On November 15, Netflix released the fourth season of “The Crown” viewer favorite. Fans have waited a whole year for a new chapter of royal strife, and a new season includes the reign of the queen in the 1980s.
The now highly experienced Queen Elizabeth (94) has, to put it mildly, her hands full of problems and challenges to deal with through a turbulent decade.
High social unrest and unemployment in Britain, relations with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Falklands War, the conflict with Northern Ireland and at least the stormy relationship between Prince Charles (72) and Princess Diana are among the elements of the new season.
However, in season four, the creators of “The Crown” also set aside time for a much lesser known aspect of Queen Elizabeth’s life. Part of episode seven is about the somewhat unknown head of state cousins Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon.
The two sisters are daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon – brother of Queen Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who died in 2002. Although they are both the same age as the Queen, the two cousins are almost unknown to the public.
Nerissa and Katherine were born in 1919 and 1926, respectively – both have severe disabilities, according to People. The sisters were admitted to the hospital for the disabled in 1941, when World War II was worst.
Listed as dead
Nerissa Bowes-Lyon passed away in 1986. However, her sister Katherine Bowes-Lyon had a longer life, and died at the age of 87 in 2014.
But in early 1963, the two sisters were falsely listed as dead in the edition of the infamous “Burke’s Peerage” royal family guide, according to Tatler.
According to the magazine, the two brothers have severe disabilities, and are said to have a mental age of six.
In 1996, the British tabloid newspaper Daily Express wrote that the royal family was not aware of the sisters’ whereabouts until nurses at Royal Earlswood Mental Hospital sent a letter to the Queen’s mother in 1982.
There is no confirmation from the Royal House whether this is true, but Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon’s “discovery” is depicted in a scene in “The Crown”:
‘Locked and ignored. They are your nephews – the daughters of your beloved brother “, Princess Margaret yelled at the queen mother after the royal family learned of the sisters’ sad fate.
The princess continues her ointment of strength against the queen mother and accuses the family of “hiding” the two women.
“Don’t be so naive. We have no choice “, the queen mother replied.
This suggests that the British royal family itself must have played a role in keeping Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon away from the asylum – but as mentioned, these are unconfirmed allegations.
In 1941, the two sisters were admitted to the Royal Earlswood Mental Hospital in Surrey, along with three other cousins who are also related to the Queen, according to People.
For years there were rumors that the queen’s relatives were patients at the hospital, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the public learned about the fate of the sisters – in an article in the main newspaper The Sun, wrote People.
The 2011 documentary “The Queen’s Hidden Cousins” finds out more about the lives of Katherine and Nerissa. Then it turned out that Nerissa must have been making incomprehensible sounds all the time, and she could only say a few words.
Sister Katherine is also said to be almost languageless, according to People. However, siblings should never forget their royal roots.
– If the queen or queen mother is on TV, they say no, very lowly and aristocratic. It was definitely some kind of memory there, says nurse Onelle Braithwaite in the documentary.
She also said that the sisters are very affectionate, and that they mostly use their hands and strange voices to communicate with other people.
– At this time, they will most likely receive language therapy, so that they can communicate better. They understand more than you think, says Braithwaite in the documentary.
– Not saved
In “The Crown” you can also see the scene where the two sisters watch eagerly on TV – where they see their cousin Queen Elizabeth, played by Olivia Colman. However, it is unknown if this really happened.
To be sure, Nerissa Bowes-Lyon died on January 22, 1986, at the age of 66. He then lived under the care of others for over 40 years.
According to Tatler, only hospital staff attended the funeral. As mentioned, Katherine died in 2014, to be more precise on February 23. She is 87 years old and now resting by her sister’s side at Redhill Cemetery in Surrey.
A 2011 documentary stated that it was not known that the sisters had ever received visits from the royal family in a mental hospital.
After the sisters’ fate became public in 1987, Queen Elizabeth Anson’s cousin told the BBC that the royal family was not trying to hide the sister and many family members had visited them, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Anson also told The Telegraph in 2014 that Queen Elizabeth was said to have been injured because the royal family was depicted so coldly in the documentary. He also stated that the royal family should always pay attention to Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon.
However, there was never a statement from Buckingham Palace regarding Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, except for a brief commentary following The Sun’s 1987 article. At the time, the castle stated that this was a “Bowes-Lyon family affair” and that the royal family will say something about this case, according to Tatler.
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