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Episode 7 of The Crown Season 4, titled « The Hereditary Principle, » is a heartbreaking and perplexing hour that focuses on Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) as she unravels a dark family secret. During a session with her therapist, she discovers that she and Queen Elizabeth have two cousins who are hidden from them – and from everyone.
Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, believed to be dead, have been in a psychiatric unit since the early 1940s. The sisters are aware and proud of their royal connection – they keep photos of Elizabeth and Margaret next to their beds, and every time the royal family appears on television they stand and curtsey. But as becomes clear in the episode, Nerissa and Katherine have almost no visitors and have been essentially abandoned by the royals.
Read on for an introduction to the fact vs.. . Fiction of this devastating true story.
Nerissa and Katherine are two of the daughters of John Bowes-Lyon, the brother of Queen Mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. This makes them Elizabeth and Margaret’s first cousins.
Nerissa and Katherine were born in 1919 and. Born in 1926 seven years apart. Both had severe developmental disorders from birth and never learned to speak. Their exact diagnosis is not clear because they were simply described as « idiots » in the cruel and lazy medical language of the era. « In 1941, when they were only 22 and 15 years old, the sisters were transferred to the Royal Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, where they would stay for the rest of their lives.
Yes. In 1987, The Sun revealed the existence of the Cousins in an article full of terrible detail that made the royals appear in a less than flattering light. The story explained how the cousins were secretly taken to the Royal Earlswood Mental Hospital in 1941, and also revealed that the family had reported them dead in 1963. This coincides with the depiction of the Crown, in which both Elizabeth and Margaret believe the cousins are dead long before they discover the truth.
The « false death », however, was more complicated than it seemed. The family reported the death of their cousins to Burke’s Peerage, which Vogue called the « Who’s Who of the British Aristocracy ». « According to SurreyLive, Burke claimed there was no attempt to cover up the existence of the cousins and said the mistake was caused by a family member’s mistake in filling out the forms sent.
It doesn’t seem like that. The Telegraph reported that “The Sisters of Bowes-Lyon appear to have been completely abandoned by the royal family, save for the £ 125 a year they paid Earlswood. “In 1987, a representative from the hospital said that, as far as I know, the last time they were visited by immediate relatives was in the early 1960s. ”
The Crown suggests that the Queen Mother has always known the existence of the cousins and justifies the decision to hide them. On the show, Margaret confronts her mother, appalled by the cruelty and deception. « My family, the Bowes-Lyons, went from underage Scottish aristocrats to a direct bloodline to the Crown, which resulted in my brother’s children paying a terrible price, » the Queen Mother replies. “Their illness, idiocy and stupidity would lead people to question the integrity of the bloodline. Can you imagine the headlines when they come out? “
In real life, according to The Daily Express (via SurreyLive), it wasn’t until 1982 that the Queen Mother found out that Nerissa and Katherine were at Royal Earlswood’s when she received a letter from the « League of Friends of the Hospital ». The Express also reported that the Queen Mother sent a four-digit sum of money so that the cousins could receive birthday and Christmas presents annually. ”
Nerissa died in 1986 at the age of 67, a year before her existence became public. Since the sisters remained in hiding at the time, Nerissa’s funeral was only attended by hospital staff, according to The Telegraph. But when the story broke in 1987, people from all over the UK sent Katherine flowers.
Katherine was taken to a nearby nursing home when the Royal Earlswood Hospital closed in 1997. She lived until 2014 before passing away at the age of 87.
The crown, Queen Elizabeth II. , Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, British Royal Family, Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14. Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, John Bowes-Lyon, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
World News – CA – The heartbreaking true story of the Queen’s cousins, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon
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