Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (2023)

Was Princess Margaret photographed nude, and did a British prime minister really disappear to Jamaica at the height of an economic crisis?

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Tristin Hopper

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Dec 22, 2017December 22, 20179 minute read Join the conversation

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Everybody loves The Crown. With its wildly expensive period drama about the House of Windsor, Netflix has hit upon a series that is beloved by everyone from feminists to rudderless Millennials to Burkean conservatives.

The result has been an explosion of interest in the royal family. Discussions about the Duke of Windsor or Lord Altringham, once the exclusive domain of tea rooms and bridge club meetings, are now lighting up web forums and dorm rooms around the world.

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Below, our exhaustive look at the best historical questions raised by season two of The Crown.

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Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (1)

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Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (2)

Is the Queen really a devotee of televangelist Billy Graham?

As the head of her own religion, the Anglican Church, the Queen generally isn’t allowed to dabble in competing faiths. But The Crown depicts Queen Elizabeth II as being utterly star-struck by American televangelist Billy Graham. “He’s rather handsome,” she tells a dismissive Prince Philip. Although it’s impossible to know the Queen’s true thoughts on Graham’s unique brand of Southern revivalism, she did indeed curry a special friendship with the man, and often made sure to see him whenever their paths crossed. “She has gone out of her way to be quietly supportive of our mission,” Graham wrote in his autobiography. During one of several times Graham preached at Windsor Castle he added that the Queen “deliberately caught my eye and gestured slightly to let me know she was supporting me and praying for me.”

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(Video) The Tragic Death Of Prince Philip's Sister, Princess Cecilie
Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (3)

Did the Queen stop Ghana from going communist through the power of dance?

Just as the newly independent Ghana begins flirting with the Soviet Union, The Crown shows Elizabeth traveling there on her own initiative to reignite the country’s links to the West. After a whirlwind tour that includes Elizabeth gayly dancing with Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, the charmed former colony decides to stay within the orbit of the Commonwealth. Elizabeth did indeed embark on a royal tour to Ghana that included dancing. It even included a hint of danger, with the Queen insisting on the trip despite a spate of recent terrorist bombings in the Ghanaian capital. As she famously told her then-prime minister Harold MacMillan “I am not a film star. I am the head of the Commonwealth and I am paid to face any risks that may be involved.” Ghana never did end up siding with the Soviets, but that may be due less to the Queen’s charm than the military coup that overthrew Nkrumah in 1966.

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Did the Queen’s abdicated uncle collaborate with the Nazis?

The only reason Elizabeth became monarch, of course, is because her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, abdicated in 1936 to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The couple then lived the rest of their lives in exile. In the episode Vergangenheit, the Queen is shown learning that, during the war, the exiled Duke secretly collaborated with the Nazis with the intention of becoming king of a conquered Britain. As indicated in the episode, the source for the claim is the Marburg Files, a trove of captured Nazi documents that seemed to hint at direct wartime communication between the Duke and the German High Command. “Duke believes with certainty that continued heavy bombing will make England ready for peace,” reads one particularly damning telegram. The Duke was always alarmingly chummy with Nazi Germany, and is even suspected of leaking British intelligence to Berlin while he was monarch. But he always claimed that the Marburg Files were nothing more than Nazi propaganda.

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Was Princess Margaret photographed nude?

After breaking off an engagement with a suitor who got shot in a drunken duel (which isn’t true, by the way), Princess Margaret is shown falling under the spell of celebrity photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones. At their seductive first meeting in the photographers’ warehouse-like studio, Armstrong-Jones flips down the straps of the princess’ dress and then snaps a risqué bare-shouldered photo. “She’s naked,” declares a surprised Queen upon spotting the photo in the newspaper. The risqué 1959 photo really exists (you can see it below), but it was taken under much more conventional circumstances than depicted in The Crown. The image is Margaret’s official birthday portrait, not the impulsive product of a steamy late-night rendezvous. And Armstrong-Jones, rather than being a dangerous anti-establishment rebel, had received several royal portraiture commissions before he got to the bare-shouldered princess.

