Picture Supply: Netflix
In episode seven of The Crown season 4, “The Hereditary Precept,” Princess Margaret makes a horrible discovery throughout one among her remedy periods: two of her first cousins on her mom’s aspect whom she knew nothing about have been institutionalized for many years. Her discovery results in her confronting the queen mom, who not solely confirms that the cousins had been declared lifeless to guard the Windsors’ fame as soon as her husband, King George VI, ascended to the throne however even makes an attempt to justify the position she performed in having two of her brother’s daughters locked away. It is a stunning reveal that does have some foundation actually, however the true story of the queen’s cousins Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon is stuffed with unanswered questions.
Nerissa and Katherine had been the third and fifth daughters of John and Fenella Bowes-Lyon. John was Queen Elizabeth’s (the queen mom) older brother, which made the ladies her nieces. Whereas the sisters had been born with extreme studying disabilities, they didn’t spend their complete lives in an establishment. It wasn’t till Nerissa was 22 and Katherine was 15 that they had been separated from their household and dedicated to Royal Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey (pictured under). As reported by The Telegraph and seen on the present, three of their cousins on their mom’s aspect – Idonea, Rosemary, and Ethelreda – had been all despatched to the identical establishment.
What’s unclear is why the cousins had been despatched away after residing with their household for therefore a few years. The Crown collection creator Peter Morgan gives his tackle the state of affairs, suggesting that the perceived want to guard the fame of the royal household’s bloodline performed a key position within the destiny of the sisters. However this has by no means been confirmed by the royal household or anybody near the state of affairs. In actual fact, the royals have not spoken in regards to the matter in any respect for the reason that existence of Nerissa and Katherine was made public in 1987, shortly after Nerissa’s loss of life on the age of 66.
Picture Supply: Getty / PA Photos
If the queen mom did play a task in having her nieces institutionalized, the world could by no means know, however the 2011 Channel four documentary The Queen’s Hidden Cousins identified that they had been despatched away in 1941, just a bit over 5 years after King George VI took the throne. By 1963, that they had been falsely declared lifeless by one among their members of the family, which was recorded in Burke’s Peerage, a genealogical file e book for British aristocracy. Plainly by all accounts, the sisters had been utterly deserted by their household. In 1987, a hospital consultant informed Thames Information that nobody had visited Nerissa for the reason that early ’60s.
Regardless that there is not any clear reply as to why the cousins had been deserted by their household, The Crown’s depiction of them being conscious that the royals are their household is heartbreakingly correct, in accordance with Onelle Braithwaite, a former nurse at Royal Earlswood. Within the documentary, she revealed that Nerissa and Katherine all the time acknowledged the queen and queen mom after they had been on the tv. “If the Queen or Queen Mum had been ever on tv, they’d curtsey – very regal, very low,” she claimed. “Clearly there was some kind of reminiscence. It was so unhappy. Simply consider the life they may have had. They had been two beautiful sisters.”
Tellingly, even after the story broke that Katherine was nonetheless alive in 1987, there have been no experiences of her being visited by any member of the royal household. She died in 2014. So whereas The Crown is presenting a fictionalized account of the royal household’s response to the information of the cousins’ institutionalization, the collection is not overstating the tragic nature of Nerissa and Katherine’s story.