Queen Mother’s Family Hits Back at ‘The Crown’ Allegation That Royals Ignored Cousins Sent to an Asylum
Des Willie / Netflix
A cousin of Princess Margaret has denied that two of the Queen's cousins, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, who were born with severe developmental and learning disabilities and committed to an institution at a young age, have been "abandoned and forgotten" as depicted in the Netflix series The Crown.
However, 73-year-old David Bowes-Lyon could not explain why the family's entry in Burke's Peerage, a guide for the British aristocracy, declared in 1963 that both women were dead. Bowes-Lyon, the Telegraph reports, "said he believed that it was just a mistake. "
In season four of "The Crown" on Netflix, this is true and what is wrong
The inconvenient wrong entry problem in Burkes has previously created problems for the family. A niece of the sisters, Lady Elizabeth Anson, said, following a documentary about the 2011 women, The Queen's Hidden Cousins, on which important parts of The Crown's narrative appear to be based, that her mother Fenella was not about to report her daughters dead Anson said Fenella was "a very vague person" who did not fill out Burke's peerage documentation "correctly or completely".
The alleged false declaration of death due to undue vagueness was repeated in Burke's annual editions, decade after decade, until the sisters' existence was reported to widespread astonishment in the media in 1987.
Bowes-Lyon told the Telegraph that the two women were far from "abandoned", "frequently" visited at the Royal Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey.
In a 2011 statement from Anson after the documentary aired, she said Fenella “visited her daughters regularly” and “she was the only person she recognized. Others have visited us, but it appears that both ladies were desperate, if not terrified, of such visitors, and the nurses gently asked the family if they could be hired. "
It seems the wish was readily granted: Nerissa, who died in 1986, and Katherine, who lived until 2014, had not been from their family for several decades by the nurses interviewed for the 2011 documentary at the time of Nerissa's death visited.
One nurse also claimed that the sisters who succeeded their family in 1941, four years after Edward VIII's abdication, had not received gifts or cards on occasions such as birthdays.
"You never received anything for Christmas either, not sausage," said the nurse.
It is also publicly known that when Nerissa died in 1986, she was buried in a grave marked only by a plastic label with her name and a serial number on it. When the story broke a year later, according to a report in the British newspaper The Sun, the family belatedly erected a tombstone.
In the new interview with The Telegraph, Bowes-Lyon will quickly dismiss a plot in the controversial Episode 7, in which Margaret discovers the fate of the cousins and goes on a secret mission to investigate them, as a fake. He describes it as "fiction that pretends to be a fact".
He says that he himself spoke to Margaret several times about Nerissa and Katherine and that she knew the truth about their situation. “We talked about them when we talked about relatives in general and talked about dinner and lunch. She knew exactly who they were and what had happened. "
On the matter, there seems to be no reason to doubt his report: there is no evidence that Margaret (or any other high-ranking queen) ever went on a secret mission to check on the cousins.
The Daily Beast reported this week that Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth's worried younger sister, has said she believes those involved in the show have a "moral responsibility" to emphasize the program is not factual.
The fact that Bowes-Lyon takes the floor is a clear sign that The Crown's fourth season has gotten under the skin of the establishment in a way that it has done in the three previous series that it was about Events in the 50s, 60s and 60s went on. 70s not.
Oliver Dowden, the secretary of culture, has requested that the series include a disclaimer warning the audience that it is a fiction. There has been speculation that his move was triggered by concerns within the palace.
Bowes-Lyon told the Daily Telegraph that he spoke out because the episode caused "frustration" in the family and that he was one of the few people able to speak out in public.
"I'm probably the only family member who can say anything publicly," he said. "It's harder for members of the royal family and the younger generation wasn't there.
"I wouldn't say the family is upset, but I think people are frustrated and want the record set. The royals are pretty immune to criticism, but when it comes to historical records, people should know."
Bowes-Lyon added: "Aside from the family connection, it's important to make sure that history doesn't see it as what actually happened.
"I wouldn't like to see anyone calling it the truth in the future - and some people tend to think so."
Katherine and Nerissa were the third and fifth daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon, the older brother of the Queen Mother, and his wife Fenella.
The crown depicts the Queen Mother saying the sisters must be kept out of sight because "their professionally diagnosed idiocy and stupidity would make people question the integrity of the bloodline".
In 1987 it was announced that three other cousins of the queen (daughters of Fenella's sister) were brought to the institution on the same day as the sisters.
Bonham Carter said on a podcast this week, “The story of Katherine and Nerissa is absolutely true. Whether Margaret had this feeling of empathy with them and whether she knew nothing about it, [I have] absolutely no idea. But Katherine, Nerissa, and three others were jailed and pronounced dead while they were still alive. "
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