Wed. Dec 7th, 2022

Queen Elizabeth

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The death of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, has fueled renewed interest in the country’s royal family. So has the latest season of Netflix’s “The Crown,” which arrives Nov. 9, 2022.

The show depicts real-life events and people, but there are a few times in which showrunners took liberties… more than a few times. But what’s real, and what’s made up for the screen? 

We examined some of the most important moments of “The Crown” and researched which storylines were mostly real, and which ones leaned more toward fiction. 

Did Princess Diana infuriate Charles with a dance?

The Crown S4

Alex Bailey/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Princess Diana secretly plans to dance to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” with ballet dancer Wayne Sleep at the Royal Opera House. But Charles is furious at being upstaged by his popular wife. 

In real life: The event wasn’t filmed but it did really happen. Sleep has recounted how he trained with Diana before the performance, and while the audience went crazy, royal biographers have written that Charles really didn’t like the performance and thought Diana was showing off.

Did Diana roller-skate through Buckingham Palace?

The Crown S4

Des Willie/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Princess Diana moves into Buckingham Palace to receive lessons on royalty. She is seen roller-skating through the palace.

In real life: “Crown” producer Oona O’Beirn has said that Diana loved roller-skating and really did this. She also reportedly rode bicycles around the palace.

Did Philip and Elizabeth fight over their last name?

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Robert Viglasky / Netflix


In “The Crown”: There’s an ongoing conflict between Elizabeth and Philip (seen here portrayed by Matt Smith and Claire Foy) about what last name their children will take. Philip wants his family name of Mountbatten, not just the royal surname of Windsor. 

In real life: Philip apparently did complain about this, according to a 2004 biography. Elizabeth formally decreed a new family surname, Mountbatten-Windsor, in 1960.

Did Margaret really want to be queen?

Princess Margaret Visits The Horder Medical Centre

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In “The Crown”: Princess Margaret has a tense relationship with sister Queen Elizabeth over her less-important role in the family. Young Margaret even says she wants to be the queen.

In real life: There’s no evidence that she ever wanted to be the queen.

Did Princess Margaret flirt with a Catholic priest?

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In “The Crown”: Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham-Carter, seen here) flirts with a Catholic priest named Dazzle Jennings, and develops feelings for him.

In real life: It’s not clear just how far Margaret’s feelings went for Jennings. But according Richard Cole, to a friend of Jennings, the priest was gay found refuge in celibacy.

Did terrorists kill Lord Mountbatten?

The Crown S4

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In “The Crown”: Lord Mountbatten (depicted here by Charles Dance) is fishing with his family when his boat explodes. Mountbatten, along with two children, are killed.

In real life: This shocking incident was widely reported at the time. The IRA took credit for the attack, and the perpetrator was later arrested. There was a ceremonial funeral at Westminster Abbey. 

Did an avalanche nearly kill Charles?

Prince Charles In Klosters

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In “The Crown”: Amid the drama of Diana and Charles fighting, Charles nearly dies in an avalanche — and his friend Major Hugh Lindsay dies. 

In real life: It happened. Charles, along with a guide  and a group of friends (excluding Diana) were on the slopes in Switzerland when an avalanche came. They all survived except for Lindsay. Pictured here is Charles on the slopes in the ’80s.

Were two disabled sisters abandoned by the royals?

Buildings - Royal Earlswood Mental Hospital - Redhill

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In “The Crown”: Princess Margaret is shocked to discover that she has two disabled maternal cousins, once reported dead, who are actually in an institution. Margaret confronts Elizabeth, who defends the decision. Margaret then sends a friend to visit them.

In real life: It’s true that the sisters were institutionalized from a young age, reported dead, and essentially abandoned; the story was outlined via, among other sources, a Channel 4 documentary, “The Queen’s Hidden Cousins,” which aired in 2011.

But there’s no evidence that Margaret intervened. The Royal Earlswood Mental Hospital they were at is pictured above.

