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There aren’t many “royals, they’re just like us” moments in The Crown, especially in season 3. Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret travels to the White House to woo President Johnson so he’ll give the U.K. a bailout. Prince Philip complains on live television that the royal family will have to sell their yachts in order to comply with the royal budget. The only scenes in the series remotely relatable to commoners are those surrounding family: uncomfortable conversations, revelations, and competition between sisters.
Episode 9, “Imbroglio,” sees Lord Mountbatten (“Uncle Dickie,” played by Charles Dance) learning from Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) that his affections for Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell) are far more serious than anyone in the family realized. Mountbatten immediately springs to action and meets with the Queen Mother (Marion Bailey). The two determine Camilla is not suitable for Charles and devise a plan to get her married off to her former boyfriend, Andrew Parker Bowles. Charles is sent on a military post overseas, and Camilla is arranged to marry Parker Bowles, which, in real life, she did in July 1973.
This all sounds very Shakespearean and makes for a really good episode, but would the Queen Mother really meddle in her grandson’s relationship like that? It’s more believable that the famously outspoken and sometimes crude Prince Philip might say something like “spare me” when informed of his children’s romantic antics. Sally Bedell Smith, author of the 2017 book Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, tells ELLE.com that it’s not likely the Queen Mother stepped in at all. In fact, this big family team-up probably didn’t happen.
Charles likely did not make a big case about his relationship with Camilla, Smith says—at least to the point where his grandmother or mother would have been concerned about an impending marriage. “Even though Charles was ‘powerfully attracted’ to the woman he considered ‘the most intimate friendship’ of his life, he would not have talked to his mother about Camilla unless he was ready to propose marriage—which he was not,” Smith says.
There was likely no meeting between the Queen Mother and Lord Mountbatten about their shared concerns about the match, Smith says. Despite what The Crown shows, the Queen Mother and Uncle Dickie were not very close, and Smith adds that the big meeting of the minds between the Queen Mother and the Shand and Parker Bowles family did not happen either.
Though Charles was not ready to settle down in those early years, his marrying Camilla would have still presented a problem. As Patricia Mountbatten, daughter of Lord Mountbatten, told Smith in her book, Camilla had too much of a dating history to be deemed appropriate at the time. Patricia said, “you didn’t want a past that hung about.”
Smith tells ELLE Charles “immediately fell in love” with Camilla when he met her in the early 70s. She wrote in her book that Charles remained focused so focused on Camilla that on the eve of his wedding to Princess Diana in 1981, he cried. That’s surely a detail to look out for in season 4.
The Crown season 3 is streaming on Netflix now.