NBC News Interview: ‘The Crown’ season three: Did Princess Margaret really party with LBJ?

Season 3 of The Crown series premieres on Netflix today and there is already interest in how much dramatic license has been taken by the writers of the series. I discussed the portrayal of Princess Margaret’s 1965 official visit to the United States with Daniel Arkin at NBC News. President Lyndon Baines Johnson was the only American president elected during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign who did not meet the Queen but he hosted an official dinner at the White House for Princess Margaret.

Click here to read ‘The Crown’ season three: Did Princess Margaret really party with LBJ?” at NBC News

For more about Princess Margaret, I recommend reading 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown and Princess Margaret: A Life in Contrasts by Christopher Warwick.

For more about President Lyndon Johnson, I recommend reading Robert Caro’s ongoing series “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” – The Path to Power, The Means of Ascent, Master of the Senate and The Passage of Power have been published so far.

New BBC History Magazine Article: Was Queen Mary, wife of George V, a kleptomaniac?

My latest article in the BBC History Magazine examines the reputation of Queen Mary, the wife of King George V, and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. In the new Downton Abbey film, one storyline references a long-standing question: was Mary partial to stealing from the grand houses that she visited? Writing for History Extra, I explore the life of George V’s queen, and her habits as a collector of precious objects.

Click here to read “Was Queen Mary, wife of George V, a kleptomaniac?” in the BBC History Magazine.

Reader’s Digest Interview: In conversation with royal historian Carolyn Harris

I discussed a variety topics concerning the royal family including the royal wedding, popular attitudes toward the monarchy in Canada, and The Crown series on Netflix with Courtney Shea at Reader’s Digest Canada.

Click here to read “In Conversation with Royal Historian Carolyn Harris”

Illustration by Aimée Van Drimmelen

NBC Interview: ‘The Crown’: Did Jackie Kennedy really badmouth the Queen?

Jacqueline Kennedy

I discussed the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, Jacqueline Kennedy and the Commonwealth in the Crown on Netflix with Daniel Arkin at NBC News.

Episode 8 of Season 2 of The Crown “Dear Mrs. Kennedy” employs a story structure that appears frequently over the course of the series: dramatizing two historical events and creating a fictional connection between them. In the case of “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” the Crown portrays two events from 1961: John and Jacqueline Kennedy visiting Buckingham Palace (including reports that Jacqueline Kennedy was critical of both the palace and the queen) and the Queen’s visit to Ghana and creates a direct connection between them. I discussed fact and fiction in The Crown on Netflix with NBC News.

Click here to read ‘The Crown’: Did Jackie Kennedy really badmouth the Queen? at NBC News

NBC Interview: ‘The Crown’: Was Princess Margaret’s life really full of scandal?

Princess Margaret in 1965

I discussed the portrayal of Princess Margaret in the Netflix series “The Crown” with Daniel Arkin at NBC News.

As I mention in the interview, The Crown focuses closely on Princess Margaret’s personal life with Season 1 examining her doomed relationship with the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend and Season 2 ending with her marriage to society photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones. The emphasis on Margaret’s relationships with Townsend and Armstrong-Jones as well as her struggle to establish an independent identity within the royal family obscures some of the Princess’s other interests such as art and the theatre. The Crown, like other works of historical fiction, emphasizes certain events and personality traits of public figures and obscures other aspects of their lives.

Click here to read “‘The Crown’: Was Princess Margaret’s life really full of scandal?” at NBC News Pop Culture


5 Key Figures from Prince Philip’s Childhood Who Are Missing from Season 2 of The Crown on Netflix

In Season 1 of The Netflix series, The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II succeeds to the throne in 1952, at the age of 25, and there are flashbacks and discussions of the challenges of her father’s reign: The Abdication Crisis of 1936 which brought George VI to the throne and the Second World War. In Season 2, the series explores Prince Philip’s childhood, dramatizing his family and education. In Season 2, Episode 2, a fictional Australian journalist asks him about his family’s exile from Greece, his mother’s nervous breakdown, his father’s abandonment of the family and his sisters’ connections to the Nazi party, prompting Philip to end the interview abruptly.

In Season 2 Episode 9, a remarkably well informed classmate at the Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland bullies Philip about his family, stating most of the same details as the Australian journalist. Episode 9 also features flashbacks showing the death of Philip’s sister Cecile in a plane crash en route to a family wedding (there is no evidence that Philip’s father blamed him for this family tragedy as dramatized in the series) and the emotional support provided by Philip’s maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten.

The Crown presents a particular image of Prince Philip as an exile and an outsider to elite society in Great Britain. This interpretation, as well as the time constraints of the series, necessitates leaving out other key figures from Prince Philip’s childhood, who would demonstrate that he moved in royal circles – both British and European – throughout his life. Here are 5 key figures from Prince Philip’s childhood who do not appear in The Crown on Netflix:

1 — Philip’s grandmother, Princess Victoria of Battenberg, the Marchioness of Milford Haven (1863-1950)

One of the most prominent figures in Prince Philip’s childhood was his maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Battenberg the Marchioness of Milford Haven. Victoria was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and was born at Windsor Castle (as was her eldest child, Prince Philip’s mother, Alice of Battenberg in 1885). While Philip was at school at Gordonstoun, Victoria’s apartments at Kensington Palace (dubbed “the aunt hill” by King Edward VIII because of the number of older members of the royal family who lived there), acted as a home for Philip, where he sometimes spent school holidays and kept his possessions. Victoria was a friend of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary and both women became godmothers to their great-grandson Prince Charles in 1948.