Did Elizabeth and Philip once face an angry elephant?

The Queen & Duke Of Edinburgh Visit Bedfordshire

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In “The Crown”: Elizabeth and Philip tour Kenya and face an angry bull elephant. Philip’s steady response saves her life. 

In real life: Elizabeth did go on a tour to see elephants, but there’s no evidence any charged her or that Philip intervened. Here’s the couple in 2017 meeting and feeding an Asian elephant at a zoo in Dunstable, England.

Did Prince Philip refuse to kneel for his wife?

Queen's Coronation

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In “The Crown”: Prince Philip asks Elizabeth if he can forgo kneeling to her at her upcoming coronation, and is denied. He kneels — bitterly.

In real life: He didn’t refuse and it’s unlikely that there was any drama whatsoever about the royal protocol. He’s pictured here kneeling for his wife at her coronation in 1953.

Did Charles hate his school?

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Alex Bailey / Netflix


In “The Crown”: Prince Philip sends Charles to Gordonstoun School, where is verbally abused and bullied. When he complains to Philip, he calls Charles “bloody weak.”

In real life: Reportedly, Elizabeth actually watched this episode and disliked it. As for Charles, he has downplayed reports that he hated Gordonstoun, but other former students have aired their own accusations of abuse against the institution, and Charles sent his own kids to a different school.

Did Queen Elizabeth fight with Jackie Kennedy?

Jack And Jackie Visit

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In “The Crown”: Elizabeth is delighted to meet John and Jackie Kennedy in 1961. Then she discovers that Jackie has insulted her, and she is hurt. 

In real life: It probably didn’t happen exactly like that. Some biographers claim that Jackie Kennedy was less than impressed by the monarch and the furnishings at Buckingham Palace. Regardless, there was definitely no overt rivalry. The real-life meeting is pictured here.

Did the queen forbid Princess Margaret to marry?

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Alex Bailey/Netflix


In “The Crown”: The first season of “The Crown” details a relationship between the divorced Peter Townsend and Princess Margaret. They’re depicted in the show by Ben Miles and Vanessa Kirby, seen here. Elizabeth formally forbids Margaret from marrying Townsend because of his divorce.

In real life: It was way more complicated. While Margaret was initially forbidden to marry him (by Parliament, not the queen) she could have given up her spot in the line of royal succession to marry whoever she wanted. But Margaret ended the relationship and remained in the line of succession.

Did Princess Diana have bulimia?

The Crown S4

Des Willie/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Princess Diana is seen engaging in harmful behaviors, like making herself throw up. Diana is seen here as depicted by Emma Corrin.

In real life: Diana definitely struggled with an eating disorder — she said so herself, and said the family knew about her binging and purging. 

Did Princess Margaret get raunchy with President Lyndon Johnson?

Lyndon Johnson and Wife with Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon

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In “The Crown”: Margaret charms the president with dirty jokes, drinks, singing and dancing.

In real life: Margaret and her then-husband, Lord Snowdon, did go to an event at the White House, and President Johnson did reportedly enjoy the royals a lot. But there’s no evidence that anything scandalous happened. 

Was the Duke of Windsor a Nazi?

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Robert Viglasky / Netflix


In “The Crown”: The Duke of Windsor — the queen’s uncle, who had abdicated the throne in 1936 — asks her for more royal duties. But British intelligence discovers the Marburg Files, in which the duke appears to sympathize with Nazis. An angry Elizabeth dismisses the duke from the family. The former king is portrayed by Alex Jennings, pictured here.

In real life: The Marburg Files are definitely real. But, while Elizabeth did admonish her uncle, she never fully banished him. He remained in contact with his family throughout his life and occasionally made official appearances.

Did Princess Margaret have an affair with a lowly gardener?

