How much of The Crown can you REALLY believe? From the Queen's 'fake' tears at Aberfan to Princess Margaret's raucous night with the President, we reveal what's true and what's simply royal TV fantasy

  • Series three of The Crown was made available in full on Netflix yesterday 
  • The highly-anticipated drama covers the British royals from 1964 to 1977 
  • How much of the first five episodes is true to life, and how much is royal fiction?  

The Crown returned to Netflix with an explosive third series yesterday - introducing fans to key royal events from the 1960s and 1970s.

Within the first five episodes viewers watched as Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) cavorted with US President Lyndon B. Johnson (Clancy Brown) and the Queen 'faked' tears while speaking to the bereaved following the Aberfan tragedy of 1966.

But how much of the first half of the series - which runs for 10 episodes - is fact... and how much is simply royal fiction?    

The Crown's creator Peter Morgan has previously admitted to using artistic licence with the story lines - and here, FEMAIL fact-checks just how accurate The Crown really is...

The Crown's claim: Princess Margaret kissed President Johnson during a raucous night at the White House during the 1965 US royal tour

Episode two shows Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) embarking on a tour of the US in 1965 with husband Lord Snowden (Ben Daniels). The Crown shows Princess Margaret giving President Johnson a kiss on the lips (as seen above) - but this definitely didn't happen

Episode two shows Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) embarking on a tour of the US in 1965 with husband Lord Snowden (Ben Daniels). The Crown shows Princess Margaret giving President Johnson a kiss on the lips (as seen above) - but this definitely didn't happen 

Pictured, left to right, Lord Snowdon, Mrs Johnson, Princess Margaret and President Johnson pose for photographers in the Queen's room at the White House during the visit in 1965

Pictured, left to right, Lord Snowdon, Mrs Johnson, Princess Margaret and President Johnson pose for photographers in the Queen's room at the White House during the visit in 1965

Episode two shows Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) embarking on a tour of the US with husband Lord Snowden (Ben Daniels) in 1965 with the aim of securing a loan from President Lyndon B. Johnson (Clancy Brown) to prevent Britain's economic ruin. 

The Queen specifically requests her sister behave in a respectable manner at a White House dinner - but Margaret does the opposite. She expresses her distaste for the recently assassinated President Kennedy, takes part in a drinking competition before dancing with Johnson and giving him a cheeky kiss on the mouth.

VERDICT: MOSTLY FALSE 

This is mostly fictitious. Princess Margaret's visit had nothing to do with a US loan, and the royal and her husband were requested to extend their trip to America by the Labour government to include official engagements to promote trade in general. 

At the dinner, there were no smears on Kennedy, nor is it likely that Princess Margaret would've kissed the president on the lips.

And while The Crown depicts the troubles between the US and UK having been solved by Margaret's cheeky visit, this was not the case - with Johnson's and Wilson's administrations having an awkward relationship for years after her trip.

The episode also suggests that the Queen invited Johnson to Balmoral to help the government garner favour with him as he would've been the first US president to go there.

But Dwight Eisenhower, who was President of the United States between 1953 to 1961, went to the Scottish estate in 1959.

The Crown’s claim: Prince Margaret and Lord Snowdon argued ahead of his book launch during their 1965 US royal tour

Helena Bonham Carter's Princess Margaret in the US with husband Ben Daniels' Lord Snowdon

Helena Bonham Carter's Princess Margaret in the US with husband Ben Daniels' Lord Snowdon

Princess Margaret, dressed in a floral frock, and Lord Snowdon visit a ranch in 1965 in Arizona

Princess Margaret, dressed in a floral frock, and Lord Snowdon visit a ranch in 1965 in Arizona

During their trip to America in 1965, The Crown shows Prince Margaret and Lord Snowdon passionately argue about his upcoming book launch. 

Tony accuses Margaret of taking all the attention as they travel around the US. But she then promises to be a 'doting, supportive' wife when in New York for his launch - until they get dragged away to an unexpected dinner with President Johnson.

THE VERDICT: FALSE

This missed book party is believed to be a fabrication - with Lord Snowdon not having published a volume of photographs that year.

Yet that isn't to say that the married couple, who divorced in 1978, never argued. The pair were well known for their heated rows.

A few years after the couple wed, the clash of cultures became clear as the now-Earl Of Snowdon was offered a position as an artistic adviser to The Sunday Times.

According to biographer Anne de Courcy, Snowdon was driven by his work, while Margaret preferred him to be at home with the their two children David and Sarah.

Eventually Lord Snowdon began a string of affairs while away on photography assignments, and also had a more serious affair with Lady Jacqueline Rufus-Isaacs in 1969 which left Margaret devastated.   

