The Crown Season 4: Separating Fact From Fiction
The Crown has received critical praise for staying pretty accurate to reality. But for a show to be successful, some artistic license has to be taken to make the storylines more dramatic. That means, some of the incidents like Diana and Charles’ first meeting are not true. And did a commoner actually break into the Queen’s bedroom? Let’s find out.
THE ‘MAD TREE’ EPISODE
Amazingly, Prince Charles really did date Diana’s older sister, Sarah! Their relationship was short-lived, with Sarah reportedly once claiming she wouldn't marry the Prince of Wales "if he were the dustman or the King of England." On the show, Charles first meets Diana when he arrives to take her sister out on a date.
Lady Diana Spencer at Balmoral during her engagement to Prince Charles in May 1981. pic.twitter.com/IGzRPDJRo3— The Crown (@TheCrownNetflix) November 19, 2020
But, in real life the meeting happened when he accompanied Sarah to a grouse hunt. So – no, sorry guys, it didn't go down as the meet-cute portrayed on-screen, and there was no ‘mad tree’ costume! That was totally an invention of the showrunner Peter Morgan. Still, Charles was impressed by Diana when they first met.
Speaking of their meeting, he recalled, “I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything.” Unfortunately for Diana, something was transferred to the screen correctly - Charles' awkward words of “whatever in love means” in their post-engagement interview.
DIANA’S KNOWLEDGE OF CHARLES’ AFFAIR
From the show we learn that Charles and Diana barely knew each other before they got married. And that is true. Diana reckoned that she met her future husband only about a dozen times before they walked down the aisle - and that includes official events!
Also, throughout the couple’s courtship, there was evidence of Camilla’s closeness to the Prince of Wales. Diana and Charles would stay with Camilla and her husband Andrew Parker Bowles for the weekends. Moreover, Diana witnessed how her fiancé hurried to talk to Camilla the night before his departure to New Zealand.
“I was in his study talking to him about his trip,” she recalled. According to Diana: In Her Own Words, “The telephone rang. It was Camilla. Just before he was going for five weeks. It just broke my heart.” And the story about a special bracelet being commissioned by the Prince for Camilla, which Diana finds is true.
Here's your first proper look at Princess Diana’s wedding dress from The Crown series 4, created by costume designer Amy Roberts pic.twitter.com/EcFBMcaqWs— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) October 4, 2020
Not only that, the cufflinks he wore from Camilla during his and Diana's honeymoon is also true. Woah! "Boy, did we have a row. Jealousy, total jealousy.” Diana shared. “And it was such a good idea the two C's, but it wasn't that clever." No wonder such painful moments made it into the series!
THE BALMORAL TEST
It’s common knowledge that the Queen loves her Scottish estate, Balmoral and uses it to test officials. A lot of ministers went there – but everybody wasn't thrilled by the opportunity. Margaret Thatcher definitely had no interest in posh country pursuits like hunting! And, according to her biographer Charles Moore, aspects of this visit depicted on the show are “surely wrong.”
Duty calls. Queen Elizabeth II takes the salute at the Trooping the Colour ceremony outside Buckingham Palace. pic.twitter.com/hSCle2jvBg— The Crown (@TheCrownNetflix) November 16, 2020
But he does believe that the “broad impression has the ring of truth.” By the way, there actually was an incident with Queen Victoria’s chair, but it wasn’t the Prime Minister who violated the unwritten rule of sitting in it, but a girlfriend of Charles’. And Diana really did win the royal family over during her first visit to Balmoral.
THE ROYALS’ TRUE FEELINGS ABOUT DIANA
The 4th season makes it clear that Prince Philip took his son’s new girlfriend under his wing. Many people recalled how he came to her aid, sitting next to her at black-tie dinners and chatting to her while she learned to master the art of small talk. But Diana's relationship with the rest of the Royal Family wasn't as warm.
Ambition. pic.twitter.com/u2AVWK1u5c— The Crown (@TheCrownNetflix) August 28, 2018
Years later, the Princess revealed that she always panicked when she had to go to Balmoral. “The first couple of days everything's wonderful," she recalled. "By the third day they're sapping me again. There are so many negative atmospheres. That house sucks one dry." Just as it was shown on the show, Charles’ sister and Diana didn’t get along.
The documentary, The Real Princess Anne claims that Anne was "extremely annoyed when Diana became centre stage.” She thought that Diana lessened their stature. However, the Princess of Wales was reportedly close with Prince Andrew and found a sympathetic figure in Princess Margaret, whom she called "Margo." But there's no evidence that Margaret spoke up against Charles and Diana’s marriage.
A family affair. Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother at the investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in July 1969. pic.twitter.com/EpwAFE7HUw— The Crown (@TheCrownNetflix) December 15, 2019
DIANA’S HONEST STRUGGLE
Amazingly, it was the actress who portrayed Diana, Emma Corrin, who asked the show's writers to highlight the late Princess’ ongoing battle with an eating issue. "We were trying to depict [the eating issues] in an honest way," she explained to People. "Otherwise it's a disservice to anyone who has been through that."
Diana herself revealed that it started the week after she got engaged to Charles. "My husband put his hand on my waistline and said, 'Oh, a bit chubby here, aren't we?' and that triggered off something in me." Tragically, her "secret disease" became an "escape mechanism" from what was going on in her marriage.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE BREAK-IN
Surprisingly, it’s true that there was an intruder in the Queen’s bedroom. However, the story was slightly exaggerated. The culprit, Michael Fagan and the Queen did not have a long conversation about Thatcher as was shown in the series. The police reports state that he was too nervous to say anything and just sat there until he was taken away.
