I would consider myself a patriot, I love my country and I have the utmost respect for The Royal family. Regardless of my appreciation for those in charge, I would never have understood the hardships they have suffered throughout the years. Yes, The Crown is a dramatised version of the events that actually occurred but the main thing I took from it is that they still happened. Throughout the four seasons, I feel that I have gained a completely new understanding of the royals – there are many instances in which they may not have survived but I’m glad they did. I’ve rounded up my top ten shocking moments – Events that I’d never heard before, backstory’s that I was glad they explored and devastating tragedy along the way.
1. The extreme strain that came between all relationships surrounding the crown.
As soon as Elizabeth was gifted the title of Monarch, at a tender age of only 25, cracks appeared in her connections with others. In gaining her title of Queen, her other titles of wife, sister and mother felt the pressure. It’s easy for people to sit at home and make assumptions about the royal family but even just watching the first season of The Crown will show you just how many sacrifices had to be made – it is not an easy job.
2. Prince Philip – The Playboy.
Now it’s important to remember that this show is a dramatised version of reality but yes, the rumours of Prince Philip’s infidelity circulated for decades. It is heavily conveyed in The Crown and yes, he is vilified. There are many risqué scenes within the show that hint at the adultery – however, this is unconfirmed. One of the main events that was under constant scrutiny was ‘The Thursday Club’. This was a weekly meeting with other gentleman – the portrayal was that they would eat good food, consume a lot of alcohol whilst under-dressed waitresses would float around.
3. The heartbreaking love-life of Princess Margaret.
Throughout the whole of the series so far, Margaret has been unlucky in love. Season one sees her fall head-over-heels for Captain Townsend – we understood it, a hot older guy but when your sister is the Queen, it’s not so easy! Promises were made and broken and eventually Margaret realised that this relationship would never be lawful or allowed without her leaving the family. Eventually she moved on to Antony Armstrong-Jones, a photographer that made her feel… normal. She was happy for a while, having two children and getting married but to her dismay, it failed further down the line as his infidelity was announced. Amidst their divorce, the princess had a very public affair Roddy Llewellyn, a gardener that was 17 years her younger. It’s fair to say that she had a turbulent relationship with the word ‘love’ which only led to a knock-on effect for other problems in her life.
4. Lord Altrincham and his lasting changes.
The historian, politician and writer had strong views… views that would go on to shock Britain. In 1957, he released an opinion piece of the monarchy and shared ideas that the Queen was outdated and not in touch with the heart of the nation. It is worth noting that he was a huge monarchist and loved the royal family – he just didn’t think they were keeping up to date with modern times. The comments made really took the Queen back in the series and showed the firsts signs of weakness in her character. However, Altrincham’s ideas were well received and eventually, his suggestions were acknowledged and changes made. The biggest change came when the Queen’s Christmas address was televised in 1957.
5. Tensions between the Queen and Jackie Kennedy.
In season two, US President JFK and first lady, Jackie Kennedy, come over to Buckingham Palace to visit the royals. The episode was explosive to say the least, the tension was building – before the US pair had even arrived. There was a notable difference between Elizabeth and Jackie – something that only built throughout the episode. The fire builds after their departure with word returning to the palace that Jackie described the Queen as “a middle-aged woman so incurious, unintelligent, and unremarkable that Britain’s new reduced place in the world was not a surprise but an inevitability.” I was massively surprised throughout this episode and it certainly left my jaw on the floor.
6. Prince Philip’s mother’s terrible past.
In Season three, we meet Prince Philip’s mother – on first sight, she is a chain-smoking nun that is getting towards the end of her time but honestly, she’s so much more than that. Princess Alice of Battenberg didn’t have the greatest luck in life. She married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark but they were exiled and left for Paris. Some time later, she found herself struggling greatly with her mental-health and was sent to a sanatorium. Bringing it back to speed on the episode, Princess Alice spoke to a journalist about her troubled life, torture and loneliness. She gathered a great response from the interview and showed understanding to the public around taboo subjects, such as mental-health. She was largely forgotten in real-life but given awards for her bravery during the holocaust. I loved The Crown’s portrayal of this wonderful woman.
7. Diana’s suffering from an eating disorder
*TRIGGER WARNING* Throughout the fourth season of The Crown, we see a real physical effect of the royal relationship on Princess Diana. The season shows her personal struggles with loneliness, self-loathing and adapting to the new royal life. We first see instances of the disorder when Diana is left alone in the palace, suffering anxieties about Charles and his ‘friendship’ with Camilla. She sneaks down to the kitchen’s and binges on a number of desserts before returning to her room to bring it all back up. It is a continuous theme throughout the season; notably heightening following arguments and stressful situations. It was conveyed that this felt like some sort of control for Diana when elsewhere, she had none. This battle wasn’t solely dramatised for The Crown, however, with Princess Diana opening up about her struggles on a BBC Panorama interview in 1995. Her interview opened up the discussion about the taboo subject and encouraged many more to speak out.
8. Princess Diana performed ‘Uptown Girl’ as a surprise for Charles’ birthday
Season Four, Episode Nine.. we were graced with this phenomenal scene. Many, myself included, watched thinking “surely that never happened”. Well, indeed it did at a private gala in 1985. It was the described by Richard Kay as “the present that backfired”. The episode opens with Charles and Diana attending a ballet gala, they appear very withdrawn from one another. As the performance is coming to its end, Diana sneaks away for a ‘bathroom break.’ To Charles’ dismay, she then appears on stage during the encore. She reportedly practiced for months privately for the performance in which she danced to ‘Uptown Girl.’ The efforts were most certainly not appreciated by the Prince however as he was sure to share his feelings of disgust on the journey home. It was a real stand out moment of the season and our hearts just broke for Diana.
9. The IRA killed Prince Charles’ great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten – ‘Dickie’
Season Four gets yet another mention. I was utterly shocked at this event. Throughout the series Lord Mountbatten, or ‘Dickie’ as we know him, is a character that viewers really connected with and learned to love. However, the new series begins with the coverage of his murder in 1979. Before his trip to Ireland, Dickie was said to have had a heated row with Prince Charles about his relationship with Camilla and urged him to break it off. He then arrived at his destination, getting on a boat with three others – one of them being his 14-year-old grandson. As the boat had just got out of the dock, it was blown up. It was a heart-wrenching scene that was executed so well by the production team. The IRA claimed responsibility for his death at the time, saying “bombing was a discriminate act to bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country”.
10. Michael Fagan breaking into Buckingham Palace – not once, but twice
Last but not least – one of, if not the most shocking moment. I’d heard about the famous break-in to Buckingham Palace before but never really knew much about it. What I found absolutely mind-blowing was the fact that this happened twice. TWICE! A building guarding the most important woman in Britain and yet an intruder managed to sneak in twice, crazy! On his first visit, we see him shimmy up a drainpipe and through an open window, he waltzes through the palace and helps himself to a bottle of wine before heading home. A few days later, he decided to come back for more, but this time, we see his introductions to the Queen in her bedroom. The pair reportedly spoke for around ten minutes before he was collected by policemen.