I have watched both seasons twice and back to back. I don’t think a third re-watch is out of the question. It’s a hot topic of conversation in England and as much for the wonder as the discrepancies. The production and acting are superb and I can honestly say I enjoyed both seasons as much as each other.
As for what’s true and what’s false?
I thought it would be fun to ask my great friend Mark McGinness of @markmcginnesswrites fame to give us the lowdown. He has brilliantly chosen five episodes from the first series and we will follow with a further five from series 2.
Over to Mark,
The Crown: True or False?
Episode Two: Hyde Park Corner On their tour of Africa in February 1952, Philip saved Princess Elizabeth from a rampaging rogue elephant.
FALSE – There were no elephants near the Royal Couple as they went to spend the night of 5 February at Treetops in Kenya. But this was that night that she became Queen. On 6 February, Elizabeth was watching the sunrise from a platform in the trees as an eagle soared above them – it was thought that, at that moment, her beloved father, George VI, died in his sleep at Sandringham. Thus it is said she climbed a mgugu tree as a princess and descended it as Queen.
Episode Three: Windsor
In a flashback to December 1936, Wallis Simpson was with Edward VIII at Windsor Castle as he was about to deliver his Abdication Speech on 11 December.
FALSE – Mrs Simpson (soon to be the Duchess of Windsor) had fled to France three months earlier as the Press besieged her. She was in fact in Cannes on the day of the Abdication and the day of this announcement. Four days before, she announced she would forsake the King. But he was adamant and would soon join Wallis for a life in exile. As Frances Donaldson, the couple’s best biographer, put it, the Duke of Windsor became “a weary, wayward, wandering ghost shuffling with rootless opulence from resort to resort, getting more tanned and more tired.”
Episode Five: Smoke and Mirrors
The Court of George VI regarded Prince Philip as a homeless, restless outsider who would not be a suitable consort to Princess Elizabeth.
TRUE – Queen Elizabeth (from 1952 the Queen Mother) joined a number of the senior courtiers in doubting Prince Philip’s suitability. He was not an Old Etonian, nor a Guardsman; he wasn’t even British. But he was a Prince, in fact, as Hugo Vickers has pointed out, were it not for the birth in 1940, of his cousin, Constantine, Philip would have become King of Greece in 1964. And for all his ‘foreignness’, both his mother and grandmother were born at Windsor. And for all the stir and effort over his naturalisation, as a descendant of Electress Sophia of Hanover, he had no cause to be made a British subject.
Episode Eight: Pride and Joy
In 1952 the widowed Queen Mother, in mourning for her King, had returned to Scotland where she fell in love with a romantic but crumbling house, Barrogill Castle, in remote Caithness. She bought it for £100.
TRUE – The Queen Mother renamed what became her favourite home, the Castle of Mey, and it became a centre of fun and an abiding refuge. One guest recalls being asked to lunch. The Queen Mother’s hospitality was so fulsome that – knowing he had to drive home – he put his fingers across his wine glass when the butler came to pour. Undeterred, the butler simply poured through the fingers.
Episode Ten: Gloriana
After her enforced two-year separation from Peter Townsend, Princess Margaret announced that she had decided not to marry the Group Captain… “mindful of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others. I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.”
TRUE – The Princess did invoke her Church in her renunciation. She was a practising (and rather High Church) Anglican all her life and her Faith was important to her. There is a lovely vignette – so at odds with Craig Brown’s fascinating, witty, but relentlessly negative Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret – of the Queen’s sister one Sunday morning pushing the wheelchair of her frail old pal, the poet laureate John Betjeman, to Anglican Mass with his companion and her lady-in-waiting, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish. Despite this declaration, it is said, and it is something Hugo Vickers argues compellingly, that true love between the Princess and the Group Captain had run its course. In his autobiography, Time and Chance, Townsend wrote: “I simply hadn’t the weight, I knew it, to counterbalance all she would have lost.” We then had to wait a year – and Series II – before we learn the state of the Princess’s heart – and the fate of her family.
Mark McGinness is a contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald, The Times, The National, Quadrant and The Spectator. More importantly, he is the best, most knowledgeable and wittiest dinner companion you could ever wish for.