Queen’s cousin criticises The Crown’s depiction of the Queen Mother’s nieces in shocking plotline

David Bowes-Lyon has claimed that it is 'fiction pretending to be fact'

Queen Mother With Queen And Princess Margaret At Badminton
(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

The Queen’s cousin, David Bowes-Lyon has spoken out about The Crown’s depiction of the Queen Mother’s nieces Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon.

David Bowes-Lyon has revealed that the plotline concerning these royal cousins has meant "people are frustrated" in the family. Bowes-Lyon went on to further criticise the second episode of The Crown Season 4’s depiction of Nerissa and Katherine, reportedly labelling it 'fiction pretending to be fact'. 

This comes after the episode presented a rather shocking storyline in which the sisters, who were born with severe learning difficulties, were shown as being shut away from royal life. 

Already in recent weeks several high profile individuals including Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer and the culture secretary Oliver Dowden have supported the suggestion that Netflix add a “warning” ahead of each episode reminding viewers it is a work of fiction. 

Now David Bowes-Lyon has also spoken out to contest the hit drama’s version of events.  

How did The Crown depict the lives of the Queen’s cousins?

In The Crown, the series suggests that both Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon were registered as dead shortly after birth. 

In the show, the pair were then shut away in an asylum where they then had little contact with the Royal Family going forwards.

Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret in Netflix's The Crown

(Image credit: Des Willie/Netflix)

In episode 7, which by then has reached the 1980s, Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham Carter) discovers their existence and is appalled at how they were treated. She then confronts the Queen Mother angrily.

How does David Bowes-Lyon dispute the events shown in The Crown?

David Bowes-Lyon, whose father was a first cousin once removed of the Queen Mother, has spoken out against this depiction. Speaking to the Telegraph, he reportedly revealed that the Royal Family "would like the record put straight". 

He alleged that he had spoken to Princess Margaret about Nerissa and Katherine on several occasions. Bowes-Lyon explained: 'She knew who they were in every respect.’


(Image credit: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

He added that: “It is completely wrong to say they were forgotten and certified as lunatics.” According to Mr Bowes-Lyon, the sisters were not ‘abandoned’ and were visited ‘frequently’ at the Royal Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey.

Though the family’s entry in the 1963 edition of Burke’s Peerage supposedly declared both daughters were dead, Mr Bowes-Lyon allegedly said he believed this was a mistake.

What happened to the Queen’s cousins, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon?

Nerissa passed away in 1986 and the story of the two sisters came to light shortly afterwards. Journalists reportedly discovered she was buried in a grave marked only with a plastic name-tag and a serial number. 

Following this scandalous revelation, a gravestone was provided for Nerissa. Her sister Katherine later died in 2014 aged 87. 

Their passing is something that is sure to have been a source of great pain for the Royal Family. 

Netflix’s depiction of Nerissa and Katherine’s lives and Princess Margaret’s furious discovery of their situation has got viewers wondering more and more what really happened.

David Bowes-Lyon’s criticism of the "fiction" storyline might once more raise questions about The Crown’s blend use of dramatic license.

It may not be long before the series does have a fictionalisation “warning” before each episode.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!