"Dear Mrs. Kennedy," is the season's eighth episode, and its juiciest. The idea that Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour), two twentieth century female icons not only met, but actively disliked each other, is almost too good a story to be true. And yet, it is — kind of.
The show sets up their conflict early on, with Elizabeth feeling insecure at the prospect of every man in her vicinity, including her husband, drooling over the beautiful and accomplished First Lady. And though the two end up bonding over their discomfort with some of the responsibilities of public life, any kind of truce is shattered when it gets back to Elizabeth that Jackie has been trash talking her around town, calling her “a middle-aged woman so incurious, unintelligent, and unremarkable that Britain’s new reduced place in the world was not a surprise but an inevitability," and publicly snubbing the palace furniture. Ouch.
That part, though very much embellished, is rooted in truth. The Kennedys did actually come to Buckingham Palace in July 1961, and the meeting was somewhat fraught with drama. According to Vanity Fair, there is documented evidence, courtesy of photographer and friend of the royal family Cecil Beaton, that Jackie Kennedy "was unimpressed by the palace furnishings and by the Queen’s dress and hairstyle.”
The team of researchers who work to make sure that The Crown stays true to the source material apparently meticulously researched the meeting. If you look at the outfits for example, you'll see that the costumes on The Crown are an almost-exact match to their real-life counterparts.
"We know that it was uneasy to start with, and they came to respect each other," Robert Lacey, a historical consultant on the show and author of The Crown: The Official Companion, told Refinery29. "Our research indicated the queen felt quite intimidated because [Jackie] was the byword for elegance, and the queen, with her love of country tweeds, was the opposite. But with Jackie Kennedy, the queen came to realise that she shouldn't be intimidated, that she could match her in her own way. I think it's one of her greatest achievements — this is a woman who always said that she wanted to live in the country with horses and dogs. Whenever you see her off-duty, you can see what her natural taste is."
Another incident, which isn't actually shown on The Crown, had Jackie feeling snubbed because the queen was reluctant to invite Jackie's sister and brother-in-law, both of whom had been divorced in the past, to the dinner. Eventually, they were allowed to come, but at the expense of Princess Margaret and Princess Marina (their aunt), whom Jackie had specifically requested to meet. “The queen had her revenge,” the First Lady allegedly told Gore Vidal. “No Margaret, no Marina, no one except every Commonwealth minister of agriculture they could find.”
But perhaps the most shocking part of all this drama comes later, when, wracked with guilt over her harsh words, Jackie makes a private visit to the Windsor to tell the queen her side of the story. Over tea, she blames her loose lips on her struggle with postpartum depression, the stress over her husband's many infidelities, and their alleged heavy drug use.
Once again, The Crown takes the facts and runs with them, creating a slightly more dramatic narrative. Jackie did pay the queen a visit without Jack in 1962, and the Kennedys had a connection to Max Jacobson, otherwise known as "Dr. Feelgood," who made a name for himself during the late 1950s and 1960s for administering so-called booster shots to high profile people and celebrities. Known as an "IV Special," his shots were less vitamin-based than a mix of amphetamines designed to pep up the recipient. Other famous clients included Truman Capote, Ingrid Bergman, and Marilyn Monroe.
JFK, who had been diagnosed with Addison's Disease in 1947 and suffered from chronic back pain, allegedly called on Jacobson to help him regain stamina before big events. (Though we do know that the two knew each other, whether or not Kennedy was an actual patient of Jacobson's is up for debate.) According to New York Magazine's account of their relationship, White House gate logs have records of Jacobson visiting "more than 30 times in 1961 and 1962, to see both the president and the First Lady."
Still, the exact scenario in which Jackie would have shaded the queen in a moment of meth-fueled madness remains pure speculation on the part of Peter Morgan, the series creator and writer. But you have to admit, it makes for some damn good TV.
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