The Crown season 3 has a new cast and spans the 1960s -1970s but how accurate is it? Here’s the true story behind the events seen in each episode.
Here is the true story of each episode of The Crown season 3, and what the show either changed or ignored. Netflix’s prestigious drama, created by Peter Morgan, returned after an almost two-year hiatus with a brand-new cast replacing Emmy winner Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and Vanessa Kirby. In The Crown season 3, Academy Award winner Olivia Colman plays Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies takes over the role of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Helena Bonham Carter portrays Princess Margaret, Countess Snowdon.
The Crown season 3 covers a great deal of ground, spanning the 1960s through the 1970s. In this new era, the Labour government is in charge and Queen Elizabeth meets her new Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins), whom she immediately suspects of being a KGB spy. The Queen must weather the Aberfan disaster in Wales, host the Apollo 11 astronauts at Buckingham Palace after the 1969 moon landing, and mark 25 years on the throne with her Silver Jubilee. Meanwhile, Prince Philip attempts to raise the public profile of the Royal Family and deals with a midlife crisis while Princess Margaret’s glamorous marriage to Lord Snowdon (Ben Daniels) collapses into infidelity. The Crown season 3 also introduces Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) as adults; the future king meets the love of his life, Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell), and is invested as Prince of Wales while his younger sister tries to find her place in Buckingham Palace and becomes embroiled in Charles’ love life.
While The Crown portrays the real-life Royals and tackles major 20th-century historical events, first and foremost, the series’ top priority is creating a vivid period drama and provocative character studies. The Crown season 3 blends truth and fiction with great care but the final three episodes especially rocket through the 1970s and somewhat jumble when pivotal moments happened. Here’s what was true, and what wasn’t, in every episode of The Crown season 3.
Episode 1: “Olding”
The Crown season 3’s riveting premiere episode, “Olding”, flips the timeline of real-life events. In April 1964, the Queen’s purveyor of art, Sir Anthony Blunt (Samuel West), did confess to being part of the “Cambridge Five”, a ring of spies who passed intelligence to the KBG during World War II. Even after his confession, Blunt continued to work at Buckingham Palace until 1972 and he was exposed as a spy in 1979. The Crown floats the long-held theory that the reason Blunt remained in the Queen’s employ was that he was instrumental in making the portraits made of Prince Philip disappear and kept he Royal Family out of the Profumo sex scandal (as depicted in The Crown season 2).
While there were suspicions about Harold Wilson’s ties to the KGB, his election as Prime Minister happened in October 1964, months after Blunt confessed. So, the Queen couldn’t have mistakenly suspected Wilson as being the spy MI6 was after when it was Blunt all along as “Olding” portrayed events.
Episode 2: “Margaretology”
In “Margaretology”‘s glamorous escapade, Princess Margaret charmed U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (Clancy Brown) at the White House and secured a $100-million bailout for the United Kingdom – but it didn’t quite happen that way. Lord and Countess Snowdon’s 1965 tour of the United States wasn’t really the smash The Crown depicts it to be and Princess Margaret stirred controversy during her visit. The episode shows Margaret’s trashing John F. Kennedy as the spark that won over President Johnson but in reality, the Princess saying whatever she thought often came off as rude and garnered a lot of negative press.
By real-life accounts, Margaret’s visit to the White House wasn’t as eventful as The Crown depicts with its drinking, dancing, and games of dirty limericks. The U.K.’s bailout issues – as well as Johnson’s problems with Great Britain in general – continued for years after Margaret’s visit. Tony Armstrong-Jones also didn’t publish a book in 1965 so their argument about going to New York so he could promote it was fabricated.
Episode 3: “Aberfan”
The October 1966 tragedy at Aberfan was depicted with admirable verisimilitude by The Crown. The coal tip collapse that killed 28 adults and 116 children did happen and schoolteachers did try to shield their students from the landslide to no avail. The episode also accurately portrayed the Queen’s regret that she didn’t visit the disaster site sooner – she waited 8 days before she finally traveled to Wales and Queen Elizabeth does view her failure to act quickly at Aberfan as one of her greatest regrets as a monarch.
The Queen did send Prince Philip to Wales in her stead to survey the damage and the episode’s notes at the end are correct that the monarch did return to Aberfan many times to dedicate buildings and plant trees in the Garden of Remembrance. As for why the Queen hesitated, The Crown’s insight that she considers visiting disaster sites a distraction to the mourners and rescue workers has a ring of truth to it.
Episode 4: “Bubbikins”
The Crown season 3 introduced Princess Alice of Battenberg (Jane Lapotaire), the aged mother of Prince Philip, and the details offered about her remarkable and tragic life are accurate. Princess Alice was born congenitally deaf and was sent to an asylum where she was treated by Sigmund Freud, diagnosed as delusional, and her ovaries were X-rayed to lower her libido. Princes Alice did found an order of nuns in Greece and after the military coup in Athens, she came to live at Buckingham Palace in 1967 where she reconnected with her estranged son.
The Royal Family also did star in a 1969 documentary titled Royal Family that was meant to humanize the Windsors in the eyes of the public, although The Crown conflates shooting the documentary with Princess Alice’s arrival at Buckingham Palace. Royal Family aired on the BBC and ITV – and the Queen did hate it. Royal Family was last aired in 1972 and hasn’t been seen since, although clips were made available as part of a retrospective for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2002.
