Let me start off by saying that the only reason why I started watching The Crown is because Josh O’Connor will be taking on the role of Prince Charles in Season 3. While some are perfectly fine with skipping seasons, I’m not that kind of person. So, naturally, I started with the very first season of The Crown.
With this in mind, I wanted to share that history is indeed a subject that I am most curious about. Recently, I’ve been watching TV shows that are based on actual events – not documentaries, but TV shows that retell a story that is already considered public knowledge.
Naturally, with these kinds of shows, I often find myself questioning the historical accuracy of the scenes. In fact, I have this weird habit of replaying 4 to 6 times scenes just so that I can see the facial expressions of everyone. I also tend to hit pause on certain scenes whenever I’m watching a show or a movie, just so that I could confirm some things on Google, which can be annoying to some, that is why I prefer watching alone, but this post isn’t really about my watching preference, it’s about the historical accuracy of The Crown.
What’s The Crown About?
So, The Crown (as quoted from the Netflix official website) is a show that centers on the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the events that shaped the second half of the 20th century.
The first season was released in 2016 with Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II. Of course, the first episode centers around King George VI as the reigning monarch at the time and Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Philip.
Personally, I am in love with the first season of The Crown. There are historical inaccuracies but I’ll talk more about that later. Josh O’Connor may be the reason why I started watching The Crown but the performances of Claire Foy, Matt Smith, John Lithgow, and Jared – freaking – Harris were amazing!
Claire Foy was able to capture every bit of misery that Princess Lilibeth experienced throughout her journey in becoming the Queen Elizabeth II we now know today. Matt Smith was equally amazing at how he portrayed the frustration of Prince Philip, from how his children cannot bear his name, how he cannot walk ahead of his wife, and of course, how he can no longer pursue his naval career because of his duty as a royal consort.
On another note, John Lithgow and Jared Harris were excellent in fulfilling their roles as Winston Churchill and King George VI. The script was also beautifully written. In an episode where the former King Edward VIII writes to his wife, Wallis Simpson, about how unbearing his family was, I was particularly in love with how the words were strung together to make it sound so lovely. Of course, I wanted to point out that these weren’t the exact words used by the former King. In fact, let’s start with that as the first inaccuracy of the show.
1. King Edward VIII’s letters to his wife on the show weren’t the exact same words.
It was confirmed in the Telegraph that the makers of The Crown had no access whatsoever to the actual letters of the late King Edward VIII. While it has been unsealed for the benefit of the Royal Archives, the letters have not been made available to the wider public. Historians and researchers were frustrated because of the peculiar lack of clarity over the copyright of the Duke’s words. To which the makers of The Crown replied that they have been tracking down the owner of the copyright. Unfortunately, the name of the initial copyright holder has been sealed away with the late King’s will. They added that the letters used on the show were rewritten in the same tone – but not with the same words.
2. The Royal Standard flag will never fly at half mast.
After King George VI died, there was a scene where they lowered the flags to indicate that the people are entering a state of mourning. While this is done for the Union Flag, the lowering of the Royal Standard flag is never done in the UK. The saying “The King is Dead; Long Live the King” indicates that there is never a loss for the head of state. Even after the death of a monarch, the Royal Standard flag is never flown half mast because the people believed that there will always be a Sovereign on the throne.
3. It was Winston Churchill’s wife that burned Graham Sutherland’s painting
In the actual episode, it was revealed that the only person against the painting was Winston Churchill himself. In fact, his wife was very supportive of how Graham Sutherland was able to paint her husband with such honesty and truth. Thus, when the painting was burned, I immediately assumed that it was Winston Churchill who did it.
However, it was actually Lady Spencer-Churchill herself who burned the painting. Moreover, it was burned a year after it’s arrival at Chartwell for the reason that it was causing her husband distress.
I’ve been researching other historical inaccuracies of The Crown’s first season but it appears that most of them are either minute details or somewhat irrelevant. Thus, I decided that it’s best to focus on those glaring inaccuracies of the show. I might do another one like this as I found several inaccuracies in The Crown’s second season.