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The third season of The Crown shows a tragic moment in history: The Aberfan Disaster. Did the series portray the event accurately and did the Queen only visit the site a week later in real life? Let's find out and discover more about this major moment in Queen Elizabeth II's reign! You might be surprised by the true events...
So, what exactly happened in Aberfan? Heavy downpours caused a coal waste tip—that is, the heap of waste leftover from mining—to fall and transform into an avalanche on the morning of October 21, 1966. The torrential slide sadly hit a nearby school and different structures in the town. In total, 28 grown-ups and 116 kids passed away from this tragic happening...
As the show depicts, at first Queen Elizabeth II neglected to visit Aberfan, sending Prince Philip instead. She ended up visiting the village almost a week after the disaster. Sources report that while in the village, the monarch eventually showed piercing melancholy—an unusual response for the usually unemotional Elizabeth.
Marjorie Collins, an Aberfan lady who lost her child in the catastrophe, recalled the sovereign's visit in a 2015 meeting with ITV: "They were above the politics ... they proved to us that the world was with us and that the world cared." Another grieving mother told ITV that she was sure nobody judged the queen for her delayed response as they were still in shock.
For the duration of her life, the Queen visited Aberfan another four times. In 1973 she was there to open a dedication place, and again in 1997 to plant a tree in the Memorial Garden. Most recently she was spotted there in 2012. The Sovereign certainly has shown her continuous support for these citizens and it has kept a sad and soft spot in her heart.
Despite her royal team's wishes that she visit Aberfan urgently, the Queen decided to postpone this. Why? Well, she actually had the best of motives. She believed her visit may divert from the salvage mission. The Queen was concerned that her appearance could make rescuers miss a poor child because their attention was on her!
Her sadness was not hidden when she did finally arrive a week later. She was grieved, as she told the townspeople with tears in her eyes, that she could give them nothing aside from compassion. These uniquely emotional moments are rare in her reign and certainly show people a different side to the monarch.
As indicated, The Crown recreated the sovereign's first visit to Aberfan by filming in the little Welsh town of Cwmaman. This has been called "one of the most touching moments of the queen's reign that is still remembered by the victims." Would you agree?
One spectator who was watching the filming of the Netflix series told the news site, "It was all very dignified, Olivia Colman is clearly taking her role very seriously. There was a very somber mood. I think everyone involved in the production realizes what an awful tragedy Aberfan was."
They might try to recreate prominent locations and could even opt to shoot on location at times but this would not be the case for the Aberfan episode. While they didn't do the recording in Aberfan, they had a few actors who grew up near the town associated with the show.
The Crown director Benjamin Caron said, "We have, as much as possible, been trying to involve the local community." For him and for the show's creator, Peter Morgan, they wanted to do everything "with truth and dignity, and also to make sure that it is never forgotten."
The town of Glynhafod and all that encompasses it will be seen in the show in the shadow of the coal tip. However, the site of the slip itself will be reproduced in CGI, Computer-generated imagery. The roads of the town had a rain-machine above them to recreate the heavy downpour that the real town faced in the days before October 21. How interesting!
Entertainer Tobias Menzies assumes the part of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in the series. The Duke visited the site alone on October 22 and later with Queen Elizabeth, on October 28. This is something the series gets right. Menzies shared the difficulties of shooting such genuinely charged scenes and the obligation to do it justice.
He expressed, "I was aware of the name, but I didn’t know a great deal about it actually But I felt like a really good thing to be telling that story again because it’s an important bit of certainly Welsh history, but British history too."
Menzies said the entire group knew that covering the Aberfan story must be done with extreme consideration, and felt guaranteed that the scene wouldn't sensationalize the tragedy. Menzies added, "I became aware as we were working on it, one got a sense, on a production level they had been very mindful."
While the cast did not shoot their scenes in the real town, the authentic people from Aberfan that they spoke to were pleased. They shared, "when we were there we were talking to local people and people felt pleased that the story was being retold and I certainly felt confident that it was going to be told in a very respectful way."
For the entire production team and the cast of stars, it was vital that this part of history be done with extreme justice. All in all, the episode was moving and pretty true to the real events. One of the only big changes was that Prince Philip was seen attending the funeral of the victims. In real life, this was not the case.
Per the royal historian, Robert Lacey, there basically wasn't an opportunity to incorporate the entirety of the large royal history linked to The Crown. He noted that from all of the very big events to some of the meaningful smaller ones, it is very easy to fill up ten episodes.
He explained that they give one entire scene to the awfulness of Aberfan, and the last two episodes are allocated to Charles and Camilla. There's one big moment apportioned to Lord Mountbatten's incidents... And it rapidly adds up." They had to choose their priorities and ultimately, fans must remember... It is not a documentary, it is a fictionally-charged series.
Peter Morgan has spoken about why they felt the need to included Aberfan. “The team made spectacular efforts to show respect. But I underestimated how raw it still was. The best you have to rely on is your conscience and your own belief in what the truth is.” After they spoke to many of the surviving families they realized the true gravity of the Aberfan disaster.
In fact, the team working for The Crown organized therapists to visit with these townfolk as many of them had never talked through their trauma. Before they started with the scenes in Cwmaman, the team and producers attended a public meeting in which many people came to share their experiences.
Producer Suzanne Mackie said the third episode, dealing with Aberfan, almost stands out from the rest. She expressed, “Of all the different stories The Crown has done so far, this was most difficult in terms of our duty of care. But it is true to the spirit of all we learned."
Many wonder how the Queen really feels about delaying her visit to Aberfan. While some ask if it was her biggest Public Relations disaster, sources reveal a sad truth. For Her Majesty, her actions surrounding this great tragedy are said to be one of her most regretted moments. Peter Morgan said this event can only be compared to how she felt after Diana's accident.
So, it may not have been the biggest PR disaster but it is possibly something she still thinks about today. This would explain why she has visited the town in the years after the disaster. The Crown's producers hope their episode will inform those who have no knowledge of the tragedy and also tell the story for those who have lived with it ever since...
Netflix's, 'The Crown" might not get every fact right but they certainly convey heartfelt emotions about the beloved royal family. Did you know about the Aberfan disaster before it was displayed on the hit series? Leave us a comment to let us know! And be sure to share this article with all your friends and family who also love The Crown!