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May 13, 2021

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Prince Philip: Was royal’s portrayal in The Crown accurate?


Prince Philip’s death aged 99 has led the public to think about his representation in popular culture, in particular in Netflix’s The Crown.

When the historical drama series first aired in 2016, the Duke of Edinburgh was portrayed by Matt Smith. In the show’s third and fourth series, Tobias Menzies was the one to take on the role, while Jonathan Pryce will play him in its fifth outing.

While The Crown has often faced criticism for inaccuracies in its storytelling, Prince Harry has admitted that it gives viewers a “rough idea” about royal life. The picture it has painted of Philip so far has been consistent, if slightly unflattering.

Here are some of the biggest things The Crown got right about the Duke’s life – and some things it got wrong too…

Things The Crown got right

In series two and three of The Crown, the show explores Philip’s tumultuous childhood in a largely accurate way. Born in Corfu in 1921, the future royal’s family fled Greece when he was just 18 months old, infamously being smuggled out of the country in an orange crate. After his mother suffered a mental breakdown and his father moved to France, Philip was left to live with relatives.

Elizabeth and Philip were only five years into their marriage when her father King George VI died, with The Crown showing the Philip’s resentment at taking up his position in the monarchy at such a young age. This was something he has previously admitted, telling an interviewer in 1992: “I’d much rather have stayed in the navy, frankly.”

One of Philip’s first requests when taking the throne is that his children be given the Mountbatten surname rather than that of Windsor. While he ultimately does not make this a reality, his comments were real, and he was later quoted as saying: “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”

Matt Smith as Philip with Claire Foy’s Queen

(Netflix)

The show also correctly depicted Philip’s familial connections to the Nazis, which are commented on by Winston Churchill and a journalist in the earlier series. Three of his four sisters did marry Nazis and following the death of sister Cecilie, Philip was pictured alongside their soldiers at her funeral. However, he fought against Hitler’s party during the Second World War.

In series four, The Crown focuses on Princess Diana, with Philip shown to take her under his wing during her first trip to Balmoral. The pair were known to have a strong bond, with Philip even backing Diana amid his son Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. “I cannot imagine anyone in their right mind leaving you for Camilla,” he wrote to Diana.

While Prince Philip is shown on The Crown to make the odd inappropriate comment, if anything, this is downplayed. Over the years, the real Duke of Edinburgh made many worse comments, including racist remarks while visiting China and telling a 13-year-old boy that he should lose weight if he wanted to be an astronaut.

Things The Crown got wrong

However, there are many things The Crown also took creative license with when it came to the Duke.

Tobias Menzies as Philip in series four

(Ollie Upton/Netflix)

Philip is implied to be a womaniser who has affairs during the show’s earlier series, calling his marriage a “prison”. But while these rumours have long circulated, they’ve always been denied by the palace. Of his decision to include them, creator Peter Morgan said: “I’m trying to make them human beings but, at the same time, I’m aware that nobody has come forward and identified people with whom Prince Philip did or did not have affairs. I’m not going to be the one to do that.”

The death of Philip’s sister Cecilie in a plane crash in 1937 is shown as a defining moment in his childhood. But while the show implies that circumstance made Philip at least partially to blame for the death, this was disputed by royal historian Hugo Vickers, who wrote: “It is beyond me how serious film-makers would wish to turn such a dreadful tragedy into a series of invented scenes bearing no relation to the truth.”

In series three, an initially reluctant Philip is shown reconnecting with his mother after years of estrangement. However, the pair often visited each other, with Philip actually encouraging his mother to move to London permanently.

This series also features a subplot regarding the Duke’s obsession with the moon landing, which has been dismissed by historians.

And while Prince Philip was known to be close to Lord Mountbatten, he always denied that they had a father-son relationship as as shown in The Crown.

The Crown is available to stream on Netflix now.

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