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Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (5)

Did Prince Philip cheat on the Queen with a Russian ballerina?

The marital struggles of Elizabeth and Prince Philip dominate the first two episodes of season two. Most notably, the Queen is shown discovering a photograph of Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova in Philip’s briefcase, leading her to suspect infidelity. Rumours of a wandering Prince Philip were indeed public at the time, and even received official denials from the palace. It didn’t help that Prince Philip spent long stretches away from the Queen, often in the company of beautiful women. But unlike most other members of his family, if Prince Philip had affairs, he was a master at ensuring that not a hint of proof ever became public. “People have often said, ‘He must have been unfaithful,’ but there is no solid evidence for that,” Robert Lacey, The Crown’s historical consultant, told People.

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Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (6)

Was there really a shady British conspiracy to invade Egypt?

In the episode Misadventure, the Queen is shown expressing her measured skepticism for an utterly outrageous act of British subterfuge. At a French chateau, British prime minister Anthony Eden secretly conspires with France and Israel to concoct a contrived invasion of Egypt. The plan is for Israel to invade Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Then, on the false pretence of “protecting” the Suez Canal from Israeli and Egyptian forces, the French and British invade Egypt with the aim of overthrowing its independence-minded government. To keep up the ruse, Eden lies to the House of Commons, the United Nations and even his own Queen. The whole scheme sounds like a particularly far-fetched internet conspiracy theory, but it absolutely happened. The 1956 Suez Crisis was such a transparently manufactured imperialist adventure that it’s widely seen as the last gasp of the British Empire. The subsequent negotiations to clean up Eden’s mess, however, are what earned future Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (7)

Did a random editorial writer spark a modern overhaul of the British monarchy?

Queen Elizabeth is shown delivering a particularly tone deaf speech at a Jaguar factory in which she praises the British working classes for persevering in spite of “uneventful, lonely lives.” This prompts Lord Altringham to pen a widely read editorial complaining that the “priggish” royals should get with the times. A miffed Queen then secretly meets with Altringham, takes his advice, and sets about building the warm, approachable royal family we all know today. Most notably, she takes the decision to televise her annual Christmas broadcast. Altringham really did write such an editorial, and palace officials later credited it with shocking the monarchy out of its tweedy, anachronistic complacency. As depicted in the episode, the lord even sustained a punch from an outraged monarchist for his efforts. However, there’s no evidence that Altringham ever met secretly with Queen Elizabeth II. Of course, as with most secret royal things, that doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen.

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Were Prince Philip’s family really Nazis?

In the episode Paterfamilias, there are a series of flashbacks that allude to Prince Philip’s rather Nazi-filled childhood. He’s shown living in Nazi Germany, his sister is a Nazi and he’s even photographed in a parade of Nazis. Much to Buckingham Palace’s chagrin, all of that is extremely true. The son of a broken — yet royal — household, Philip was passed around to numerous European branches of his family during his youth, eventually ending up in Nazi Germany for a brief period during his early teens. His sisters married into the German aristocracy, and many became closely tied to the Nazi party. One of them, Sophie, even named her child Karl Adolf in honour of Adolf Hitler. His sister Cecile was killed in a 1937 air crash, although the trip had nothing to do with Philip, as is implied in The Crown. However, at Cecile’s funeral in the German city of Darmstadt, Philip was photographed as part of a procession packed with uniformed Nazis, including Herman Goering himself. Only a few years after that photo was taken, however, Philip was an officer in the Royal Navy battling Axis forces that included his in-laws.

