Five times The Crown strayed from reality

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3 min read

Watch: Emma Corrin on pressures of playing Princess Diana in The Crown

The Crown season four landed just in time to steer us through the second half of the lockdown in England.

Netflix’s latest series has won rave reviews, with critics dubbing it the best series yet.

But how close is it to real life? What did The Crown get right and what did it get wrong?

How Charles and Diana first met

Right - well, nearly. According to Diana, the couple met “in a field” so The Crown’s portrayal of them meeting inside is not quite right.

But they really did meet because Charles was dating Sarah Spencer, Diana’s older sister.

There wasn’t quite the spark needed for Charles and Sarah to date though. She once said she wouldn’t date him if he were a dustman or the King of England.

Sarah also claimed some credit for setting Charles and Diana up.

The Crown S4. Picture shows: Prince Charles (JOSH O CONNOR) and Princess Diana (EMMA CORRIN)
Prince Charles (JOSH O CONNOR) and Princess Diana (EMMA CORRIN) at their engagement interview. (Netflix)

A break-in at Buckingham Palace

Right. Michael Fagan really did break into Buckingham Palace, get into the Queen’s bedroom, and speak to her before a police officer eventually turned up.

However what we don’t know is the content of their conversation.

It’s also unlikely that the situation ended in the way The Crown portrays it, with a maid coming in with the tea tray. Official reports indicate the Queen had managed to get the attention of a maid and they got him into a pantry under the pretext of offering him a cigarette.

Margaret Thatcher’s trip to Balmoral

Prime Ministers really are invited to the Queen’s Scottish estate of Balmoral, and Margaret Thatcher made several trips there during her time in Number 10.

She did come unprepared, and had to borrow Wellington boots after bringing heels.

She wasn’t a fan of her time in Scotland, and used to rise early on her last day to get back to London and to work, avoiding a last breakfast with the royals.

Thatcher once called Balmoral “purgatory”.

Whether or not she and Denis turned up at the wrong time for dinner is unknown.

The Crown S4. Picture shows: Margaret Thatcher (GILLIAN ANDERSON). Filming Location: Wrotham Park
Margaret Thatcher (GILLIAN ANDERSON). The real Thatcher did not enjoy trips to Balmoral. (Netflix)

Mark Thatcher gets lost in the desert

Right - but not at the same time as the Falklands War.

The prime minister has a lot on her plate when her son, who - in the show - she calls her favourite child, goes missing during the Paris-Dakar rally.

Mark Thatcher and his partner went missing at the 1982 rally, and were missing for six days. Denis Thatcher went to Dakar where a large-scale rescue mission was launched.

But that happened in January 1982, and the Falklands War began in April.

So it was a busy year, but it wasn’t a busy week.

The Queen’s hidden cousins

Princess Margaret will discover some dark secrets on her mother’s side when she seeks help for her own mental health problems in season four.

She’ll find out that she and her sister have two cousins who have lived part of their lives in hospital, as they were born with a condition that means they have the mental age of about three.

While it’s not clear if that is how Margaret found out about her cousins, the cousins themselves were real and did really get hidden away. It was thought if the Press knew about them it could raise questions about the Royal Family.

PICTURE SHOWS: Queen Elizabeth II (OLIVIA COLMAN). Filming Location: Lyceum Theatre
Queen Elizabeth II (OLIVIA COLMAN) returns for season four of The Crown.

The Royal Family has never spoken about the Bowes-Lyon cousins.

Watch: Is The Crown a true story?