Death of Queen Elizabeth: What Netflix’s The Crown Got Right and Wrong About the Queen

Charles makes his first speech as king. Video / BBC

Netflix’s The Crown has never claimed to be a historically accurate portrayal of the royal family.

But for those watching from around the world, the award-winning series has helped bring the story to life.

After news of Queen Elizabeth’s death at age 96 broke on September 8, series creator Peter Morgan announced that filming for the sixth season of The Crown would be paused.

The Queen is portrayed as prioritizing her responsibilities as a monarch above all else.  Photo/Netflix
The Queen is portrayed as prioritizing her responsibilities as a monarch above all else. Photo/Netflix

The series has already explored much of the Queen’s life, and the fifth season will be released in November. So far, we’ve seen Claire Foy and Olivia Colman play her on screen, and she’ll soon be replaced by Imelda Staunton in seasons five and six.

And although many of the scenes are represented as they happened, others have clearly been dramatized. So what did The Crown do right and wrong about Britain’s longest-reigning monarch?

How the queen handled Princess Margaret’s desire to marry

From the start of the series, the contrast between the queen and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, was made abundantly clear: Elizabeth prioritized her responsibilities, while Margaret struggled with the rules.

The show portrays the relationship between Margaret and group captain Peter Townsend, who was 16 years her senior. He proposed to her in 1953.

In The Crown, when Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) initially asks Elizabeth (Foy) for permission to marry Townsend, the monarch tells her to wait.

The differences between Elizabeth and her sister Margaret are emphasized in the show.  Photo/Netflix
The differences between Elizabeth and her sister Margaret are emphasized in the show. Photo/Netflix

Later in the drama, she denies the request, but in real life, the princess herself may have decided to break off the engagement.

Margaret wrote in a statement issued on October 31, 1955: “I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. I have been able to contract a civil marriage.

“But mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and mindful of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any other.”

The queen arguing with Prince Philip

Royals are well trained to keep their private lives away from prying eyes.

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But on one occasion, in 1954, during a royal tour of Australia, a film crew accidentally saw the Queen arguing with her husband, Prince Philip.

After the argument, the queen reportedly told the camera crew: “I’m sorry about that little interlude but, as you know, it happens in every marriage. Now what would you like me to do?”

The interaction was featured in the first season of The Crown, but the actual footage has never been seen.

The Queen is played by Claire Foy in the first two seasons of The Crown.  Photo/Netflix
The Queen is played by Claire Foy in the first two seasons of The Crown. Photo/Netflix

The Queen’s first meeting with the First Lady of the United States, Jackie Kennedy

Worlds collided in the 1960s when British royalty welcomed the Kennedys to Buckingham Palace.

In the second season of The Crown, the Queen and Jackie Kennedy have a friendly chat, before the monarch discovers that the First Lady has reportedly spoken negatively about her and the Palace.

It is claimed that Jackie did, in fact, make disparaging comments about the way the Palace was decorated, but the idea that the Queen heard this may not be entirely accurate.

The Crown’s historical advisor Robert Lacey told Vogue at the time that the tension between Elizabeth and Jackie was “speculative”.

“I’m not saying it didn’t exist, you can’t say it’s false, you can’t say it’s true. I think it’s perfectly plausible that the Queen felt overshadowed by Jackie.”

The Queen’s response to the Aberfan tragedy

One of the most controversial episodes of The Crown sees the Queen, played by Colman in season three, feigning an emotional response to the Aberfan disaster.

On October 21, 1966, a mine waste dump collapse killed 144 people in the Welsh town of Aberfan, including 116 children.

Eight days after the tragedy, the Queen visited Aberfan. It is said that one of her biggest regrets was waiting so long to travel to Wales, as Philip went there the day after the collapse.

In real life, the Queen's response to the Aberfan tragedy was said to be one of her greatest regrets.  Photo/Netflix
In real life, the Queen’s response to the Aberfan tragedy was said to be one of her greatest regrets. Photo/Netflix

But in The Crown, she is shown saying privately, “They deserved a show of compassion, of empathy, from their queen. They got nothing. I wiped one eye completely dry, and by some miracle no one noticed.”

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Countless fans of the show shared their fury at the fictionalized version of his answer.

The Queen’s conversation with outsider Michael Fagan

One of The Crown’s most memorable moments comes in season four when viewers meet a man named Michael Fagan.

After suffering financial difficulties, Fagan decides to break into Buckingham Palace, twice. While he escapes the first time, the second time, he makes his way to the Queen’s bedroom.

When she wakes up, he begs her to save Britain from then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Fagan did indeed break into Buckingham Palace. But in an interview with the BBC in 1993, he revealed that the Queen simply told him to go away.

So their powerful conversation portrayed on the show didn’t happen in real life after all.

The queen’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

The fourth season of The Crown portrays the tense relationship between the Queen and the new Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The Prime Minister struggles to fit in during a visit to Balmoral and is often at odds with the monarch during their private audiences.

True, the couple disagreed on several occasions. Dean Palmer wrote in his book The Queen and Mrs. Thatcher: An Inconvenient Relationship: “The palace thought Thatcher was vulgar and the prime minister thought royalty was irrelevant.”

And John Campbell wrote in his book The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher, from Grocer’s Daughter to Prime Minister, that “The Queen was said to dread her weekly audience with her Prime Minister because Mrs. Thatcher was so rigid and formal.”

However, the Queen held respect for Thatcher during her tenure as Prime Minister, awarding her the Order of Merit, as seen in the series.

But the recognition came two weeks after Thatcher’s resignation, rather than during her final audience with the Queen.

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