The Queen's hubby, Prince Philip, c1937. At a Nazi funeral of his close relative. A picture (c) Crown. So sue me. pic.twitter.com/xM8e75luQb

— Victor Lewis-Smith (@TVOFFAL) August 18, 2016
(Video) A Former King of Britain Pays a Visit to Nazi Germany

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Did Princess Margaret marry a bisexual libertine with mommy issues?

Margaret ends up becoming engaged to the photographer who snapped the bare-shoulders portrait, and marries him in the episode Matrimonium. Armstrong-Jones doesn’t get the most glowing portrayal in The Crown. He’s shown as a Lothario compulsively having sex with everyone in sight when Margaret isn’t around — and he heads to the altar knowing that his best friend’s wife is pregnant with his love child. On his wedding day to the princess, meanwhile, it is implied he did it purely to show up his mother. “Not bad, you’d have to say, for the son that always brought you shame,” he tells her on the way to Westminster Abbey. Armstrong-Jones did indeed knock up his best friend’s wife and carry on near-constant affairs, as he freely admitted in interviews for a 2008 biography. The only thing The Crown might have wrong is the order and timing of those affairs. As for the mommy issues, royal historian Hugo Vickers wrote in The Times that Armstrong-Jones did indeed get little respect from his mother. However, the historian dismissed the idea that the marriage was purely an act of maternal attention seeking.

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Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (8)

Did the Queen have a jealous rivalry with Jackie Kennedy?

The Queen and Jacqueline Kennedy are depicted as being downright catty with one another. Elizabeth is shown staring daggers at the glamourous First Lady, and Kennedy in turn calls the monarch “incurious, unintelligent and unremarkable.” The two women did indeed meet at a 1961 dinner at Buckingham Palace and then later at a private lunch when Kennedy was passing through London on her way to India. The only signs of any initial chilliness between the two come from reported statements made by Kennedy. “The Queen was pretty heavy going … I think (she) resented me,” Kennedy reportedly told Gore Vidal, adding that Elizabeth exhibited almost no humanity. English photographer Cecil Beaton also later reported hearing the First Lady at a dinner party trashing the décor of Buckingham Palace and the “flat” hairstyle of the British head of state.

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Did a British prime minister really disappear to Jamaica at the height of an economic crisis?

The Suez Crisis wasn’t just a diplomatic disaster, it was an economic one. Egypt closed the Suez Canal, which wracked Great Britain with fuel and currency shortages. And, as depicted in The Crown, a stressed-out Anthony Eden really did take an extended vacation in Jamaica (where he stayed at the home of James Bond creator Ian Fleming). Alas, British leaders disappearing when they’re most needed isn’t entirely unprecedented. In the terrifying opening months of the Great Depression, the Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman, similarly absconded to Canada for several weeks with the excuse that he was “feeling queer.”

Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (10)

Did Prince Charles really go to a boarding school he described as “absolute hell”?

The young Prince Charles is shown as a delicate, studious boy who is utterly destroyed by his attendance of Gordonstoun, an unconventional private school in Scotland. Students are forced to take cold showers and go on freezing early morning runs. Charles, the future king, is singled out for relentless bullying by his classmates. Through letters obtained by royal historians, there have been real-life hints of Charles’ difficulties at the school. In one letter home, he called the place “absolute hell.” In another, he calls his classmates “foul” and “horrid.” Fellow classmates have even testified to the “institutionalized” bullying endured by the prince. After The Crown’s dim portrayal of Gordonstoun, however, the school dredged up a 1975 interview in which Charles praised the school for developing “my willpower and self control.” However, if there’s one thing The Crown has taught us, it’s that a royal’s first job is never to show their true feelings in public.

Was Prince Philip really raised by Nazis? Fact-checking season two of The Crown (11)

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FAQs

How accurate is The Crown season 2? ›

Season 2 of The Crown accurately reckons with the reveal of the Marburg Files, where it was revealed that the Duke of Windsor conspired with the Nazis in an attempt to make Britain surrender in the Second World War.