Anwar Hussein Archive

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In “The Crown”: Princess Margaret vacations with extramarital lover Roddy Llewellyn, a gardener. They are  photographed by the paparazzi. Queen Elizabeth calls Margaret back to England; Margaret attempts suicide, and then the sisters bond over the pressures of royalty.

In real life: Roddy Llewellyn (seen here) wasn’t a lowly gardener as depicted in the show. He was a baronet who was introduced to gardening by his nanny. They started an affair in 1973, and were caught by paparazzi in 1976. It’s unclear if Margaret attempted suicide or what Elizabeth thought.

Was Prince Philip estranged from his nun mother?

Prince Philip in Reunion with His Mother

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In “The Crown”: Greece falls under military rule. Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, is living there as a nun, and Elizabeth brings her to live with them for her own safety. Philip is shown having a strained relationship with his mother, including an estrangement that goes back for years.

In real life: Prince Philip grew up mostly without his parents. His mother had a mental breakdown and ended up as a nun in Greece. But they weren’t completely estranged. Here they are pictured together at a wedding.

Did Winston Churchill’s assistant get hit by a bus?

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Alex Bailey/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Winston Churchill’s secretary, Venetia Scott, dies after stepping in front of a bus. The actors playing those characters, Kate Phillips and John Lithgow, are seen here.

In real life: There was no Venetia Scott. She was just a plot device in the show.

What was wrong with Princess Alice?

Princess Alice

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In “The Crown”: Princess Alice, the mother of Prince Philip, features in heavily in Season 3. Philip doesn’t seem to care for his mother, mainly as a result of her mental illness. 

In real life: Princess Alice was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1930, a label that would later be explored in medical publications. After spending time in a hospital, she devoted her life to charity. 

Did Princess Diana face a “Balmoral test”?

In memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in an automobile accident in Paris, France on August 31, 1997.

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In “The Crown”: In an episode entitled “The Balmoral Test,” we see Margaret Thatcher and Diana Spencer invited to Balmoral Castle in Scotland, to see how they can interact with the family. 

In real life: It’s unknown if the royals really used a trip to Balmoral as any sort of “test.” This is a photo of Charles and Diana pictured there in 1981, two months before they were married.

Did Margaret Thatcher beg the queen to dissolve Parliament?

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Des Willie/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Under pressure to resign, Margaret Thatcher begs Queen Elizabeth to dissolve Parliament. A shocked Elizabeth declines, and Thatcher eventually steps down.

In real life: There is no evidence of such an ask. After over 11 years as prime minister, Thatcher’s ministers asked her to resign, and the very next morning, after informing the queen, she did.

Did Queen Elizabeth leak a story about Margaret Thatcher to the press?

Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth

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In “The Crown”: Elizabeth has her press secretary Michael Shea leak to The Sunday Times that she is unhappy with Thatcher and that she thinks the prime minister is “uncaring.”

In real life: Thatcher and Elizabeth’s biographers have denied that the queen leaked any kind of story to The Sunday Times. However, Buckingham Palace did remove Michael Shea from his role after the story dropped. 

Did people really hate that documentary about the royal family?

Royal Family Lunch

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In “The Crown”: The family is having a documentary made about their daily lives to make them seem like normal people, but critics hate it.

In real life: A documentary called “Royal Family” really was made, but it was well received. The family itself disliked it, thinking it invaded their privacy, so it is no longer officially shown or distributed. This photo shows the family having lunch as part of the documentary.

Did the Queen Mother and Lord Mountbatten come between Camilla and Charles?

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Mark Mainz/Netflix


In “The Crown”: The Queen Mum (depicted here by Marion Bailey) and Lord Mountbatten conspire to break up Camilla Shand and Prince Charles. They dislike Camilla because she technically isn’t a noble. 

In real life: There is zero evidence that the two ever conspired to break up Camilla and Charles.

Did Margaret Thatcher hate Balmoral Castle?