According to Fagan, The Crown “used a lot of artistic licence.” He still maintains he can’t explain the reasons why he broke in, although he was frustrated by joblessness and the break-up of his marriage. So, the writers thought his character could be a perfect vessel through which to represent a lot of people of that period.
ROLLER SKATING IN THE PALACE
It was one of the most charming moments of the show when the future Princess of Wales roller skated through Buckingham Palace while listening to Duran Duran on her Walkman. Corrin likes to think that she could have done that because Diana was known to be a roller-skating, pop-music fan.
The show’s producer, Oona O’Beirn, also revealed that, according to the team’s research, Diana actually rode her bicycle inside the palace the night before she got married! So, the writers thought that it would be a nice touch to remind the viewers that Diana was only 19 at that time.
CHARLES’ JEALOUSY OF DIANA’S POPULARITY
An entire episode is dedicated to Charles and Diana's first major tour through Australia and New Zealand. It was a turning point in their marriage. During her BBC1 interview in 1995, Diana said she and Charles were "very much" in love during that six-week tour, but the pressure on them both as a couple with the media was “phenomenal.”
According to the book, The Diana Chronicles, the Princess was aware of the public's preference for her at the time, but "felt very uncomfortable with it.” However, insiders say that she enjoyed upstaging her husband and knew it got on his nerves. With Camilla and Charles flaunting their affair, we really can’t blame Diana.
“As professional royal performers they were unbeatable," revealed Diana’s former press secretary, Patrick Jephson. "But behind the scenes it was quite different.” Turns out the couple really didn't talk to each other much. There was minimal eye contact between them and they were short tempered with each other. Oh no!
BREAKING ROYAL PROTOCOLS
When Diana was first introduced to the royal family, it was impossible to predict that she would become a rule-breaker. The Crown Season 4 depicted one of the first and finest examples of it, as the Princess of Wales insisted her infant son accompany the couple on their Commonwealth tour.
However, some sources say that it was Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser who actually suggested that the Prince and Princess of Wales should bring little William along with them. And, despite the way it was depicted on the show, Charles also agreed ahead of time that it was a good idea.
THE HIDDEN ROYAL COUSINS
One of the major shockers of season 4 is the story of the Queen’s cousins. It was devastating to learn that Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon were secretly placed in a mental health institution and listed as dead, while in fact they were still alive!
This particular storyline is true. But, as shown on the show, it wasn’t Princess Margaret who discovered the whole thing. Actually, it was uncovered by the media after Nerissa’s demise in the mid-1980s. The Queen never commented on the revelation, with the palace citing it as a private matter for the Bowes-Lyon family.
THE IRON LADY VS THE QUEEN
One of the storylines of The Crown’s season 4 addresses tensions between the monarch and her first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Their relationship was seen as frigid. The two outstanding ladies reportedly often held conflicting views, including sanctions against South Africa.
Newspapers everywhere claimed to reveal the Queen’s opinion about her PM as “uncaring, confrontational and socially divisive.” According to the show, the press secretary, Michael Shea was blamed for the article and had to quit his long-time job. However, in reality, he denied being the source of the leak and left the palace only the following year.
Meanwhile the Queen and Thatcher reportedly had a "very amicable conversation” over the misunderstanding. By the way, the story about Margaret Thatcher's missing son is based on real-life events. He did go missing in the desert. However, the show’s timing of it happening “just as the Falklands were invaded” is not true.
DIANA DANCING TO “UPTOWN GIRL”
As we already know from the roller-skating episode, Diana loved pop music. She also did ballet and took lessons at Kensington Palace. But it was a surprise for the majority of The Crown’s audience to see her on the stage of the Royal Opera House! Diana and ballet star, Wayne Sleep did actually perform a surprise dance for her husband.
The viewers were delighted! But unfortunately, the Prince was upset with how Diana pushed the boundaries of royal propriety. “It was a present which slightly backfired," recalled royal expert Richard Kay. “Charles wasn’t terribly impressed. He thought she was showing off.” And what about Diana’s other present – a video of her singing a song from The Phantom of the Opera?
Actually, here the show creators took some artistic licence. According to The Crown’s head of research, Diana did visit The Phantom of the Opera’s West End set with the author of the musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber. However, it is unclear whether she sang or danced, or whether such a video ever existed.
On the show, we are quickly debriefed on all of Diana's alleged affairs thanks to Anne's chat with the Queen. We even see Captain James Hewitt sneak in and out of Kensington Palace. Diana actually confirmed their affair during a BBC program in 1995, saying, "I adored him. I was in love with him, but I was very let down."
Reportedly, their romance lasted for five years. Ken Wharfe, Diana’s former bodyguard, revealed that, "Hewitt, a natural womanizer, gave her the attention and affection she relished, and then the passion she yearned for." There were even rumors that Captain Hewitt was Prince Harry's real father! But he firmly denied the allegations when asked the question point-blank.
Apart from Captain Hewitt, Princess Anne also informed the Queen of Diana's dalliance with one of her bodyguards. This could very well be Barry Mannakee. He served as The Princess of Wales’ bodyguard in the mid-eighties, but, in Diana’s own words, was "chucked out" after rumors of an affair reached the palace.
On the tape, recorded by her voice coach in 1992, Diana shared she was "deeply in love" with a man in the palace "environment." And although she never mentioned him by name, the Princess revealed that his death was "the biggest blow of her life." In 1987, Mannakee was fatally wounded in a motorcycle accident, which Diana found suspicious.
The show did a pretty good retelling of the Royal family’s life in season 4. We were surprised to see how many of the incidents were true – from Diana dancing at the Royal Opera to Charles actually dating her sister! So, which of these royal saga details surprised you most? Do you think it was an accurate depiction?
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