2– George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven (1892-1938)

The best known of Philip’s maternal uncles is Lord Louis Mountbatten, who also enjoyed a close relationship with Prince Charles, making him an ideal figure of continuity in The Crown series. During Philip’s childhood, however, another maternal uncle, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, also took an interest in Philip’s upbringing. George was a naval officer and mathematician with a strong interest in science and technology, which likely influenced Philip’s own intellectual curiosity. In Season 2 of The Crown, Philip demonstrates his own scientific interests by giving the Queen a detailed description of the workings of Suez Canal over dinner.  George’s son, David Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s best man at his wedding, not Mike Parker, as shown in Season 1 of The Crown.

Queen Elizabeth II and Pamela Mountbatten in Brisbane, Australia in 1954

3&4–Patricia (1924-2017) and Pamela Mountbatten (1929-) Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina have a brief scene together in Season 2 of The Crown but their daughters, Patricia and Pamela do not appear onscreen. They were childhood friends of both Philip and Elizabeth and frequently appear in documentaries about the royal family. Patricia belonged to the palace girl guide troop where Elizabeth was a guide and Princess Margaret was a brownie. Pamela was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding and accompanied the royal couple on Commonwealth tours in the 1950s as a lady-in-waiting. Pamela’s memoir, Daughter of Empire, provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on the overseas tours took place in Season 1 of the The Crown.

Wedding picture of King Michael of Romania and Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma

5 –King Michael of Romania (1921-2017) In Episode 10, Prince Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, Duchess of Kent (the widow of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, the Duke of Kent) makes a brief appearance to complain about the noisy renovations to Princess Margaret’s apartment in Kensington Palace. Marina’s wedding is probably where the Queen and Prince Philip first met, before the famous 1939 tour of the Dartmouth Naval College.

Aside from the Duchess of Kent, Philip vast extended family from Greece and Denmark, which connected him to Europe’s other royal houses, is missing from the series. One of Philip’s cousins and childhood friends was King Michael of Romania (the son of Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark). Philip and Michael played together as children and Philip spent part of his Christmas holiday with Michael in 1936. Michael met his future wife Anne of Bourbon-Parma, who had been one of Philip’s kindergarten classmates, at Philip and Elizabeth’s wedding in 1947. Photos of Philip and Michael as children together are available to view on Marlene Koenig’s Royal Musings website.

Further Reading About Prince Philip’s Childhood:

Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade

Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage by Gyles Brandreth

Further Reading About The Crown on Netflix

The Crown: The Official Companion: Volume 1 by Robert Lacey

Patricia Treble also discusses the portrayal of Prince Philip in The Crown on her Write Royalty website.

University of Toronto News Interview: Prince Philip rumours go viral

Prince Philip in 2008.

Before the announcement that Prince Philip would be retiring from public life at the end of the summer, there was widespread speculation on social media that Buckingham Palace would be announcing his death on the morning of May 4 as members of the royal household gathered for an “eleventh hour” meeting.

There were also more optimistic theories including the idea that forthcoming renovations to Buckingham Palace would prompt an announcement that the Queen and Prince Philip were moving to Windsor Castle or Balmoral for an extended period of time. In an interview with University of Toronto news, I discuss the timeless fascination with events behind palace doors and how the internet has accelerated the spread of royal rumors.

Buckingham Palace, London

Click here to read “Prince Philip rumours go viral: U of T expert talks about centuries of royal gossip” at UofT news

Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting now available for purchase

My 3rd book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, has been published by Dundurn Press in Canada. (The USA and UK release date is May 2).

Click here to purchase your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

How royal parents dealt with raising their children over the past thousand years, from keeping Vikings at bay to fending off paparazzi.

William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are setting trends for millions of parents around the world. The upbringing of their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, is the focus of intense popular scrutiny. Royalty have always raised their children in the public eye and attracted praise or criticism according to parenting standards of their day.

Royal parents have faced unique challenges and held unique privileges. In medieval times, raising an heir often meant raising a rival, and monarchs sometimes faced their grown children on the battlefield. Conversely, kings and queens who lost their thrones in wars or popular revolutions often found solace in time spent with their children. In modern times, royal duties and overseas tours have often separated young princes and princesses from their parents, a circumstance that is slowly changing with the current generation of royalty.

Click here to purchase your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Quartz Article: The hit Netflix series “The Crown” [and Victoria on PBS] expose all our 21st-century anxieties about powerful women

Claire Foy and Matt Smith as the Queen and Prince Philip in the Netflix series, The Crown

My article in Quartz  discusses how women in power are portrayed on two hit TV shows: The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS. Both Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown and Queen Victoria in Victoria appear as young women who are mentored or challenged by the men who surround them and experience frequent moments of self doubt. In fact, both queens had been trained for their future roles since childhood and were confident queens who were both extremely popular when they first succeeded to the throne. The portrayals of Elizabeth II and Victoria on TV today reflect current anxieties about women in power.

Click here to read “The hit Netflix series “The Crown” exposes all our 21st-century anxieties about powerful women” at Quartz

New York Post Interview: Thank queen of ‘Victoria’ for this Oval Office centerpiece

Portrait of the nineteen year old Queen Victoria on her coronation day in 1838.

Portrait of the nineteen year old Queen Victoria on her coronation day in 1838.

My thoughts about Queen Victoria and her opposition to women’s suffrage have been quoted in the New York Post as part of a list of facts about the famous Queen, who is currently being portrayed by Jenna Coleman in the Victoria TV series on PBS. The quotes are an excerpt from a longer interview with the University of Alberta Faculty of Law blog about Queen Victoria, her family and women’s rights.

Click here to read Thank queen of ‘Victoria’ for this Oval Office centerpiece in the New York Post.