On November 15, Netflix released the fourth season of viewer favorite “The Crown”. Fans have been waiting for a whole year for a new round of royal strife, and the brand new season covers the queen’s reign in the 1980s.
The now so experienced Queen Elizabeth (94) has, to put it mildly, her hands full of problems and challenges to deal with through the turbulent decade.
Social unrest and high unemployment in Britain, relations with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Falklands War, the conflict with Northern Ireland and not least stormy relationship between Prince Charles (72) and Princess Diana is among the ingredients of the new season.
In season four, however, the creators of “The Crown” also set aside time for far more unknown aspects of Queen Elizabeth’s life. Parts of episode seven are about the head of state’s rather unknown cousins, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon.
The two sisters are the daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon – the brother of Queen Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who passed away in 2002. Although they were both the same age as the Queen, the two cousins have barely been known to the public.
Nerissa and Katherine were born in 1919 and 1926 respectively – both with severe disabilities, according to People. The sisters were admitted to a hospital for the disabled in 1941, when World War II was at its worst.
Listed as dead
Nerissa Bowes-Lyon passed away in 1986. However, her sister Katherine Bowes-Lyon had a much longer life, and died at the age of 87 in 2014.
But as early as 1963, the two sisters were mistakenly listed as dead in an edition of the acclaimed royal family guide “Burke’s Peerage”, according to Tatler.
According to the magazine, both sisters had severe disabilities, and are said to have had a mental age of six years.
In 1996, the British tabloid newspaper Daily Express wrote that the royal family should not have known of the two sisters’ existence until the nurses at Royal Earlswood Psychiatric Hospital sent a letter to the Queen’s mother in 1982.
It is not confirmed from the Royal House whether this is true, but the “discovery” of Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon is depicted in a scene in “The Crown”:
‘Locked in and neglected. They are your nieces – the daughters of your favorite brother “, Princess Margaret shouts to the queen mother after the royal family has learned of the two sisters’ sad fate.
The princess continues her power ointment against the queen mother and accuses the family of having “hidden away” the two women.
“Do not be so naive. We had no choice “, the queen mother answers.
This indicates that the British royal family themselves must have played a role in keeping Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon away from the psychiatric hospital – but as mentioned, these are allegations that have not been confirmed.
It was in 1941 that the two sisters were admitted to the Royal Earlswood Psychiatric Hospital in Surrey, along with three other cousins who were also related to the Queen, according to People.
For many years there have been rumors that the queen’s relatives were patients at the hospital in question, but it was not until 1987 that the public learned about the sisters’ fates – in an article in the major newspaper The Sun, writes People.
The documentary “The Queen’s Hidden Cousins” from 2011 got to know more about Katherine and Nerissa’s lives. Then it turned out that Nerissa must have made incomprehensible noises all the time, and that she was only able to say a very few words.
Sister Katherine is also said to have been virtually without language, according to People. However, the siblings should never have forgotten their royal roots.
– If the queen or queen mother was on TV, they said no, very low and royal. It was obviously a kind of memory there, said nurse Onelle Braithwaite in the documentary.
She also said that the sisters were very loving, and that they largely used hands and strange sounds to communicate with others.
– Today, they would most likely receive language therapy, so they could communicate much better. They understood much more than you thought, says Braithwaite in the documentary.
– Not stowed away
In “The Crown” you also get to see a scene where the two sisters watch excitedly on TV – where they see their cousin Queen Elizabeth, played by Olivia Colman. However, it is not known if this happened in reality.
What is certain, however, is that Nerissa Bowes-Lyon passed away on January 22, 1986, at the age of 66. She had then lived under the care of others for over 40 years.
According to Tatler, the hospital staff were the only ones who attended the funeral. As mentioned, Katherine passed away in 2014, more specifically on 23 February. She turned 87 and is now resting by her sister’s side in the Redhill Cemetery in Surrey.
The documentary from 2011 stated that it was not known that the sisters had ever received a visit from the royal family at the psychiatric hospital.
After the fate of the two sisters became known to the public in 1987, the Queen’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson told the BBC that the royal family did not try to hide the sisters, and that many in the family had visited them, according to Los Angeles Times.
Anson also told The Telegraph in 2014 that Queen Elizabeth is said to have been hurt that the royal family was portrayed so coldly in the documentary. She also stated that the royal family should always have cared about Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon.
Nevertheless, there has never been a statement from Buckingham Palace about Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, except for a brief comment after The Sun’s article in 1987. At the time, the castle stated that this was “the Bowes-Lyon family affair” and that the royal family did not would say something about the case, according to Tatler.
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