How accurate is The Crown? ›

How much of The Crown season 4 is true? Although the show is 'true' in that it is based on events that really did happen and the characters are based on real people, the script is a work of fiction, meaning that the conversations had in the show won't be an accurate representation of what actually happened.

Did Prince Philip speak German? ›

His grandfather, the late Duke of Edinburgh, was reportedly quite impressive when it came to foreign languages. It's understood that Prince Philip, who died aged 99 in April, could speak German and French, as well as a little bit of Danish and Greek.

Did the Queen like The Crown? ›

ABC royal contributor George Jobson said Prince Philip told him that Elizabeth II was a regular viewer of the Netflix series.

Did the royal family approve of The Crown? ›

According to the source, the Queen really liked the show, though “there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatized.” A senior courtier explained the Queen was upset by Prince Philip's supposedly inaccurate portrayal as an insensitive and unsympathetic father to Charles but understands “she ...

Which parts of The Crown are not true? ›

The Crown: 10 Historical Inaccuracies In The Netflix Show
  • 10/10 The Timing Of The Royal Flings.
  • 9/10 The Sunday Times Leak.
  • 8/10 The Queen's Relationship With Churchill.
  • 7/10 Michael Fagan's Palace Break Ins.
  • 6/10 Princess Margaret's Objection To Charles And Diana's Wedding.
  • 5/10 The Queen's Wardrobe Malfunction.
27 Feb 2021

Who is the Queen's Favourite prime minister? ›

Harold Wilson - 1964-70 and 1974-76

Wilson went on to become one of the Queen's favourite prime ministers, and the pair thoroughly enjoyed their weekly meetings. Then-Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle said: "Harold was very fond of her and she reciprocated it."

Is The Crown filmed at Buckingham Palace? ›

Buckingham Palace features heavily in The Crown, but was unavailable as an actual location for the production team. Instead, the Queen's residence was recreated with several stately homes across the country, including this elaborate Tudor estate in Wiltshire.

Does Prince William watch The Crown? ›

Netflix's 'The Crown' reveals its Prince William and Kate actors - YouTube

What does the Queen think of The Crown TV show? ›

“Happily, she really liked it, although obviously, there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatized.” But some things, not so much: “The Queen realizes that many who watch The Crown take it as an accurate portrayal of the royal family and she cannot change that,” the courtier said.

Do the Royals watch TV? ›

From Killing Eve to Strictly Come Dancing... The royal family have a busy schedule of engagements at the moment in the lead-up to the Queen's funeral next week, but when they do get some downtime, like the rest of us, they like to enjoy a night in front of the telly.

How much does Queen Elizabeth's crown cost? ›

Queen Elizabeth II Crown Price

After an exhaustive investigation, after which they added up all the parts of the crown, from its velvet cap and ermine band, to the solid gold frame and precious stones, it was determined that Queen Elizabeth II's crown costs exactly $4,519,709.

Is The Crown accurate about Margaret? ›

The role of Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), Elizabeth's younger sister, was heavily dramatized. In the series, Margaret acts as the Queen's ambassador while she is on an overseas tour, but the speeches she gives are entirely fictional.

How accurate is The Crown season 3? ›

A royal expert takes on The Crown season three: 'It makes no attempt to be accurate' Just how fast and loose should The Crown play with history? We asked royal expert Hugo Vickers about the historical accuracy of a range of scenes in season three, and the results were... not pretty. The Crown is essentially fictional.

Is Netflix Crown historically accurate? ›

While some elements — like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's frosty relationship with the royal family and Princess Margaret's romance with the dashing Peter Townsend — are true, several key elements of the series are either totally made up or exaggerated for dramatic effect.

Where was Queen Elizabeth when her father died? ›

Queen Elizabeth II took over the throne at just 25 years old when her father, King George VI, died in 1952. Her Majesty was in Kenya on a tour of the Commonwealth at the time of her father's death, but her trip was cut short when she learned the news.

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