Queen’s cousin blasts asylum plot in The Crown as ‘fantasy’


Queen’s cousin blasts The Crown over ‘fantasy’ plot about monarch’s relatives ‘certified as lunatics’ and left to rot in mental asylum – saying it caused ‘frustration’ in the family

A cousin of the Queen has criticised an episode of The Crown, labelling it ‘fiction pretending to be fact’.

David Bowes-Lyon, 73, said an episode about two of the Queen Mother’s nieces, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, had caused ‘frustration’ in the family.

His comments come after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said viewers of multi-million pound Netflix drama should be told at the start of every episode that some scenes are fictitious. 

The Queen’s cousin David Bowes-Lyon (pictured together in 2017), 73, has criticised an episode of The Crown, labelling it ‘fiction pretending to be fact’ 

In episode seven, set in the 1980s, Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham Carter, pictured above) stumbles across the Queen Mother’s nieces', Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, existence and is appalled by their treatment

In episode seven, set in the 1980s, Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham Carter, pictured above) stumbles across the Queen Mother’s nieces’, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, existence and is appalled by their treatment

Nerissa and Katherine were born with severe learning difficulties. 

The Netflix plot suggests they were registered as dead shortly after birth and shut away in an asylum with little contact with the Royal Family.

In episode seven, set in the 1980s, Princess Margaret stumbles across their existence and is appalled by their treatment.

But Mr Bowes-Lyon, whose father was a first cousin of the Queen Mother once removed, told The Daily Telegraph that the storyline was ‘complete fantasy’ and that he had spoken to Margaret about Nerissa and Katherine on several occasions. 

The fourth season of The Crown tells the tragic story of the Queen's 'hidden' cousins Katherine (pictured) and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, who were locked up in an asylum and neglected

The fourth season of The Crown tells the tragic story of the Queen's 'hidden' cousins Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon (pictured), who were locked up in an asylum and neglected

The fourth season of The Crown tells the tragic story of the Queen’s ‘hidden’ cousins Katherine (left) and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon (right), who were locked up in an asylum and neglected

The two sisters were the nieces of the Queen Mother; their father John Bowes-Lyon was her brother, making them first cousins to the Queen

The two sisters were the nieces of the Queen Mother; their father John Bowes-Lyon was her brother, making them first cousins to the Queen

The sisters were secretly placed in the Royal Earlswood Institution for Mental Defectives, cruelly dubbed The National Asylum for Idiots, in Redhill, Surrey (pictured) by their parents in 1941

The sisters were secretly placed in the Royal Earlswood Institution for Mental Defectives, cruelly dubbed The National Asylum for Idiots, in Redhill, Surrey (pictured) by their parents in 1941

‘She knew who they were in every respect,’ he said. 

‘It is completely wrong to say they were forgotten and certified as lunatics.’

In 1963, the family’s entry in Burke’s Peerage declared that both daughters were dead, which Mr Bowes-Lyon said he believed was simply a mistake.

Mr Bowes-Lyon also said the two women were not ‘abandoned’ and were visited ‘frequently’ at the Royal Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey.

The pair remained at the institution for the majority of their lives and, according to reports, were barely ever visited and registered as dead. Pictured: Katherine Bowes-Lyon

The pair remained at the institution for the majority of their lives and, according to reports, were barely ever visited and registered as dead. Pictured: Katherine Bowes-Lyon

John Bowes-Lyon, pictured above in 1923, was the second son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne

John Bowes-Lyon, pictured above in 1923, was the second son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne

In an interview with The Crown: The Official Podcast earlier this year, Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret, said the Crown had a ‘moral responsibility’ to remind viewers that it is a drama and not a documentary.

Speaking about the episode, she said the story about Nerissa and Katherine was ‘absolutely true’ but she didn’t know ‘whether Margaret had that sense of empathy with them and whether she didn’t know’ about her cousins previously.

Last week the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said viewers of The Crown should be told at the start of every episode that some scenes in the series were fictitious.

He said without this warning ‘a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact’.

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