How Accurate Is ‘The Crown’? We Investigate

It's complicated

is the crown accurate
Keith Bernstein/Netflix

Part two of The Crown season six is set to premiere on December 14. (The first half is now streaming on Netflix.) In honor of the final installment, we are taking a deep dive into how accurate the popular Netflix series really is. Because if you’re anything like us, you’re just dying to know if what the characters wear, say and do is the real story. As it turns out, while the show is loosely based on true events, there’s a mix of fact and fiction at play.

So, how accurate is The Crown? Keep reading for a detailed look at the show’s legitimacy.

is the crown accurate prince william queen elizabeth
Justin Downing/Netflix

How Accurate Is The Crown?

Short answer: Somewhat accurate. Long answer: While the crew goes to great lengths to ensure the costumes, set design and story line are accurate, parts of the show are (understandably) dramatized for television. Series creator Peter Morgan confirmed that The Crown is centered around real historical events, like Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation, Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s resignation, Princess Margaret’s despairing relationship and the 1956 Suez Canal crisis.

“It’s as if I was painting a portrait—I can’t take my hand out of it, whereas if absolute accuracy was all you were after, you would take a photograph with flat light,” he told The Telegraph. In other words, accuracy wasn’t Morgan's sole focus, since 100 percent historical accuracy would’ve made for some pretty flat TV.

Historian Carolyn Harris confirmed this idea, telling that each scene should be taken with a grain of salt. “The Crown is a blend of fact and fiction, inspired by true events,” she said.

prince philip the crown
Robert Viglasky/Netflix

How Accurate Is the Portrayal of Prince Philip's Childhood?

Again, the Netflix series is somewhat accurate here. Season two details Prince Philip’s (Matt Smith) borderline traumatizing childhood, which—contrary to popular belief—is based on true events. Not only was Philip smuggled out of Greece when he was a child, but he also lived with several relatives after his mother, Princess Alice (Jane Lapotaire), had a nervous breakdown

There are other elements—like Princess Cecilie’s death—that have been dramatized for television. You see, Prince Philip didn’t actually cause the death of his sister, Princess Cecilie (Leonie Benesch), who died in a tragic plane crash. 

In the show, the prince is low-key blamed, since Cecilie booked a flight to London as a result of Philip getting in trouble at school. But according to royal historian Hugo Vickers, the plot is inaccurate. While Cecilie did die in a plane crash in 1937, her trip to London to attend the wedding (and see Philip) was planned all along.

“There was no fight, almost certainly no half-term, and Prince Philip would not have gone to Germany anyway,” he told Vogue. “His sister was always coming to the wedding.”

princess margaret
Alex Bailey/Netflix

Did Princess Margaret & Antony Armstrong-Jones Truly Marry Out of Convenience?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean their relationship was as hostile as seen on the show. As British historian Robert Lacey points out, there is evidence that Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and Antony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode) tied the knot in an attempt to strengthen familial ties.

“There’s a very strong element of truth in that it was a marriage of convenience for both of them,” he told South China Morning Post. “For example, it did suit Tony to try and win back the respect and love of his mother…but maybe not to the degree that it’s shown.”

prince philip surname the crown
Alex Bailey/Netflix

Did Prince Philip Actually Fight to Keep the Mountbatten Surname?

On the show, Prince Philip insists that his last name, “Mountbatten,” be used as the royal surname—instead of “Windsor.” Although he didn’t get his way, the story line is accurate.

Biographer Gyles Brandreth even quoted Prince Philip on the matter in Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage. “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba,” the prince said. “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”

is the crown accurate prince william
Justin Downing/Netflix

Were Queen Elizabeth & Prince Charles Involved After Princess Diana’s Death?

Yes, they were involved. But not how it’s depicted in the show. In The Crown, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles are responsible for retrieving Princess Diana’s remains and making funeral arrangements. But according to Dickie Arbiter (who worked for Queen Elizabeth), they weren’t nearly as involved in the arrangements as Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer. 

“The scenes between Charles and his mother, in which he blurted out that she wanted Diana to come back in a Harrod’s van were absolute nonsense,” Arbiter said (according to Forbes). “It just didn’t happen like that. Of course an aircraft was going to be made available [to bring her body home from France]. The queen was the first one to agree to that.”

Arbiter also addressed the funeral arrangements and how Spencer (not the royal family) decided to make it a public event, adding, “I was in charge [of] media arrangements for that week. Spencer thought that because Diana was a public figure, because she was very popular and people adored her, that it should be something handled by the royal family to make it a public event rather than a private family event.”

is the crown accurate prince william kate middleton

Did Kate Middleton Really Wear a See-Through Dress?

Yes, she did. This scene is one of the most accurate in the latest season because it depicts the moment that Prince William first laid eyes on his soon-to-be wife, Kate Middleton. In case you didn't know, the Princess of Wales walked in a fashion show while she was a student at the University of St Andrews—and Prince William was in the audience. 

The show recreated this scene in the latest installment of The Crown, where Princess Catherine can be seen wearing a see-through dress as she struts down the runway. And yes, the outfit is nearly identical to what she wore in real-life.

is the crown accurate queen elizabeth
Justin Downing/Netflix

Did the Queen Know About Princess Diana’s Interview Before It Happened?

In the show, there’s a scene where Princess Diana warns Queen Elizabeth about her now-controversial interview with BBC’s Panorama. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely accurate. According to Princess Diana’s former private secretary, Patrick Jephson, the royal had her staff tell the queen.

“It’s hard to beat the scenes depicting Diana allegedly summoning up her courage and dropping on the queen the bombshell news that she had secretly recorded an interview with Martin Bashir for Panorama,” he told The Telegraph. “This part of the story was made up, and therefore might reasonably earn the ire of The Crown's scholarly-exact detractors. I know it was made up because I was there, and I can tell you that the princess absolutely failed to summon up the necessary courage and delegated the job to me."

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Daniel Escale/Netflix

Did Princess Diana Really Get Engaged Before the Car Crash?

This is a tricky one, since neither Princess Diana nor Dodi Al Fayed can corroborate the story. But based on an investigation by Metropolitan Police, it’s very unlikely that Fayed proposed to Princess Diana the night of the crash.

According to The Guardian, he purchased the ring a day before the fateful accident, and the accessory was found at his apartment. Since they were heading to the apartment at the time of the crash, many believe the proposal hadn’t happened yet (contrary to what the show depicts).

is the crown accurate prince william
Courtesy of Netflix

Did Prince William Go Missing After Princess Diana’s Death?

In season six of The Crown, Prince William goes on a walk after learning about the death of his mother, and he doesn’t return for 14 hours, prompting a search party. Per Harper’s Bazaar, this moment was likely inspired by real events because Prince William previously said that he “found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors” during the grieving process.

However, according to historian Sally Bedel’s report in The Times, Prince William strolls didn’t last hours or spark media attention. Bedel explained that Prince William was much too worried about Prince Harry to disappear himself.

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Senior Editor

Greta Heggeness is a California-based editor at PureWow and has been writing about entertainment since 2015. She covers everything from awards shows to exclusive celebrity...