The Crown’s claim: Princess Margaret stole the show in an orange floral gown at an evening engagement on the 1965 US royal tour

Helena Bonham Carter's Princess Margaret, pictured dancing with her husband Lord Snowdon (Ben Daniels) is a vision in pink and orange during her trip to America in the second episode of the season

Helena Bonham Carter's Princess Margaret, pictured dancing with her husband Lord Snowdon (Ben Daniels) is a vision in pink and orange during her trip to America in the second episode of the season 

Margaret had worn a similar patterned dress when dancing the night away with her husband at a charity ball in London in 1966

Margaret had worn a similar patterned dress when dancing the night away with her husband at a charity ball in London in 1966

Helena Bonham Carter's Princess Margaret is a vision in pink and orange during her trip to America in the second episode of the season. 

The royal steals the show when visiting President Johnson in the bright number, winning the politician over with her sparkling personality.

THE VERDICT: FALSE

In reality, the royal wore a simple pink dress for her visit, rather than the bright and garish gown depicted in the series.

However the programme's costume designer Amy Roberts, from London, previously revealed she used colour 'like an armour' for the royal. 

She told Hello! magazine: 'I try to reflect the rootlessness and toxicity in Margaret...We used more flamboyant styles and fabrics to try to point out that wildness with no direction.'

And Margaret had worn a similar patterned dress when dancing the night away with her husband at a charity ball in London in 1966.

The costume designer went on to say that characters didn't always wear 'dreary' clothing when they felt emotional, revealing: 'Sometimes it's an armour.'

She added: 'We kept the Queen in a palette of sugar-almond colours. Princess Margaret was slightly darker and bruised, like her.' 

The Crown's claim: The Queen didn't shed a tear at Aberfan in 1966

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II while visiting the Aberfan tragedy
The monarch, pictured in 1966, seeing the devastating scenes in the Welsh village

Olivia Colman, pictured left, as Queen Elizabeth II while visiting the Aberfan tragedy. The monarch, pictured right in 1966, seeing the devastating scenes in the Welsh village. The Crown claims the Queen faked brushing a tear away, but in reality the monarch actually cried

In episode three of the new series, the Queen visits the Welsh mining village of Aberfan eight days after the devastating avalanche of slurry killed 144 people, mostly children, in 1966. 

The programme claims the monarch was forced to visit after a public backlash. During the outing, the Queen dabs her eye as if wiping a tear after talking to the bereaved. She later says: ‘I dabbed a bone-dry eye and by some miracle no one noticed.’ 

THE VERDICT: FALSE

Her Majesty's decision to not visit Aberfan immediately is said to be one of her biggest regrets, despite their being no adverse publicity to her actions at the time - from neither the government nor the public.

Sally Bechdel, author of Elizabeth the Queen, claims the monarch's initial refusal to appear at the site wasn't made out of coldness but rather practicality. 

'People will be looking after me, she said. Perhaps they'll miss some poor child that might have been found under the wreckage.'

And as for whether the Queen cried, those who accompanied her in real life insist that she was in tears. 

'Aberfan affected the Queen very deeply, I think, when she went there. It was one of the few occasions in which she shed tears in public,' Sir William Heseltine, who served in the royal press office at the time, revealed in the documentary Elizabeth: Our Queen.

'I think she felt in hindsight that she might have gone there a little earlier. It was a sort of lesson for us that you need to show sympathy and to be there on the spot, which I think people craved from her.' 

The Crown's claim: The Royal Family took part in a fly-on-the-wall documentary to prove they're just like their subjects - but faced widespread criticism on its release

In the fourth episode of The Crown, the Queen (seen above) and her family take part in a fly-on-the-wall style documentary. It is Prince Philip's idea to boost their public image

In the fourth episode of The Crown, the Queen (seen above) and her family take part in a fly-on-the-wall style documentary. It is Prince Philip's idea to boost their public image

Titled Royal Family, the 1969 documentary was a combined effort between the BBC and ITV and covered a year in the life of the Queen. Pictured, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne around the dining table of Windsor Castle during filming

Titled Royal Family, the 1969 documentary was a combined effort between the BBC and ITV and covered a year in the life of the Queen. Pictured, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne around the dining table of Windsor Castle during filming

In episode four, the royal family take part in a documentary which sees cameras follow them during their day-to-day lives, to prove how 'normal' they are.

 It's Prince Philip's (Tobias Menzies) idea as he tries to improve the family’s public image with the one-off programme.

VERDICT: SOMEWHAT TRUE

The Royal Family did take part in a 1969 documentary, which was a combined effort between the BBC and ITV, in a bid to show they were just like their subjects. 

However the programme was greeted with enthusiastic praise, not universally panned as The Crown suggests. 

