The Crown Netflix poster season 1 one Queen Elizabeth II

The Crown: The Official Companion

Volume 1: Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen, 1947-1955

The Crown, which launched its first season in November 2016, is such a clever melding of fact and fiction that viewers had a hard time separating one from the other in the drama about Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. Such is the worldwide interest that a companion book to the Netflix blockbuster is all but essential reading. As The Crown’s creator-writer Peter Morgan posits in his foreword, “What is real? And what is imagined? What is truth, and what is fiction? What happened? What did not? It’s become clear that many viewers, while watching The Crown, did so while scrolling through the pages of Wikipedia, searching for answers to these questions.”

So the series’s creators turned to an authority on all things Elizabethan: historian and biographer Robert Lacey. His own 1977 biography of Queen Elizabeth II, Majesty, is a classic. It both humanized an elusive monarch who has never granted an interview and also carefully placed her and her role as sovereign within the socio-political structure of Britain and the world.

The Crown Netflix companion book Robert Lacey Queen Elizabeth II He’s done the same with the fictional monarch of The Crown, as well as her family and friends, in a lively, interesting and, most importantly, informative companion book. By breaking history into bite-sized bits, he allows readers to dip into history at will, or as they watch and re-watch the first season. Lacey provides enough details and accuracy to interest the casual reader, without boring them with stodgy writing or an avalanche of footnotes. For instance, the death of King George VI in 1952 is an eight-page section focused around Martin Charteris, Elizabeth’s then-private secretary. Amid real photos of the new Queen in mourning for her father, as well as an image of the official London Gazette, which documented her accession council, are pictures from that episode in the series.

The Crown as fact-based fiction

“You are watching a historical drama, dear reader, not a history documentary,” he gently reminds readers in his first section—“Wolferton splash: love and marriage”—as he gently teases what parts of the story of Princess Elizabeth falling for a dashing, handsome prince named Philp are backed by facts, and which come from Peter Morgan’s imagination. “The Crown is a work of creative fiction that has been inspired by the wisdom and spirit of real events.”

The illustration-rich companion book helpfully offers section after section of “compare and contrast” photos allowing readers to see real events or people, next to how they are portrayed in the drama. It’s those photos that show the extraordinary attention to detail that went into the series.

For those wanting to know even more about the Queen, and her tumultuous reign, Lacey offers an extensive list of recommended readings at the back of the book, headlined by the seven major biographies of the Queen during her reign (starting with Lacey’s own Majesty, and ending with a trio of books published in 2012, including Our Queen, Robert Hardman’s fascinating inside view of the royal household and its sovereign.)

Even royal watchers who have extensive reference collections will find Robert Lacey’s companion book to The Crown a worthy addition to their crowded bookshelves.