Episode 5: “Coup”
“Coup” postulates that Lord “Dickie” Mountbatten (Charles Dance) headed a 1968 conspiracy to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government but it didn’t exactly happen that way. Mountbatten’s involvement in a coup was one of many conspiracy theories surrounding Wilson’s Labour government. In 1968, Mountbatten did meet with Cecil King, the head of the International Publishing Corporation and a member of the Bank of England where King discussed deposing Wilson.
According to Peter Wright’s 1987 book Spycatcher, Mountbatten considered King’s plan treason and didn’t take part, though The Crown shows Dickie researching the likelihood of success based on similar coups and offered to take this possibility to the Queen. In real life, King went ahead with his plans without Mountbatten and was dismissed as Chairman of the Publishing Group. As for the Queen, she did go on a four-day tour of France and America with Lord “Porchie” Porchester to look at horse stables but that trip happened in May 1969.
Episode 6: “Tywysog Cymru”
“Tywysog Cymru”- which means Prince of Wales in Welsh – depicts how Prince Charles was pulled from Cambridge for a semester and sent to study at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth to learn the Welsh language. Prince Charles’ tutor Edward Millward (Mark Lewis Jones) was indeed a prominent figure in the Welsh independence party Plaid Cymru and was openly hostile to the Royal Family. The prince’s arrival in Wales where he’s met by protestors and is spurned by fellow students is also accurate.
While Prince Charles’ hard work at learning the language, Welsh history, and traditions did impress Millward, The Crown’s version of Charles’ speech at his 1969 investiture as Prince of Wales in Caernarfon Castle is different from the real speech he gave. The Crown invented Charles’ secret handwritten notes supporting Welsh independence, though the Prince of Wales’ actual speech still ruffled feathers with Harold Wilson’s government accusing him of boosting “Welsh nationalism”.
Episode 7: “Moondust”
After the 1969 moon landing, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins did visit Buckingham Palace in October 1969 as part of a world tour. Queen Elizabeth also did record a message on a small disc that the astronauts took with them on their historic Apollo 11 voyage, although Buckingham Palace called this “a gimmick”. Armstrong also did have a cold and sneezed when he met the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, and the young Prince Andrew.
However, Prince Philip’s midlife crisis and the extra time he requested to commiserate with the astronauts didn’t happen as it did in “Moondust”. Rather, Prince Philip did forge a real-life friendship with Dean Robin Woods and together, they founded Saint George’s House as a place for clergymen to “nurture wisdom and open up the possibility of a different and better world”.
Episode 8: “Dangling Man”
The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, died from throat cancer in his home in Paris on May 28, 1972. As The Crown depicts, the Queen did visit the Duke 10 days before he died and had an awkward reconciliation. The Queen also attended the Duke’s funeral. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako also did visit the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Paris, though it happened seven months before his death, which isn’t made clear within the episode’s timeline.
The Netflix documentary The Royal House of Windsor claims that the Duke of Windsor and Prince Charles had a secret meeting in 1971 to discuss the burdens of kingship but whether or not they were pen-pals, as “Dangling Man” portrays them, is harder to determine since any actual letters written by the Duke are protected under copyright law until 2042.
Episode 9: “Imbroglio”
“Imbroglio” postulates a plot that Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (Marion Bailey) conspired with Lord Mountbatten to prevent Prince Charles from marrying Camilla Shand but historians claim that isn’t the case. In The Crown, after Prince Charles confesses his love for Camilla to his Uncle Dickie, Mountbatten and the Queen Mother pushed Camilla towards marriage to Andrew Parker-Bowles (Andrew Buchan). Meanwhile, Charles is sent off to the Caribbean with the Royal Navy.
The real-life story is a bit messier; Prince Charles and Camilla did meet at a polo match in 1970 but she was already on-and-off engaged to Parker-Bowles for a few years and they finally married in 1973. Meanwhile, Parker-Bowles was dating Princess Anne, Charles’ sister, on the “off-time” from his engagement to Camilla. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy had already assigned Prince Charles to the Caribbean and that wasn’t engineered by Lord Mountbatten so there was likely no family plot to keep Charles and Camilla apart.
Episode 10: “Cri De Coeur”
The Crown season 3’s finale plays very loosely with when the timeline of events in the 1970s occurred but Lord Snowdon’s affair with Lucy Lindsay-Hogg (Jessica de Gouw), Princess Margaret’s affair with Roddy Llewellyn (Harry Treadaway), and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee that closed out the episode all happened in real life. Tony and Lucy met in 1971 and began their affair in 1972, which Margaret knew about when she met Roddy in 1973. However, the episode jumbles the events which occurred over a four-year span.
The Crown depicts Margaret taking Roddy on a vacation to her villa in Mustique, where they were caught by the paparazzi, but Margaret and Roddy actually took several trips there and newspapers didn’t publish the photos until 1976, a year before the Silver Jubilee; The Crown portrays events as if the scandal cast a pall over the Queen’s anniversary. Margaret and Tony’s divorce also happened in 1978, a year after The Crown season 3 ends, and Lord Snowdon married Lucy Lindsay-Hogg that same year.