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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

With the recent passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, I came across a Netflix series titled The Crown. The series, produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television in 2016 for Netflix, focuses centrally on Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family. It encompasses some of the major historical events which occurred during Her Majesty’s reign, but one has to ask: just how much of this series is based on actual events?

True: The Great Smog of 1952

On December 5th, 1952, the Great Smog of London began. Historically, this was one of Queen Elizabeth II’s first challenges during her reign. The Great Smog, which lasted nearly a week, caused a great deal of havoc in London. It is estimated that up to 12,000 citizens passed away due to respiratory illness, caused primarily by the smog.

As portrayed in The Crown, it is true that Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill denied the smog as being a serious issue to the people of London. The Crown accurately depicts the irresponsible actions of Churchill during this ecological crisis—he blatantly disregarded the smog, saying that it would lift with time but not realizing how much disorder it was causing. Moreover, it is true that Churchill insisted that the country keep burning coal, regardless of its devastating effects.

Not only was the smog so thick that it became deadly, but it caused chaos on the streets of London. Historians can confirm that children were advised to stay at home during the smog to avoid getting lost on the way to school. Additionally, there was an increase in criminal activity during the Great Smog: criminals could easily snatch purses or wallets from citizens and simply vanish into the darkness with slim chances of being caught.

As portrayed in The Crown, this ecological crisis led to the creation of the Clean Air Act that was passed by Parliament in 1956, which primarily restricts the burning of coal in urban areas and authorizes local councils to set up smoke-free zones.

True: Princess Margaret and Group Captain Townsend

Yup, the romance did actually happen.

In The Crown, we are quickly introduced to the romance of the century that wreaked absolute disaster within the Royal Family: the romance between Her Majesty Princess Margaret and Group Captain Townsend, the official equerry to both of their majesties: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.

Every moment we see in the Netflix series (and in great detail) is an accurate representation of this royal love story. This can be confirmed by Peter Townsend’s newly re-published memoir. However, Townsend himself called the love between the two “the most tragic royal love story ever.”

Townsend and Margaret always had a close relationship, considering that Townsend had been working for the Royal Family as their personal and official equerry for years. According to Townsend, when His Royal Highness King George VI passed away, Princess Margaret and Townsend found comfort in each other’s arms. Margaret had a shoulder to cry on while mourning her late father’s passing, while Townsend could mourn his recent divorce.

On Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Day, their romance was made public. A picture was released in the press of Princess Margaret removing a piece of fluff from Townsend’s suit, which sparked massive global discussion. In order to calm the situation and tension in the Royal Family, the two were forcibly separated—Princess Margaret remained in England, while her love was sent to Brussels. However, the two stayed in touch and maintained their relationship through letters.

What caused the most tragedy in this love story, however, is the fact that this romance could not and would not blossom into reality. Although Queen Elizabeth II supported her sister’s love for Townsend, under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 Princess Margaret (who was under 25) needed her Royal Majesty’s consent to marry, as well as the consent of the Parliament and the Dominions’ parliaments. In addition, the Queen was also the titular head of the Church of England and could not, legally, give her Royal consent to the couple.

After going through their separation period which seemingly calmed the ruckus, they came to the conclusion that this marriage would ultimately not work out, despite their grave love for one another. Not only would Princess Margaret lose her Royal status through the marriage, but marrying a divorced man would corrupt both her and the Royal Family’s images.

As a side note, I have to give a round of applause to the creators of The Crown for depicting this tragic love story with such accuracy. Keep it up, Netflix.

True: The Royal Family Did Film A Lot of Their Lives

We see throughout The Crown that Queen Elizabeth II frequently films her time with Prince Philip, as well as some other precious family moments: This is indeed true.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and their children had their day-to-day lives filmed long before reality television was a thing. It is said that the monarchy commissioned the documentary and were filmed for 75 days in over 170 locations. It covered multiple events in their lives, from normal things like eating dinner together to the not-so-ordinary of Queen Elizabeth II meeting with world leaders.

True: The Public Argument between Her Majesty and His Royal Highness

“I’m sorry for that little interlude but, as you know, it happens in every marriage. Now, what would you like me to do?”

These very words came out of Queen Elizabeth’s mouth as she attempted to persuade the press into releasing the footage of her fighting with Prince Philip to her and her family.

In The Crown, we get to see the tiring Commonwealth tour which Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip went on. Among the many countries they visited, they spent a whopping 58 days on tour in Australia alone. However, during their time in Australia the pair were caught in a mishap.

Anyone who keeps up with the Royal Family may understand that the Crown carries quite a burden and that it is important to remain composed within the public eye.

As portrayed in the Netflix series, an Australian film crew was spotted outside of the Royal family’s chalet in Victoria when the incident occurred. First, Prince Philip was seen marching out of the front door, followed by an infuriated and raging Queen Elizabeth II, who was seen throwing tennis rackets and tennis shoes at His Royal Highness.

Queen Elizabeth was yelling at Prince Philip during the argument and was seen to be “dragging” His Royal Highness back into the chalet, repeatedly slamming the door shut behind her.

After the interlude, the Queen emerged from their royal chalet and approached the film crew saying: “I’m sorry for that little interlude but, as you know, it happens in every marriage. Now, what would you like me to do?”

Richard Colville, the monarch’s Royal Press Secretary at the time, demanded that the film be handed over to them. With Colville’s work, the public was never to see the moment that the monarch lost her temper.

While there are countless other moments from this series which have me questioning their credibility and accuracy, these 4 events during Her Majesty’s reign caught my attention. There is a surprising amount that we can learn about the world around us from engaging in simple activities such as watching Netflix.

Emma Keyes

Queen's U '24

Emma is studying English Language and Literature at Queen's University. She enjoys the arts, and is a sucker for all things romantic.