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Des Willie/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis visit Balmoral Castle for a weekend and fail to master the mannerisms of the ruling class, causing the prime minister to resent them. She is seen here portrayed by Gillian Anderson.

In real life: The relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth wasn’t nearly as frosty as was depicted in the show. But Thatcher did reportedly tell people that she hated weekends at Balmoral, calling it “purgatory.”

Was Sir Anthony Blunt a KGB spy?

Blunt And Velasquez

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In “The Crown”: Queen Elizabeth discovers that her royal art curator, Sir Anthony Blunt, is a KGB spy. But she covers it up to protect the crown’s reputation — because he had supposed blackmail on Prince Philip.

In real life: Blunt (seen here) confessed to being a KGB spy in 1964. He was granted anonymity… until Margaret Thatcher publicly identified him in 1979 and stripped him of his titles. Did the queen know? It’s not certain, but the New York Times once reported that she probably did.

Did intruder Michael Fagan have a long conversation with Queen Elizabeth?

Michael Fagan

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In “The Crown”: A troubled man named Michael Fagan breaks into the queen’s chamber in Buckingham Palace. Instead of running, she talks to him and listens to his concerns over the state of the country.

In real life: Michael Fagan (seen here) did break into Buckingham Palace — twice. But he didn’t really have a clear reason, and when he made it into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom, she immediately called for help. 

Did Anne date Andrew Parker Bowles while her nephew dated Parker Bowles’s girlfriend?

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Des Willie/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Princess Anne has an affair with Andrew Parker Bowles while Charles has an affair with Camilla Shand, Parker Bowles’ girlfriend. Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Camilla (Emerald Fennell) are seen here talking in the episode.

In real life: Anne did briefly date Andrew Parker Bowles in 1970; it wasn’t an extramarital affair. Camilla didn’t even meet Charles until later. Their relationship ended in 1973 and Camilla got back together with Andrew.

Did John Armstrong interview members of the royal family?

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Des Willie / Netflix


In “The Crown”: Queen Elizabeth asks her daughter, Princess Anne (seen here, played by Erin Doherty), to do an interview to help boost the family image. Anne redirects the journalist to her paternal grandmother, the eccentric Princess Alice — and the interview by famed journalist John Armstrong is a hit.

In real life: There was no John Armstrong, and no interview was done with Princess Alice.

Was Queen Elizabeth heartless about Aberfan?

Queen In Aberfan

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In “The Crown”: A horrific mining accident buries a school and several houses in Aberfan, Wales, killing 116 children. Philip is heartbroken, but Elizabeth is emotionless and fails to visit Aberfan until Philip insists. 

In real life: There’s no evidence that the queen was uncaring about the Aberfan disaster. She did wait eight days to visit, while Philip arrived the day after. However, historians say it was because she didn’t want to take the attention from the rescuers, who were still looking for children days later. 

Did Charles really study Welsh to be Prince of Wales?

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Alex Bailey/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Queen Elizabeth sends Charles to Wales so that he can learn Welsh before his official investiture as the Prince of Wales. Charles gives a speech in Welsh, expressing sympathies for Wales’ struggles against England. This greatly irritates Elizabeth.

In real life: He did learn Welsh and give his speech in Welsh, but rather than angering Elizabeth, Charles later commented that it was a “moving and meaningful moment” for him.

Was Harold Wilson a spy?

Harold Wilson

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In “The Crown”: Queen Elizabeth hears that the new prime minister, Harold Wilson, might be a KGB spy. She later discovers that her own art curator, Anthony Blunt, is the real spy.

In real life: Wilson himself (pictured here) was paranoid that he was a target of the USSR, so it’s very doubtful that he was a spy for them. 

Did the Duke of Windsor apologize to Queen Elizabeth for abdicating?

Duke Of WIndsor

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In “The Crown”: The Duke of Windsor, the former Edward VIII, apologizes to Queen Elizabeth for abdicating the throne — which eventually led to her becoming queen — as she goes to see him on his deathbed. 

