Commoners around the world may have never gotten to know the real Queen Elizabeth II in her 70-year rule before her death on Thursday.
But Emmy-winning Netflix hit “The Crown” has given us some insight into the monarch who has been portrayed in the series by Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and now Imelda Staunton. Still, the show has employed a fair amount of creative license in taking us behind the walls of Buckingham Palace and across the history of the late queen’s reign.
In fact, series creator Peter Morgan has admitted that he has “made up” scenes, while one Palace source has accused the show of “trolling on a Hollywood budget.”
Still, “The Crown” — which will return in November with its fifth season — had enough respect for the Queen to have a plan in place in the event of her death: The series shut down production for at least a week while filming Season 6, due out in 2023.
Until the royal family is back in all of its streaming splendor on “The Crown,” we break down how much was fact versus fiction in reference to Queen Elizabeth II’s most memorable moments.
Yes, the Queen did talk her cousin out of staging a coup
In the third season of “The Crown,” Lord Mountbatten — the Queen’s second cousin once removed, who was also Prince Philip’s maternal uncle affectionately known as “Uncle Dickie” — was approached by a group plotting to depose Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Although the show stretched the truth for dramatic effect, the intense intervention that the Queen staged with Mountbatten may very well have happened. “It was not [Baron] Solly Zuckerman who talked Mountbatten out of staging a coup and making himself president of Britain,” said historian Alex von Tunzelmann in “Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire,” citing a source from Buckingham Palace, who reportedly said, “It was the Queen herself.”
No, the Queen did not dress down Winston Churchill
The second season of “The Crown” depicted a young Queen who rebuked Prime Minister Churchill — as well as Lord Salisbury —about conspiring to conceal the leader’s diminished capacities after he suffered a stroke in the summer of 1953. But when Churchill’s private secretary, “Jock” Colville, published his memoir in 1985, it was revealed that the Queen wasn’t so heartless. In fact, she is said to have written him a letter expressing her concern for the Prime Minister’s health.
Yes, an intruder really did surprise the Queen in bed
In a total breakdown of Her Majesty’s security detail, a British man named Michael Fagan entered Queen Elizabeth’s Buckingham Palace bedroom in 1982. “I was scarder than I’d ever been in my life,” said Fagan in a 2012 interview with the Independent. “Then she speaks, and it’s like the finest glass you can imagine breaking: ‘Wawrt are you doing here?!’” But no, the rumors about the two having some bedroom banter — as depicted in the show’s fourth season — are not true: “She went past me and ran out of the room, her little bare feet running across the floor.”
No, the Queen did not confront Philip over his alleged infidelities
While there have been abundant rumors, there is no evidence that the monarch’s beloved Prince Philip — who preceded the Queen in death in April 2021 — ever cheated on his wife, let alone that she called him out for it. But their marriage wasn’t perfect either — as accurately depicted in Season 1 of “The Crown.” During their royal tour of the Commonwealth in 1954, cameras caught the normally composed couple in the middle of a big bust-up outside of their Australian chalet. “I’m sorry for that little interlude but, as you know, it happens in every marriage,” the Queen reportedly said, while the royal press secretary, Richard Colville, collected the offending footage from the film crew before it could ever be seen.
Yes, the Queen had secret cousins in a mental institution
In Season 4 of “The Crown,” the Queen and Princess Margaret are revealed to have secret cousins who were hidden away in mental institutions. During a time when children with disabilities brought shame to families, the young girls, who could not speak, were admitted to the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Mental Defectives in Surrey in 1941 by their parents — the Queen Mother’s older brother and his wife. And to keep it all top-secret, the two first cousins — Nerissa Bowes-Lyon and Katherine Bowes-Lyon — were listed as dead in a guide to the British aristocracy, even though they were still very much alive. But the Queen never commented on the revelation.
Yes, Jackie Kennedy really did badmouth the Queen
Oh no, she didn’t! That’s what viewers surely thought when Jackie Kennedy talked smack about the Queen in Season 2 of “The Crown.” The scandalous swipes went down during a Buckingham Palace dinner with the Queen and Prince Philip hosting President Kennedy and the First Lady. In the episode, Her Majesty gets the tea during dinner that Kennedy dissed her, calling her “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.” But while the dish on Kennedy was true, the Queen probably wouldn’t have found out about it until long after that dinner had been digested.
Yes, the Queen did publicly rebuke Margaret Thatcher on apartheid
Season 4 of “The Crown” showed that there was no love lost between the Queen and Prime Minister Thatcher. And their ideological differences came to a head when Britain was the only one of the Commonwealth nations that failed to impose economic sanctions on South Africa in opposition to apartheid. The Queen was so against Thatcher’s blanket stance on not imposing economic sanctions that she considered canceling one of their weekly meetings. And then an article appeared in the Sunday Times in which an anonymous Palace source said that the Queen was “dismayed” about the Iron Lady’s lack of compassion for people.