After The Crown’s creator Peter Morgan admitted inventing details in the Netflix drama and Princess Diana’s brother issued a warning about the show’s validity, royal expert Duncan Larcombe reveals what is true and what is false…
Lord Mountbatten’s stern words – Fake
One episode of The Crown – which is getting a fifth series – sees Lord Mountbatten writing a letter to the Prince of Wales, telling him his actions have brought ‘ruin and disappointment’ on the family and insisting he should settle down. Soon after, Lord Mountbatten is assassinated by the IRA – which is indeed true. However, the rest of the storyline is pure fiction. Peter Morgan, creator of the show, confessed, ‘I made it up in my head.’
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s downfall – True
The cracks in the marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana did surface less than two years after they wed, during their tour of Australia in 1983. Royal staff later admitted there were signs of trouble while travelling together.
Diana stealing the limelight – True
Prince Charles really did hate Princess Diana stealing his limelight. Within weeks of their marriage it became obvious that photographers’ lenses were trained on the princess. Charles even made references to all eyes being on his wife while moaning to photographers. It was a constant frustration to the Prince of Wales throughout his marriage.
Margaret Thatcher’s son goes missing – Fake
Despite the timeline in series four, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s son Mark did not go missing in the Sahara at the same time as Argentina invaded South Georgia. This may have been an error rather than a deliberate attempt to distort history. But why get the facts wrong?
The Balmoral visits – Fake
The Royal Family appear to have laid protocol traps to humiliate Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher on visits to Balmoral in series four. This account has been rubbished by historians and ex-palace staff. Nor was any reference made to it by the former Prime Minister in her autobiography. It looks like a piece of fiction aimed at making the Royals look cruel.
Prince Charles’ portrayal – True
Actor Josh O’Connor has been praised for his role as Prince Charles, despite the depiction of the Prince of Wales as ‘uncaring’ and ‘cold’. According to Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, it’s a fair portrayal. He said, ‘I’m afraid that’s what I saw behind closed doors.’
The Queen’s bedroom intruder – Fake
Michael Fagan, who famously broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982, complained that the scene in which he and the Queen discussed politics was ‘a complete fiction’. Now 70, he thinks it was made up to have a go at the Queen – though it’s more likely it was to have a go at Margaret Thatcher.
Princess Diana and the Queen Mother’s frosty friendship – True
Princess Diana and the Queen Mother appeared to have a frosty relationship. In series four, the pair barely exchange glances and seem far from close. This has been supported by former palace staff and is broadly an accurate depiction.