Royals, lies and videotape: The Crown plays fast and loose with truth

Royals, lies and videotape: The Crown is ground-breaking, addictive TV that’s launched a host of new stars. But royal historian IAN LLOYD says viewers must remember the drama plays fast and loose with the truth

Like the previous three series of The Crown, the latest is riddled with factual errors. Here, Royal historian Ian Lloyd highlights some of the worst examples.

DIANA AND CAMILLA’S LUNCH ‘DISASTER’

TV VERSION The two women in Charles’s life are shown meeting for lunch at the London restaurant Menage a Trois shortly after the Prince and Diana became engaged. 

Camilla is seen winding up her increasingly distressed love rival by saying she knows Diana’s future husband so very much better.

FICTION: The Crown shows a tense meeting between Diana and Camilla. In reality, relations were cordial

THE TRUTH As Penny Junor says on the opposite page, Diana and Camilla did meet at the Menage a Trois, in 1981, but only after Diana was married. 

Previously, they had dined together in La Fontana, an Italian restaurant in Pimlico. 

Antony Worrall Thompson, the former chef-patron of Menage a Trois, witnessed their later encounter and has told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The ladies were there for a couple of hours, engrossed in conversation. They were very amiable; there were no raised voices.’

Camilla Parker-Bowles (right) and Lady Diana Spencer (later the Princess of Wales) pictured in conversation at Ludlow racecourse in 1980

‘GLADYS AND FRED’ BRACELET

TV VERSION According to Netflix, after their engagement, Diana discovers Charles is designing a bracelet inscribed with the initials ‘G’ and ‘F’. 

She assumes they stand for Gladys and Fred – Charles and Camilla’s pet names for each other. 

Convinced they’re having an affair, she tells the Queen the wedding cannot go ahead and confronts Charles at the rehearsal at St Paul’s Cathedral.

INSCRIBED: The real Camilla wears the G and F bracelet Charles designed

THE TRUTH While Diana did find the bracelet and was ‘devastated’, the initials stood for ‘Girl Friday’ – Charles’s nickname for Camilla. 

But there’s no evidence Diana approached the Queen, and there was no confrontation at St Paul’s – it had been discussed earlier. 

Charles did give the bracelet to Camilla on the day of the rehearsal, which led to Diana having what she described as a ‘wobble’.

THE TRUTH: Charles did give the G and F bracelet to Camilla on the day of the rehearsal, which led to Diana having what she described as a ‘wobble’. Pictured: Emerald Fennell as Camilla and Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in series four of The Crown

DIANA DRESSED AS A WOOD NYMPH

TV VERSION While at Althorp House for a date with Sarah Spencer, Charles is seen entranced by her younger teenage sister Diana, who is in costume as a woodland nymph for a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

THE TRUTH Charles did first meet Diana at Althorp – when he’d been invited for a grouse-shoot – but there’s no evidence she was dressed as a wood nymph.

THE FIERCE GRANNY

TV VERSION A young Diana is seen arriving for a weekend at Balmoral with her grandmother Ruth, Lady Fermoy, the Queen Mother’s close friend and lady-in-waiting.

Lady Fermoy tells Diana the visit is ‘the most important weekend of your life’. After the engagement, Lady Fermoy schools Diana in the ‘sink or swim rules’ of Royal life, saying ‘if you get one wrong, you’re not only in trouble, you’re dead’.

THE TRUTH Lady Fermoy never gave Diana tutorials on Royal life. Diana was shown the ropes by lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey and Edward Adeane, Charles’s Private Secretary. Royal writer Andrew Morton has said Lady Fermoy tried to counsel Diana against the marriage, warning: ‘Darling, you must understand their sense of humour and their lifestyle are different, and I don’t think it will suit you.’

DIANA’S MILE-HIGH FIGHT WITH COURTIERS

TV VERSION The Princess is said to have agreed to go on a six-week tour of Australia in 1983 on condition that baby William goes too. 

BUSH BABY: How The Crown shows Diana, Charles and William on their Australia tour 

During the flight out, she is seen in a furious row with Charles’s Private Secretary, Edward Adeane, after learning she’ll be separated from William for two weeks. 

In the show, Diana insists her son should grow up with ‘humanity’, which he won’t learn from courtiers.

THE TRUTH Diana said there was never a problem taking William, and that she and Charles ‘never had a fight about it’. In fact, she was prepared to leave her young son in the UK, until Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, suggested she bring him.

Prince and Princess of Wales amuse baby Prince William on a rug in the grounds of Government House in Auckland, New Zealand in 1983

THE CLUMSY REFERENCE TO A CONSPIRACY THEORY

TV VERSION At Christmas 1990, amid problems in her marriage, Diana is seen warning her father-in-law that she may leave Charles. Prince Philip advises her not to, warning such action ‘might not work out well’ for her. Diana replies: ‘Is that a threat, Sir?’

THE TRUTH Philip did write letters to Diana but joked ‘I have no talents as a marriage counsellor!!!’ and later, when relations with Charles got worse, claimed it was ‘impossible’ to speak to her. Philip’s ‘warning’ is a clumsy reference to baseless conspiracy theories that he was involved in the crash which killed Diana.

QUEEN’S ‘CRIB SHEET’ ABOUT HER CHILDREN

TV VERSION Her Majesty is shown in 1982 asking her private secretary, Martin Charteris, to set up individual meetings with her four children, and requesting a ‘briefing document on each child’s hobbies and interests’ as ‘one would hate to feel cold or remote’.

THE TRUTH Martin Charteris retired in 1977, five years before this conversation supposedly took place. Her Majesty sees her children as and when, and certainly wouldn’t ask to see them individually with appointments. She also wouldn’t want crib notes. 

However, it was reported she once forgot Edward’s birthday in the early 1990s and had to be reminded by household staff.

TOO BOASTFUL… EVEN FOR ANDREW

TV VERSION Prince Andrew is portrayed telling the Queen he has asked his brother Edward, rather than Charles, to be best man at his wedding. Thus Charles would know how it felt to be sidelined. Andrew also says Charles is ‘jealous’ of his military record and popularity, and insists that he would have made a better heir to the throne.

THE TRUTH It was only natural Andrew chose Edward as they are closer in age. Even with Andrew’s inflated sense of self-worth, the idea that he told the Queen he would have made a better heir is risible.

A RIFT BETWEEN CHARLES AND LORD MOUNTBATTEN

TV VERSION Despite being the Prince’s great-uncle and long-time confidant, Earl Mountbatten is seen having a frosty phone exchange with Charles about Camilla.

Mountbatten tells his great-nephew that the rest of the family is disappointed at him pursuing the relationship. He’s then shown writing Charles a letter, urging him to remember his duty.

The Crown portrays a ‘rift’ between Charles and long-time confidant Lord Mountbatten (played by Charles Dance in series four of The Crown), the truth is there is no evidence of a heated conversation or letter

THE TRUTH There’s no evidence of a heated phone conversation or letter. Mountbatten had advised Charles to choose a ‘suitable, attractive, sweet-charactered girl’. 

A year after Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb, Charles began dating Diana – fulfilling his great-uncle’s wish.

THE DUKE AND HIS BALLERINAS

TV VERSION Prince Philip teases the Queen about never dancing for him. The Crown has her reply archly: ‘No – because you had your ballerinas,’ a reference to an alleged dalliance in the series.

THE TRUTH Women said to have befriended the Duke include a nightclub singer, a writer, two actresses, a TV personality, a Hollywood star, half a dozen aristocrats and the Queen’s cousin – but no ballerinas.

Compiled by Amy Oliver and Chris Hastings    

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