At one point in season two of The Crown, Princess Margaret asks Queen Elizabeth II with withering froideur, “Don’t Philip’s Nazi sisters come back to haunt him? Or his lunatic mother? Or his womanizing, bankrupt father?” It’s not just a jab, it’s foreshadowing: A few episodes later, The Crown tackles Prince Philip’s haunting past and Prince Charles’s tormented present by intertwining their days at the Scottish boarding school Gordonstoun.
It’s a beautiful episode, already reviewed as one of the show’s best. But how much of it is true?
Prince Philip’s real-life childhood was indeed a traumatic one. When he was an infant, his family fled Greece after a military revolt ousted his uncle from the throne—Philip, legend says, was smuggled out in an orange crate. Within a few years, Philip’s family became irrevocably broken. His mother suffered a mental breakdown and was institutionalized against her will. His father ran off with his mistress to the South of France. His older sisters all married German nobility (hence those “Nazi sisters”) within less than a year of each other. By age 10, he was all but abandoned, bouncing around between relatives in different countries. As an adult, an interviewer once asked Philip what language he spoke at home. He replied: “What do you mean, ‘at home’?”
The show mentions, or at least alludes to, all these events without much embellishment. But The Crown seems to change one key tragedy—that of Prince Philip’s sister Cecilie.
She and her family did die in a plane crash on the way to a wedding. Cecilie, pregnant at the time, did give birth during the flight, and her newborn baby was found among the smoking rubble.
But what’s not true is that Philip had anything to do with it. The show’s story arc has Cecilie boarding the plane because of Philip: He was supposed to come visit her, but because of his bad behavior, he was sentenced to say at school. Because Philip didn’t visit, Cecilie decided to get on the plane to the wedding, leading to her death. At her funeral, Philip’s father tells him, “You’re the reason we’re all here, burying my favorite child.”
This embellishment brings the episode to an emotional climax, solidifying its place as one of the most powerful episodes of the series thus far. But one royal historian says that it was unnecessarily cruel.
Hugo Vickers, who has written several biographies about the royal family, spoke out about the episode in the British press. When Vogue contacted him about it, he said the whole thing made him “cross,” calling it “utter drivel.”
“There was no fight, almost certainly no half term, and Prince Philip would not have gone to Germany anyway. His sister was always coming to the wedding. Yes, the plane crashed and she, her husband, her two boys, and her widowed mother-in-law were all killed along with the others on board: pilot, lady-in-waiting, et cetera,” he tells Vogue. “Prince Philip was called into his headmaster’s study and has written of the profound shock he experienced on hearing the news—made worse by the fact that his sister was pregnant. The child, a baby boy, was born in the trauma of the accident. Prince Philip had nothing to do with the accident at all,” he adds.
As with any historical drama, The Crown, has artistic license to blur the line between fact, fiction, and the fathomable. Without that ability, it wouldn’t be the same masterpiece of modern television: one that’s won two Golden Globes, three Emmys, and has been nominated for several more. It wouldn’t be the most “savored” show on Netflix. It wouldn’t be able to give us one of the most layered female characters on television, or one of the most nuanced marriages.
But the blurring of fact and fiction does raise a dilemma: When the subjects are not only alive but some of the most public people in the world, should a show have a responsibility to embellish with care? To remember that Prince Philip is a real person, still possibly reckoning with his personal pain? Vickers would say yes, but The Crown clearly deemed it valid for the purposes of the show—perhaps it’s a necessary part of making good art.
Or perhaps we should just follow Philip’s example. “I just had to get on with it,” he told a biographer about his tragic childhood. “You do. One does.”Read more at:cheap bridesmaid dresses | bridesmaid dresses melbourne