Fact-check: How ‘The Crown’ st

Image: YouTube/Netflix/Popperfoto via Getty Images

Fact-check: How ‘The Crown’ stacks up against Prince Philip’s real-life story

Was Prince Philip a philanderer who had an affair with a Russian ballerina? Did he fight for his surname? Here’s how ‘The Crown’ stacks up against Prince Philip’s real life.

Fact-check: How ‘The Crown’ st

Image: YouTube/Netflix/Popperfoto via Getty Images

Netflix’s popular royal series, The Crown has been around for four seasons as of 2021 and work on the next season is already in motion. But now, in the wake of Prince Philip’s passing on 9 April 2021, many are wondering whether or not the series depicted the prince in a truthful manner or not.

Prince Philip Fact-Check

Prince Philip actually took centre stage in season two of the hit series when the streaming giant featured him as a central character. In fact, the first two seasons of The Crown in particular features Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth who struggles to unite the country following Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s failed handling of the Suez Crisis, while her husband, Prince Philip, is coping with playing second fiddle to his wife.

Therefore many wonder how The Crown‘s Prince Philip, who is played by former Doctor Who star Matt Smith (and later Tobias Menzies in season three), compares to his real-life counterpart.

According to Time.com and Marie Claire, there are some questions which drew speculation from fans in particular:

Did Prince Philip fight to have Mountbatten become the royal surname?

Yes, Prince Philip was quite upset about this fact. In Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage, biographer Gyles Brandreth quoted Philip’s private (and decidedly bitter) comments on the subject: “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.”

Of course, years later, the Queen combined their respective names, Windsor-Mountbatten, which are passed down till this day.

Did Prince Philip embark on a five-month royal tour without the Queen?

Philip did embark on a solo royal tour (described in the show as a “five-month stag do,” the British equivalent of a bachelor party) of commonwealth countries including New Guinea, Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) and the Malay Peninsula in 1956, nine years after he married the Queen.

It was a trying time for the pair’s relationship, particularly as their only communication during Philip’s lengthy period away from England was by telegram, letter and the occasional hard-to-hear telephone conversation, as the show portrays.

Who was the woman in Philip’s photograph?

Early on in the season, the Queen finds a photograph of an anonymous woman tucked away in Prince Philip’s luggage, shortly before he leaves for his five-month tour. In response, the shocked and disappointed Queen leaves him a one-line note, reminding him that he has a family.

But, as it was, the woman in the photo really existed: Her name was Galina Ulanova and she was a Russian ballerina, thought to be the greatest ballerina of her time. However, there is no evidence that Philip and Ulanova actually had an affair and, due to the pair’s hectic and strict schedules, it seems unlikely that there would have been a time for it to happen.

Ulanova’s 1998 obituary doesn’t even mention the prince: in fact, it notes that the dancer “ended up with a female companion who guarded her and served her needs.”

Did Philip really have multiple affairs?

The show suggests that Philip continued to be unfaithful during the royal tour, with encouragement from his fellow travelers. Most of this comes from his right-hand man, Lieutenant Commander Michael Parker, whose wife, Eileen files for divorce from him once she gains evidence of his adulterous nature.

But despite rumours of Philip’s infidelity, with his name linked to women like the writer Daphne du Maurier and the cabaret star Helene Cordet, there is no evidence to prove that he ever did have an affair.

Did Philip force Michael Parker to resign over his divorce?

In The Crown, shortly after news breaks of Eileen Parker suing her husband for divorce, Prince Philip turns to his close friend and tells him: “I hope you’re not going to make this next step difficult for me,” effectively forcing Parker to resign.

“You’ll have my resignation first thing,” Parker replies, to which Philip responds, “I’ll need it now.” It’s unclear whether or not Philip forced Parker’s resignation in this way, but as Parker’s Daily Telegraph obituary following his death in 2002 reads, “It was his divorce from Eileen, covered extensively in the press before becoming final in 1958, that forced Parker to resign as the Duke’s Private Secretary.”

Was Philip’s Thursday Club a real thing?

In the show, letters written by Parker during the royal tour, bragging of the group’s explicit exploits, are seen being read aloud to the customers at the Thursday Club — a seedy gentlemen’s club in Soho, central London, frequented by Philip, Parker and other members of the royal entourage.

But depending on who you believe, the Thursday Club may not have been the debaucherous hangout it is in the show.

According to the Telegraph’s obituary of Parker, the commander himself was once quoted to have said: “We enjoyed fun and going round with people who knew what was going on. The Thursday Club was a great sounding base, and the idea that it was a drunken orgy was absolute rubbish. People got very merry, but never drunk. As far as being wild, not guilty. As far as hanging around women, not guilty.”

However, Eileen Parker’s reports disagree. In 1982, Parker’s ex-wife published a book called Step Outside for Royalty, in which she claimed that Parker and Philip enjoyed slipping out of Buckingham Palace using the pseudonyms “Murgatroyd and Winterbottom.”

According to the Telegraph, Parker called the allegations “the biggest load of hogwash I’ve ever read in my life”.

Did Philip reconnect with his mother, Princess Alice?

Yes, Princess Alice did return to Buckingham Palace in 1967, and it’s thought that she and Prince Philip were able to reconnect at this point. They remained close until her death in 1969.

Did Philip take a special interest in the 1969 Moon landing?

The duke did meet the Apollo 11 astronauts when they visited Buckingham Palace, but there’s no evidence that he sat down with them privately, nor that he ever took a special interest in NASA or the Moon landing.