Royals ‘frustrated’ by Crown storyline on Queen’s ‘abandoned’ disabled cousins, says relative of Princess Margaret


THE Royal family are “frustrated” at The Crown’s latest series which suggests they “abandoned” the Queen’s disabled cousins, Princess Margaret’s relative has revealed. 

David Bowes-Lyon, 73, has spoken out against the portrayal of Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon in the hit Netflix series, branding the drama as “fiction pretending to be fact”. 

Helena Bonham Carter plays Princess Margaret in The Crown
David Bowes Lyon has said Katherine Bowes Lyon and her sister Nerissa were not abandoned by the royal family

Nerissa Bowes Lyon was the Queen Mother’s niece

In series 4 of The Crown, Princess Margaret – played by Helena Bonham Carter – discovers to her shock that her two cousins are locked away in an institution due to their learning disabilities. 

The drama suggests Princess Margaret didn’t know about her cousins’ existence and that the Queen believed they died young.

Finding out about the cousins after a trip to a therapist, the show follows Princess Margaret as she unravels her cousins’ fate. 

The Crown then depicts the Princess flying into a rage at the Queen Mother when she discovers the sisters’ plight.

Yelling at the Queen Mother, she says: “Locked up and neglected. They’re your nieces — daughters of your favourite brother.

“It’s wicked and it’s cold-hearted and it’s cruel and it’s entirely in keeping with the ruthlessness which I myself have experienced in this family.”

But now David Bowes-Lyon, a relative of the Queen and Princess Margaret, has challenged the drama’s portrayal of events. 

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Bowes-Lyon said the Royal family were “frustrated” at the way the drama has chosen to depict the cousins’ plight. 

Nerissa Bowes Lyon is shown here with her mother and younger sister Anne

Princess Margaret’s relative said the Queen’s sister knew about her cousins and that they spoke about them together

David Bowed Lyon said Katherine and her sister were visited at The Royal Earlswood Hospital
The Royal family are said to be “frustrated” at The Crown’s depiction of events

He said: “I’m probably the only member of the family who could publicly say anything about this.

“I wouldn’t say there is upset in the family, but I think people are frustrated and would like the record put straight.”

Mr Bowes Lyon said he had spoken to Princess Margaret about Nerissa and Katherine a number of times.

He added: “She knew who they were in every respect, as you would any cousin.

“She knew exactly who they were and what had happened. It is completely wrong to say they were forgotten and certified as lunatics.”

Nerissa was born in 1919 and younger sister Katherine in 1926, both daughters of minor aristocrat John Bowes-Lyon, the brother of Elizabeth, later the Queen Mum.

The siblings were born with severe developmental disabilities and neither ever learnt to talk. 

They were moved to Royal Earlswood Institution for Mental Defectives in Redhill, Surrey, after their learning difficulties became apparent. 

And there they stayed for most of their lives, until Nerissa’s death aged 66 in 1986 and Katherine’s aged 87 six years ago.

But Mr Bowes-Lyons – whose dad was the Queen Mother’s first cousin once removed – said the sisters weren’t “abandoned” at the institute and that Nerissa and Katherine were visited “frequently”. 

He also said the sisters had dementia and could not recognise people. 

Mr Bowes Lyon told The Telegraph both his cousin, Lady Elizabeth Shakerley – who died a few weeks ago – and his father Maj Gen James Bowes-Lyon confirmed to him that the sisters were visited. 

The royal relative’s remarks come amid growing pressure on The Crown to tell viewers it is a work of fiction, not historical fact.

Helena Bonham Carter – who plays Princess Margaret in the series – has said the show has a “duty” to tell viewers the series is fiction. 

Ms Bonham Carter said The Crown had a “moral responsibility” to make sure fans know it’s not entirely factual. 

The star insisted there must be a separation “between our version” and the “real version”. 

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, have both urged Netflix to place a warning at the beginning of each episode to remind viewers the drama is a work of fiction.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Mr Dowden said:  “It’s a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that.

“Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

Mr Bowes Lyon said it was wrong to say Princess Margaret didn’t know about her cousins

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