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The Crown: Were the Queen’s cousins really locked away in an asylum?

What really happened to The Queen's cousins?

The Crown stunned viewers in its latest series when The Queen’s cousins were shown to be locked away in an asylum.

But how true is this? And did The Queen really never visit her cousins?

Here we explore the the truth behind the storyline portrayed in Netflix The Crown series four.

What happened to The Queen’s cousins in The Crown?

the queen's cousins asylum
Actress Trudie Emery as Katherine Bowes-Lyon in The Crown (Credit: Netflix)

In series four of The Crown, Princess Margaret makes the startling discovery that she has several cousins that are institutionalised.

When she and her sister, The Queen, examine the official family records, Burke’s Peerage, both cousins are declared dead.

However, Princess Margaret’s sends her confidant and young priest, Derek Jennings on a mission.

Read more: Buckingham Palace confirms where The Queen is spending Christmas

During which Derek visits an asylum in Surrey, where he meets her ‘dead’ cousins in the flesh.

He also discovers that there are also three additional cousins living there as well.

An enraged Princess Margaret confronts The Queen Mother, only to be told that it was essential to ‘hide’ their existence for the longevity of The Crown.

She argues that it could be catastrophic if  the public were to know that there were mentally disabled people in the Royal Family. As the entire concept of ‘Royal blood’ and destiny could come into question.

Were the Queen’s cousins really locked away?

the queen's cousins netflix
A birthday celebration at the asylum is shown on The Crown (Credit: Netflix)

Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon were first cousins of The Queen. They were the niece and nephew of The Queen Mother.

Their exact disabilities remain unconfirmed. Unfortunately, at the time they were diagnosed as ‘imbeciles’. And they were described as having the mental capacity of six-year-old children.

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They lived with their parents, John (The Queen’s Mother’s older brother) and Fenella Bowes-Lyon, until they were 22 and 15-years-old.

Then Nerissa and Katherine were sent to live at Royal Earlswood Hospital, in Redhill, Surrey.

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Did The Queen really not know of her cousins existence? (Credit: SplashNews)

This was an institution for the mentally disabled. There are no official records from the hospital that indicate they were ever visited by any members of their family.

A 2011 Channel 4 documentary on the sisters claimed that they never received gifts or cards from their family.

The documentary also interviewed past employees of the hospital. They claimed that the care provided was minimal, and it was certainly not a luxurious facility.

Nerissa died at the age of 66 in 1986. Only hospital staff attended her funeral. Catherine died aged 87 in 2014. She spent a total of 55 years at the Redhill hospital.

Has The Royal Family addressed the Queen’s cousins storyline in The Crown?

The Queen has not formerly commented on any aspect of The Crown.

However, one of her cousins, has denounced the show’s portrayal of Catherine and Nerissa.

Cousin to The Queen, David Bowes-Lyon claims that both he and The Queen were very much aware of their cousins existence.

And they certainly were not a secret kept from the family.

He told The Telegraph that the episode’s episode was a “complete fantasy”.

Before adding: “She [The Queen] knew who they were in every respect.

“It is completely wrong to say they were forgotten and certified as lunatics.”

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