In real life: There’s no evidence that the Duke of Windsor made a big apology on his deathbed. 

Was the Suez Crisis a result of Anthony Eden’s drug usage?

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Alex Bailey / Netflix


In “The Crown”: Prime Minister Anthony Eden (played here by Jeremy Northam) conspires with France and Israel to take back the Suez Canal from Egypt, all while popping amphetamines. 

In real life: The Suez Crisis definitely happened, and it ruined Anthony Eden’s political career. And believe it or not, some historians posit that drug usage may have had something to do with it. 

Did Prince Philip have connections to Nazis?

Arrival Of The Duke At Mascot -- The Duke of Edinburgh leaving his plane at Mascot today.

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In “The Crown”: There are multiple references to Prince Philip’s family having connections with Nazi Germany. Philip and his family are even shown in a Nazi parade.

In real life: Philip’s sisters Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Sophie all married German nobles with ties to Nazism. Sophie even named her child “Karl Adolf.” Philip wasn’t a Nazi though; he was raised by relatives in England, and shunned those members of his family as he got older.

Did Prince Philip request a private audience with the Apollo 11 astronauts?

Queen Elizabeth II and Apollo 11 Astronauts

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In “The Crown”: Philip requests a private audience with Apollo 11 astronauts pick their minds about deep questions — but is left disappointed by their responses.

In real life: Queen Elizabeth did receive the Apollo 11 astronauts. But there’s no evidence Prince Philip requested a private audience.

Did the queen break precedent for Churchill’s funeral?

Churchill's Funeral

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In “The Crown”: Queen Elizabeth gives Winston Churchill a state funeral, which is usually only for members of the royal family, and attends in person, which the family rarely does.

In real life: Elizabeth loved Churchill and began planning an elaborate state funeral before he even died. She and Philip did attend the funeral in person (seen here). The only other prime minister’s funeral she attended was Margaret Thatcher’s. 

Was the Great Smog really ignored by British politicians?

Policeman Wearing Face Mask

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In “The Crown”: A thick smog hangs over London, spurring protests and deaths all over the city. Leaders ignore it and call it an “act of God” until Churchill’s secretary dies after stepping in front of a bus on a smoggy day. 

In real life: Environmentalism wasn’t a huge movement in the 1950s when the Great Smog happened, but there were protests. More people did die than usual, but those deaths weren’t attributed to the smog until after the fact. 

Did Princess Margaret oppose the marriage of Charles and Diana?

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Des Willie/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Princess Margaret tries to persuade Charlies not to marry Diana.

In real life: There’s no evidence that Margaret (or anyone else) was against the marriage of Diana and Charles. 

Did Lord Mountbatten hold sway over Prince Philip?

Uncle And Nephew

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In “The Crown”: Lord Mountbatten tries to influence the family via his nephew, Prince Philip. 

In real life: It’s unknown how much influence Lord Mountbatten had, but he arranged at least one important meeting — that between Philip and Elizabeth, who met for the first time in 1939.

Did Queen Elizabeth grant Margaret Thatcher the Order of Merit?

BRITAIN-ROYAL MERIT

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In “The Crown”: After Margaret Thatcher is forced to resign, Queen Elizabeth grants her the Order of Merit, a very rare honor. 

In real life: It really did happen. The Order of Merit is a very distinguished honor — only 24 living Brits can be members, and it’s solely at the discretion of the monarch. Elizabeth is pictured here in 2002 with the members of the Order of Merit; Thatcher is the second to last in the front row.

Did Queen Elizabeth have an affair with Lord Porchester?

Queen Elizabeth II

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In “The Crown”: Elizabeth travels around the world with her friend Lord Porchester, whom she refers to as “Porchey.” She may harbor feelings for him.

