16 Jan 2018

The Crown: True Or False?

The Crown: True or False on vickiarcher.com

“The Crown” – I am enamoured.

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?

The Crown: True or False on vickiarcher.com
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.

The Crown: True or False on vickiarcher.com

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.”

The Crown: True or False on vickiarcher.com

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.

The Crown: True or False on vickiarcher.com

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.

The Crown: True or False on vickiarcher.com

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. 

If you don’t already follow Mark,  @markmcginnesswrites you are in for a treat.

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In This Post:



Roxane Lacroix

I just finished watching Season 2 last night in a burst of 2 1/2 shows. I know, I know…who watches 1/2 of one of these shows?? I always Google some of the history from each show and learn so much. Oh, the opulence and fashions! Looking forward to another season, but have read that they will be changing the actors to reflect the passage of time. Hmmm…how about using some make-up? I hope that the new actors can enthrall me as much as the current actors have in the past two seasons.

Nancy Thompson

Yes. Huge Anglophile myself. Born 1952 so have grown up with Her Majesty even though I live in the states. Have admittedly watched The Crown many times and LOVE it. Noticed some discrepancies as I have read a lot of history but don’t feel it takes away from the story as it is told.
Love your column and your writing too my dear. It is because of you that I stopped highlighting my hair! I feel as though I know you and enjoy what you have to say and show me over my morning tea or coffee every day.
xx Nancy


I was born in 1940,so I grew up with keeping a scrap book of the two young Princesses,cut out from the good old Womens Weekly!! I have loved the series “The Crown”,and I don”t think the small discrepancies make any difference
to the story.However I have heard that there was never such a letter written to “The Lunch Club”. True or False?

Candice F

My great grandmother was English, born in London .. so I have Anglophile as a part of my heritage lol I tried to get my husband to retire to live in England, he had lived there years ago.. he said he liked it better when he could leave and come home to NY .. but then we visited Buenos Aires and lived there instead .. ha .. men !
I have been enjoying catching up on all of the episodes and really love The Crown.

D. A. Wolf

Love love love your peek into what is true and what is false. This has been an utterly addictive, binge-worthy series. I’m contemplating a rewatch of both seasons, despite only finishing season 2 two weeks back.

And happy new year!


Karen in VA

Excellent post. I too love the series and Mark’s Instagram feed.

Hugo Vickers book arrived yesterday, Fact or Fiction The Crown … can’t wait to dig in. I understand Helena Bonham Carter will play the older Margaret in Season 3.

Thanks Vicki

Karen in VA


She was very good in “The King’s Speech” as the young Elizabeth, wife of George VI (before she became Queen Mother). Best wishes, Pamela


WE LOVE this series. My husband has fallen in love with everything British since we discovered Downton Abbey years ago, and I’ve even caught him watching reruns of the Great British Baking Show; we are talking about a New York-born man here! LOL! But The Crown, that has become one of our favorites for which we await the next season. True or false, the production values, the actors, the music, it all works for a bit of an escape to the fairytale idea of Great Britain.


Have almost finished reading a fascinating book “The Riviera Set” by Mary Lovell. It provides many anecdotes about David and Wallis, as well as much else. It seems the Duke of Windsor was devastated to hear Wallis would not be accorded HRH – but still insisted that people in their circle should curtsey and address her as Your Royal Highness. Many of their friends seem to have acquiesced. I guess if you wanted to stay in their circle that was essential. Have no sympathy or liking for either. They made their decisions – they should have accepted what the results would be for them. Probably just as well, as he almost certainly would have made a dreadful king – particularly give their links to Hitler and the Nazis. After spending some time as their houseguest years later Winston Churchill is said to have come to the conclusion that they wouldn’t have been suitable for the roles of King and Consort, despite his earlier support for them. Heard years ago (from a less well known member of the Royal family – related on both sides – to Queen Mary and King George) that later in their lives they were bored to sobs with each other – they’d sit together but have nothing to say to each other. But of course they’d both given up such a lot to be together so they had to stick with it.

Very poor that the Netflix series showed her with him around the time he announced his abdication – a really serious historical inaccuracy. But despite this and other inaccuracies I’ve enjoyed the series so far. Best wishes, Pamela


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