The idea for the documentary, which aired in June 1969, came from the Palace’s new royal press secretary William Heseltine (an Australian public relations expert), rather than the Duke of Edinburgh, as The Crown shows.   

He wanted to encourage public support for a monarchy that was increasingly seen as out-of-touch.

The programme was met with widespread praise and proved so popular that it was aired again that same year and once more in 1972. 

It hasn't been broadcast in full since but clips from the documentary were made available as part of an exhibition for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee 2012.

However, for the most past the original documentary remains under lock and key with researchers having to pay to view it at BBC HQ, after getting permission from Buckingham Palace first.

The Crown's claim: Prince Philip's mother Princess Alice of Battenberg gave a newspaper interview about her mental illness after the Royal Family's documentary was criticised

Princess Alice of Battenberg portrayed in The Crown. The show suggests she gave an interview about her mental health issues

Princess Alice of Battenberg portrayed in The Crown. The show suggests she gave an interview about her mental health issues

Prince Philip with his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg in June 1957, as they attend the marriage of Princess Margeritha of Baden and Prince Tomislavof Yugoslavia

Prince Philip with his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg in June 1957, as they attend the marriage of Princess Margeritha of Baden and Prince Tomislavof Yugoslavia

The Crown claims Princess Anne was set to give an interview with the Guardians after the doomed documentary aired in a bid to turnaround the bad publicity. 

However the young princess - then in her late teens - supposedly offers reporters the opportunity to interview her paternal grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg, who was staying at Buckingham Palace 

Anne feigns a cold and excuses herself from the interview and sends her grandmother out into the hallway where journalist John Armstrong (played by Colin Morgan) is waiting. 

Princess Alice, the mother of the Duke of Edinburgh, proceeds to give the journalists details about her tragic life, including her time spent in mental institutions. 

VERDICT: FALSE

Princess Alice, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, did suffer from mental illness and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

However she never spoke about her condition - or her time spent in mental institutions - in a tell-all newspaper interview. 

At the time of the fictional newspaper interview, roughly 1969, Princess Alice was living at Buckingham Palace with her son and daughter-in-law after moving to the UK from Greece following the fall of King Constantine II and the imposition of military rule in 1967.

Princess Alice spent her final years living with her family in the Palace before her death in December 1969 at the age of 84. 

The princess, born in Windsor Castle, had led a troubled life. 

She married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark in 1903 and lived with him until she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was committed to a sanatorium in Switzerland in 1930.  

The Crown's claim: Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures Sir Anthony Blunt was a Soviet spy - and kept his job after he was discovered

The Queen (Olivia Colman) delivers a speech about Sir Anthony Blunt (Samuel West), Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, after discovering he was working as a Soviet Spy in The Crown

The Queen (Olivia Colman) delivers a speech about Sir Anthony Blunt (Samuel West), Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, after discovering he was working as a Soviet Spy in The Crown

Sir Anthony, pictured with the Queen in 1979, before she found out the truth, really was uncovered as a double agent. The Queen was made to allow him to stay in his role

Sir Anthony, pictured with the Queen in 1979, before she found out the truth, really was uncovered as a double agent. The Queen was made to allow him to stay in his role

At the start of the series, the Queen wrongly believes Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins) is a Soviet spy after Director General of MI5 Martin Furnival Jones (Angus Wright), tells her that a man at the top of the British establishment has been linked to the Cambridge Spy Ring.

However it is later revealed to be new character Sir Anthony Blunt (Samuel West), Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures. Despite Blunt confessing to the crime, he keeps his job and continues to work at Buckingham Palace. 

VERDICT: TRUE 

Shockingly, this storyline is based in fact. Blunt was the royal family's chief art curator from 1945 to 1972, despite him confessing to being a Soviet spy.

Blunt provided Soviet intelligence officers with 1,771 documents between 1941 and 1945, according to archives cited in Michelle Carter's Anthony Blunt: His Lives. 

Yet to prevent it reflecting poorly on MI5 and MI6's competency in counterintelligence, he was offered immunity in exchange for a confession and cooperation in ongoing investigations.

Blunt was outed as a spy in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher exposed him in speech to the House of Commons.

Despite KGB trying - and failing - to recruit Mr Wilson, there was no credible evidence that the Prime Minister was ever a Soviet agent.

The Crown's claim: Sir Anthony Blunt blackmailed Prince Philip to keep quiet about his spy past after the royal grew frustrated by the truth being covered up

Despite the decision to keep Sir Anthony Blunt's (pictured in The Crown) past as a spy secret, a frustrated Prince Philip threatened to expose him in the drama series

Despite the decision to keep Sir Anthony Blunt's (pictured in The Crown) past as a spy secret, a frustrated Prince Philip threatened to expose him in the drama series 

Meanwhile in reality, there is no evidence to suggest that such a blackmail threat occurred between Sir Anthony Blunt (pictured with Princess Margaret) and Prince Philip

Meanwhile in reality, there is no evidence to suggest that such a blackmail threat occurred between Sir Anthony Blunt (pictured with Princess Margaret) and Prince Philip 

Despite the decision to keep Sir Anthony Blunt's past as a spy secret, a frustrated Prince Philip threatens to expose him. 