In real life: Elizabeth and Porchey had a friendship since childhood. But that’s almost certainly all it ever was. The queen was never suspected of having any affair. Lord Porchester is seen here in the background walking beside Elizabeth and a gamekeeper named James Gillan.

Did the family all have nicknames?

Queen Elizabeth and Her Family

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In “The Crown”: The Duke of Windsor maintains secret, unflattering nicknames for the family (Elizabeth is “Shirley Temple” while the Queen Mother is “Cookie”). Charles and Camilla call each other “Fred” and “Gladys” in covert correspondence. 

In real life: The nicknames were all seen in confirmed royal correspondence. Nicknames and pet names continue to be common (usually for more innocuous reasons) among the royal family. The most well-known is that Elizabeth was called Lilibet — which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle later named their daughter. Queen Elizabeth is seen here with her family — Charles, Anne, Andrew, Philip and Edward — in a photo from the ’70s.

Did Queen Elizabeth give a speech at the Jaguar factory?

Queen Envelope

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In “The Crown”: Elizabeth gives a speech at the Jaguar car factory, inspiring Lord Altrincham to write an article about how much he hated her speech, finding it stuffy and impersonal.

In real life: There was no speech at a Jaguar factory. Lord Altrincham did write an article expressing disapproval with the queen’s public speeches, but it wasn’t about one particular speech. 

Did Queen Elizabeth ever cry in public?

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Liam Daniel/Netflix


In “The Crown”: Elizabeth has never cried in public during the entirety of the series, and faked crying while touring Aberfan.

In real life: Biographers say she really did cry in Aberfan, and was pictured crying at remembrance ceremonies for soldiers who’d lost their lives. She also appeared to cry at the decommissioning of the royal yacht Britannia.

Did Lord Mountbatten try to oust Prime Minister Harold Wilson?

Last Governor

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In “The Crown”: Prime Minister Harold Wilson has Lord Mountbatten removed from a key position. Mountbatten responds by attempting a coup against Wilson with Cecil King, a newspaper baron, and others.

In real life: Wilson was famously paranoid that people were trying to undermine him, and some writers have claimed there was a coup attempt — but others, including Cecil King, have disputed that. Regardless, Mountbatten left his position in 1965, and the supposed coup attempt wasn’t until 1968. 

Was Elizabeth in Africa when she learned her father had died?

George VI And Elizabeth

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In “The Crown”: Then-Princess Elizabeth is in Kenya when she learns that her father, George VI, has died. It comes as a surprise — except to the viewers, who saw him confess to Churchill that his condition was terminal.

In real life: This one is true… except the conversation between the king and the prime minister probably didn’t happen. Elizabeth and Philip were on tour in Kenya at the Treetops Hotel when she officially became the sovereign. She’s seen here with her father in July 1946.

Was Princess Anne’s really kidnapped?

Anne Visits Wounded Bodyguard

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In “The Crown”: Princess Anne is featured heavily in the third and fourth seasons of “The Crown,” but a much-discussed kidnapping attempt was left out entirely.

In real life: In 1974, Anne and then-husband Mark Phillips were headed to Buckingham Palace when their car was forced to stop. A man named Ian Ball approached Anne in her car with a gun and said he was going to kidnap her for ransom. She responded sarcastically, “Bloody likely!” Anne’s bodyguard James Beaton is seen here being visited by Anne as he recovered from his wounds after being shot by Ball. 

Did the Falklands War unravel while Mark Thatcher was missing?

Mark's Car

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In “The Crown”:  Margaret Thatcher has a breakdown in front of the queen after her son, Mark, goes missing in the Sahara Desert. When Argentina then invades the Falklands, Thatcher almost seems unable to handle it. Mark Thatcher is found six days later, 31 miles off course.

In real life: These events happened, but the timing is wrong. Mark Thatcher went missing for a week in January 1982, and the Thatchers pulled out all the stops to find him. Argentina didn’t invade the Falklands until April of that same year, and the British took back control of the islands in 10 weeks.



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