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.’

KING GEORGE VI PRINCESS MARGARET QUEEN MOTHER & PRINCESS ELIZABETH BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY

(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 Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with five years experience working in digital publishing, ranging from book publishing to magazines. She currently looks after all things Lifestyle for Woman&Home, GoodToKnow and My Imperfect Life.


Before she joined Future Publishing, Emma graduated from the University of Warwick with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies. After leaving education, she started out her publishing career in the world of books, working as a Publisher for an independent digital publisher specializing in back-list and debut commercial fiction novels. With a huge book list and a passion for bringing the best stories to the broadest audience possible, Emma filled her spare time with reading the latest best-sellers and catching up on hit adaptations.


In 2017 she joined TI Media as a fiction writing coordinator on Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly Fiction as part of the features team. From here, she used her love of books, working to bring short stories to our dedicated readers and began writing for the books pages of Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman&Home, as well as online features ranging from genre round-ups to travel pieces for womanandhome.com. 


After honing her skills, Emma branched out online in 2020 when Future gave her the opportunity to focus on digital-first. When she’s not writing about the next big lifestyle trend, she enjoys cooking, long walks and watching as many crime dramas as she can!