Is “The Crown” Historically Accurate?



“The Crown” was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Drama TV Series on February 28, 2021.

Emma Montalbano, Online Editor

While the Netflix series “The Crown” relies heavily on historical events and figures to provide a glimpse into Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, the show tends to deviate from the truth at times.

Some of the most potent scenes focus on the conversations between members of the Royal family and their emotions. For the sake of entertainment value and dramatization, Peter Morgan, creator, and screenwriter of “The Crown,” altered, embellished, and fabricated particular events and figures portrayed in the show.

For many, watching “The Crown” opened up their eyes to several lesser-known historical figures and events. These figures and events include Prince Philip’s Greek mother, Princess Alice, and The Great Smog of London in 1952, a severe pollution event that lasted over the course of several days, leading to the death of many.

“I have learned some things from ‘The Crown’ that I didn’t know about before, ” Modern European history teacher David Edel revealed. “For example, there was an episode in the first season where the fog was so bad because of the pollution that there were a lot of deaths by people getting struck by cars, and I did not even know about that.”

Kelly Dolan, a former Modern European history teacher at Woodside, explains that “even though it is not a historically accurate series, and you would need to double-check what you think you learned, it does introduce actual elements of modern British history.”

While “The Crown” may have brought Prince Phillip’s mother, Princess Alice, to the attention of many viewers for the first time, the episode in which she is featured is contaminated with great inaccuracy. The episode reveals that Princess Alice has been in and out of mental institutions for being viewed as eccentric by her family. This fact is entirely true and was not misconstrued in any way. However, after Princess Alice visits Buckingham Palace, she is shown doing an interview with The Guardian, in which she reveals unknown information about her life and totally captures the hearts of the British Public and wins back Prince Philip’s trust. This interview simply did not happen, but one would not know that from just watching the show.

“The Crown” also features an episode accurately showcasing the tragic Aberfan mining disaster, which many viewers were unaware of. When a coal tip collapsed and killed hundreds of people, mostly school children, the Queen struggled to show emotion towards the mourning town. It took the Queen eight days to visit Aberfan and console the grieving families. Show writer Peter Morgan claims that this episode is portrayed closest to the public record. To this day, the Queen still regrets delaying her response to the Aberfan tragedy.

The show ultimately sculpts events to be palatable to television audiences. While there was no way for the showrunners to know exactly how members of the royal family were affected by particular events, they did thorough research. Wendy Porter, one of Woodside’s Administrative Vice Principals, points out that “The showrunners wanted to speak to the historical accuracy… and they worked hard to get the [major events] right.”

Dolan draws attention to the fact that the showrunners “can choose the historical events that will best communicate the drama and the story they are trying to get across,” Dolan explained. “This means in the end that not only do they leave out some events and occasionally misportray other events, especially more personal events to the Royal Family, but also they often change the timeline.”

Despite the historical inaccuracies, “The Crown” is an incredibly enticing show. There is constant tension between characters, and the plot is always progressing. The writers did a fantastic job of warping history into something everyone could enjoy watching, not just history buffs.

“I don’t think it would have been as enjoyable if they had been such sticklers for historical accuracy because if they had taken it to its ultimate extent, then what they would have ended up with is a textbook,” Dolan said. “Real life is not nearly as dramatic as what you see in the show.”