their involvement.
8. Prince Philip’s Tragedy
It seems quite a bit of Prince Philip’s life was dramatized or fictionalized for the sake of the show, and one of the biggest moments from his childhood that was inaccurately portrayed in the show was the death of his sister, Cecile. In the series, it is said that Cecile decided to fly to London over the holidays because of her brother’s misbehavior at his boarding school, and her plane crashed, killing everyone on board. At her funeral, Prince Philip is berated by his father and blamed for his sister’s death. In real life, Cecile did die in a plane crash in 1937, but there is no evidence that her decision to go to London had anything to do with Philip, and his father never blamed his son for her death.
7. Prince Charles’ Time at Gordonstoun
In season two, an entire episode is dedicated to Gordonstoun, a northern Scotland boarding school that both Prince Philip and Prince Charles attended. The episode reflects that Philip pushed his son to go to the same school he did, and Charles is bullied, unhappy and traumatized by his time at the school. In real life, Prince Charles has admitted that Gordonstoun was not a happy place, but has also defended the school and praised the fact that the school focuses on “balancing the physical and mental with the emphasis on self-reliance to develop a rounded human being.”
6. Prince Philip’s Mother Did Not Wear A Habit to the Wedding
The Crown first introduces Prince Philip’s mother Princess Andrew, aka Princess Alice of Battenberg, during the episode of her son’s wedding to Elizabeth, and during the wedding she is wearing a nun’s habit. In real life, Alice’s eccentricities were a little more complicated. In 1931 she entered a psychiatric facility after suffering a nervous breakdown, and was a nun for the last two decades of her life. While she did wear a nun’s habit for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, for their wedding she wore a simple silk dress. It seems The Crown dramatized Alice of Battenberg’s attire to consolidate the two major events in British royal history that she was a part of.
5. The Queen and “Porchie”
The Crown quickly posed Prince Philip as someone who struggled with marrying into royalty, and suggested he had a trail of infidelities, and while there is no evidence to back that up, the series then suggested an emotional affair by the Queen herself. In the series, Queen Elizabeth II becomes very close with her racing manager Lord “Porchie” Porchester and there is a lot of sexual tension between the two. In real life, there was never anything romantic between the two and it was never more than a platonic friendship on both sides. “I would not go beyond characterizing them as old friends who had a very deep bond in this mutual love of horses, and horse breeding and horse racing,” royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth: The Queen, stated. “They were extremely fond of each other, but I have no reason to think that it went any further.”
4. Prince Philip Did Not Stare Down an Elephant
Audiences of The Crown are well aware that it is simply a historical drama, which means some scenes are clearly just for the sake of drama. In the second episode one purely fictional scene has Prince Philip and the then soon-to-be Queen on an African Safari when Philip stares down a charging elephant and says something about being a King. While the couple did travel to Kenya for wildlife-watching and relaxation in 1952, not long into the trip they received news that King George VI had died, which meant Elizabeth would be Queen at 25 and Philip had no such incident with a raging elephant.
3. Princess Margaret’s Marriage
After the controversy and chaos following her romance with Peter Townsend, the series posed Princess Margaret’s marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones as a rebound to get over her broken heart. It is even insinuated she married Armstrong-Jones out of spite, but in real life that wasn’t the truth. The marriage happened five years after her relationship ended and in between she had become engaged and split from Billy Wallace. Margaret’s biographer said it was “utter nonsense” that she married Armstrong-Jones as a rebound or out of spite for Townsend.
2. Jackie Kennedy and The Queen
Many royal watchers are well aware of the 1961 dinner that took place when the Kennedys visited the royals, but it wasn’t exactly as dramatic as it was portrayed in the series. In the show, Jackie Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II are pitted as rivals, and in the episode, Jackie Kennedy says she was on drugs and didn’t mean the things she said when she insulted the Queen. In real life, the dinner didn’t go overly well and there was some tension, but there is absolutely no proof that Jackie Kennedy was on drugs or behaved poorly because of them.
1. The Queen and Winston Churchill
During season one of the series, Queen Elizabeth II adjusts to life as the monarch and many scenes show her getting help and advice from Prime Minister Winston Churchill. On the show, Churchill is gruff and harsh and their meetings are very stern, but in real life, their relationship was a lot lighter. The Queen has actually said that Churchill was her favorite Prime Minister because “he was so much fun,” and the two often had meetings filled with laughter and they bonded over similar interests.