Yet as the Duke of Edinburgh suggests he'll be keeping a close eye on the art historian, the staff member turns around and blackmails the royal. He threatens to reveal the royal's links to the Profumo scandal, which were dramatised in the second season of The Crown.

THE VERDICT: FALSE  

There is no evidence to suggest that any such blackmail between Sir Anthony Blunt and Prince Philip occurred.

And despite being dramatised in the second series of the programme, the links between the Prince and the scandal are tenuous at best. 

After his part in the spy ring was exposed, Anthony was granted full anonymity and immunity from prosecution in exchange for his full cooperation.  

However, once Mrs Thatcher had outed his past, the Queen went on to strip Blunt of his knighthood.

The Crown's claim: The Queen had an affair with her horse racing manager and longtime friend Lord Porchester

The Netflix drama shows the Queen travelling to stud farms in both America and France with her horse racing manager Lord Porchester (John Hollingworth), pictured above, together

The Netflix drama shows the Queen travelling to stud farms in both America and France with her horse racing manager Lord Porchester (John Hollingworth), pictured above, together

The Queen and her racing manager Lord Porchester watch the finish of the 1978 Epsom Derby

The Queen and her racing manager Lord Porchester watch the finish of the 1978 Epsom Derby

The Netflix drama shows the Queen travelling to stud farms in both America and France with her horse racing manager Lord Porchester (John Hollingworth), who she affectionately calls Porchie. 

Her time away and affectionate nickname for her travel companion sparks an on screen row with her husband when she returns to Buckingham Palace.

THE VERDICT: FALSE

The Crown's suggestion of an illicit affair between the two has been criticised by former royal aides and experts.

Last week, British royal historian Kate Williams said the duo shared 'nothing more than a friendship'. 

'I think that the Queen had a very close friendship with Lord Porchester but it was nothing more than a friendship,' she told Kay Burley on Sky News.

'Perhaps in those days, it would be seen stranger for a man and a woman to be good friends than perhaps it is now.  But there was nothing more than just being good friends and sharing an interest in horse training.' 

The Queen's former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, 79, also hit out at the drama and said it was 'very distasteful and totally unfounded'.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said: 'The Queen is the last person in the world to have ever considered looking at another man.

'The Crown is a fiction. No one knows any conversation between members of the royal family, but people will tell the story the way they want to and sensationalise it.' 

The Crown's claim: Lord Mountbatten tried to overthrow Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1968

The Queen with Lord Mountbatten at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight on July 26, 1965

The Queen with Lord Mountbatten at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight on July 26, 1965

Lord Mountbatten is played by Charles Dance (pictured) in The Crown. In episode five, the newspaper boss and Bank of England Director Cecil King tried to woo Mountbatten into leading a coup to overthrow Prime Minister Harold Wilson's government

Lord Mountbatten is played by Charles Dance (pictured) in The Crown. In episode five, the newspaper boss and Bank of England Director Cecil King tried to woo Mountbatten into leading a coup to overthrow Prime Minister Harold Wilson's government

In episode five, the newspaper boss and Bank of England Director Cecil King tried to woo Lord Mountbatten (Charles Dance) into leading a coup to overthrow Prime Minister Harold Wilson's government.

THE VERDICT: FALSE 

The extraordinary memoir by newspaper editor and publishing boss Hugh Cudlipp, ‘Walking on Water’, recounts a 1968 plot by Cecil King, to bring down Harold Wilson and install an unelected government, with Lord Louis Mountbatten at the head. 

Cecil is believed to have thought the government under Harold Wilson was a political disaster which was on the brink of economic and political collapse.

He considered taking dream-leader Lord Mountbatten on board in 1967, and is understood to have approached him alongside Cudlipp about the plot. 

However, Lord Mountbatten ultimately said he was 'too old' to play such a part in the new regime. 

He is also understood to have discussed the state of the nation with Cudlipp, but he did not seem inclined to get involved. 

In The Crown, Lord Mountbatten is summoned to the Bank of England for a meeting before inviting everyone to his home to give his response to the plot. 

But in real life, King and Cuplipp and Mountbattern are understood to have met at the Lord's London residence in Kinnerton Street where he said his participation in the plot was 'not on'. 


FEMAIL fact-checks just how accurate The Crown is

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