The third season of “The Crown” takes up the early days of the prince’s adulthood.
“Prince Charles,” the Telegraph said, “is shown as being a very modern prince, thwarted in his affections for Camilla [Parker-Bowles] by an unfeeling family, and desperate to make the Windsors more in touch with their subjects — something that, in real life, has been credited to his sons, William and Harry.”
But real life, it turns out, has a knack for being more complicated — and factual — than streaming life. While “The Crown” accurately depicts many of the historical events that drive the show’s plots, the actions of the royals are often enhanced for drama.
This is especially true for Charles, who becomes a central focus of the show’s third season in episode six, when he is sent to Wales to learn Welsh at Aberystwyth University before his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969.
In an early scene, Charles is confronted by the entire royal family in what appears to be an intervention. Charles is told he must go to Wales to ease some nationalist nastiness emerging there.
Charles is sad. He’s studying at Cambridge and loves it, especially the theater.
“Not to mention that I’ve just been cast in a wonderful role,” adds the prince, played by Josh O’Connor.
Queen Elizabeth II says, “Good, that’s settled then.”
She picks up her purse, calls along her corgis, and leaves Charles sitting there very, very sad. It is an absolutely brutal scene that still manages to inspire sympathy for the prince even though he is receiving the bad news inside a palace.
Fact: This didn’t happen.
In a tradition dating to the 1300s, the future of king of England has always received the title of Prince of Wales. “In truth,” wrote Hugo Vickers, a London biographer and journalist, “the Aberystwyth decision had been taken two years before by George Thomas, Secretary of State for Wales.”
On the show, Charles is shown pulling into a town in a chauffeured limousine. Not true: He drove himself there in a sports car.
On the show, Charles is greeted with heckling. This is true. The Welsh were not exactly happy to see him. “King Charles,” a new biography by the royal historian Robert Jobson, revisits those days, unearthing a radio interview from that time in which Charles said:
It would be unnatural, I think, if one didn’t feel any apprehension about it. One always wonders what’s going to happen…As long as I don’t get covered in too much egg and tomato I’ll be all right. But I don’t blame people demonstrating like that. They’ve never seen me before. They don’t know what I’m like. I’ve hardly been to Wales, and you can’t really expect people to be overzealous about the fact of having a so-called English prince to come amongst them.
It is also true, as depicted on the show, that Tedi Millward, his professor at Aberystwyth, was a Welsh nationalist who resented the royal family. But it is not true that the professor was forced into teaching him. Vickers, writing in the Times of London, quoted Millward remembering his pupil fondly years later:
He had a one-on-one tutorial with me once a week. He was eager, and did a lot of talking. By the end, his accent was quite good. Toward the end of his term, he said good morning — ‘bore da’ — to a woman at college; she turned to him and said, ‘I don’t speak Welsh!’
Perhaps the greatest historical inaccuracy of this episode is the depiction of Charles’s investiture. On the show, Charles is shown conspiring with his professor to introduce highly sympathetic ideas toward Wales in his speech. He gives the speech in Welsh, and his parents sit there listening none the wiser.
But the speech was given in English and Welsh, and according to Vickers, it was “in no way provocative and certainly not political.”
There is one scene in the episode that is quite brutally true. When Charles returned home from Aberystwyth, there really was nobody at Windsor Castle to greet him.
“His father and sister had gone to bed, and his mother was in London with a cold,” Vickers wrote. “So he retreated to his room to write up his diary.”