WARNING: Spoilers ahead
After exploring the turbulent childhood of Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies), Duke of Edinburgh, in seasons one and two, the third season of The Crown delves deeper into the extraordinary life of Philip’s mother, Princess Alice.
Episode four, “Bubbikins”, includes a scene which depicts Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice (played by Jane Lapotaire), being interviewed by a Guardian journalist named John Armstrong.
Armstrong then published a moving piece about Princess Alice’s life and how she faced many trials and tribulations but rose above it all.
In the episode the piece led to positive publicity for the monarchy, following a failed BBC documentary that the Queen had agreed to in an effort to improve public perception.
Only, the Princess Alice interview didn’t actually happen.
The episode sees the elderly royal brought to England from Greece to live in Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) despite objections from Prince Philip.
Princess Alice was there but kept out of sight while the BBC filmed the infamous, since-buried documentary about the royal family, which had been organised by the Duke of Edinburgh.
Although the documentary failed and the Queen banned it from being aired again, Armstrong’s article about Princess Alice succeeded.
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Armstrong had previously been critical of the monarchy after Philip had complained about the royal family deserving a pay rise, and had penned damning review of the documentary — the Princess Alice piece was a shift in mood.
Her story — in which she tells him about being institutionalised under the treatment of Sigmund Freud and sheltering Jewish refugees during the Holocaust — showed a different side to the British monarchy.
However, Armstrong appears to be a fictional character created for the show by creator Peter Morgan.
According to The Timesthere was no John Armstrong, and even were he to have existed, he would not have written a damning front-page Guardian review of the documentary as shown in the episode.
At the time, the paper’s TV reviewer, Stanley Reynolds, reportedly noted that Her Majesty was “a delightful surprise”.
There is also evidence to suggest Princess Alice wouldn’t have spoken to the press.
According to royal biographer and historian Hugo Vickers’ 2001 book Alice: Princess Andrew Of Greece, she was a deeply private person.
It is true, however, that Princess Alice lived a remarkable life.
Princess Alice of Battenberg was born at Windsor Castle on February 25, 1885. Her mother was Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, and her father was Prince Louis of Battenberg.
She was deaf from birth but could speak three languages from lip-reading, and served as a military nurse during World War I.
In 1930, after suffering a severe nervous breakdown, Princess Alice was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to an asylum run by protégés of Sigmund Freud.
Following her treatment, she lived a nomadic life, before settling in Athens where she worked with the Red Cross, organised soup kitchens for starving Athenians, and smuggled medical supplies into Greece from Sweden.
In 1943, she opened her door to a Jewish widow and her two children, hiding them in her home during the war, claiming she could not understand the Gestapo due to her deafness when they questioned her.
In the late 1940s, Princess Alice became a nun.
She died at Buckingham Palace in 1969, leaving no possessions as she had given everything she owned to the poor.
The episode’s title “Bubbikins”, was her nickname for Philip.