To mark the the release of Season Four of Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ we thought we’d take a look at how some of the key moments from the season were reported on in the newspapers from the time.
So read on to discover how the press reported Margaret Thatcher’s landmark 1979 election victory, how the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was depicted, and also how the infamous Buckingham Palace break-in was covered in the press of the day.
Margaret Thatcher’s Election Victory
Season Four of The Crown is set to feature Margaret Thatcher’s decisive 1979 election victory as she swept to power to become Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher will be played by Gillian Anderson, noted for her roles in The X-Files and The Fall.
One day after the election, 4 May 1979, the front page headline of the Aberdeen Evening Express reads simply – ‘First Lady!‘ Elsewhere, Mrs Thatcher is simply referred to as ‘Maggie,’ the Liverpool Echo‘s headline again just consisting of two words – ‘It’s Maggie!’
TIP: To find results from a particular day in history, e.g. 4 May 1979, set both the ‘From’ and ‘To’ Publication Date date fields to the same date in the Advanced Search tool. You can then select ‘Front page article only’ in the Article Type option, to bring you the front page news from that day.
Meanwhile the Daily Mirror opted for three words on their front page – ‘Maggie’s Made It!’ – whilst the Coventry Evening Telegraph proclaims ‘Maggie at the Helm,’ featuring a picture of the new Prime Minister at a ship’s wheel, writing how ‘Britain today gave Margaret Thatcher the go-ahead to steer Britain into the 1980s.’
The Belfast Telegraph adopts a slightly more formal tone with its headline of ‘Thatcher Has the No. 10 Key.’ It reports, as did many newspapers of the day, on how the new premiere was ‘smiling broadly’ amongst a ‘huge crush of journalists.’ It also features a quote from Thatcher herself on the momentous news:
I am just aware of the very great responsibility – but it is very exciting. Somehow one is very calm about it. It needs that calm.
The Assassination of Lord Mountbatten
Later that same year, an event also set to feature in Season Four of The Crown, Lord Louis Mountbatten, uncle of Prince Philip and a cousin of the Queen, was assassinated in Ireland. As he returned from a fishing trip to Mullaghmore Harbour, County Sligo, a bomb was detonated by the Provisional IRA, killing Mountbatten and three others aboard.
The tragic news hit the headlines that same day – 27 August 1979. The Belfast Telegraph’s headline runs – ‘Mountbatten Killed in Blast’ – with the speculation that the explosion ‘may have been caused by a time bomb on-board.’ By the time the late final addition of the Aberdeen Evening Express was published, there was no doubt who was behind the assassination, the newspaper reporting how an ‘Irish terror group’ had claimed ‘responsibility:’
A spokesman claiming to represent the Irish National Liberation Army rang a Dublin evening newspaper saying: ‘We did it and accept responsibility.’
The next day the news had disseminated to the rest of the press. Lord Mountbatten was not the only one to lose his life; on the same day 18 British soldiers were ambushed and killed in Warrenpoint, County Down, in what was the deadliest attack on the British army during the Troubles. Meanwhile the Reading Evening Post’s headline runs as follows: ‘Victim No. 23: An Old Lady.’
This 23rd victim was the Dowager Lady Brabourne, the mother of Mountbatten’s son-in-law Lord Brabourne, who died a day after the explosion. Nicholas Knatchbull, Mountbatten’s grandson, and Paul Maxwell, a young boat hand, were also killed in the blast.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror went with a full page portrait of Lord Mountbatten which read ‘Murdered by the IRA.’
Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
Just two years later happier things were in store for the Royal Family, when the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne married Lady Diana Spencer. This too will be covered by Season Four of The Crown, with Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin in the roles of Charles and Diana.
On the 29 July 1981 Charles and Diana were married at St Paul’s Cathedral, in a ceremony that was watched by 750 million people around the world. Many were captivated by this royal fairytale, which sadly was not to last.
Newspapers at the time had two main themes: the truly global and immersive nature of the wedding, and the appearance of the bride. The Aberdeen Evening Express headline focuses on the former theme, proclaiming ‘It’s history’s most public wedding.’ Meanwhile the Belfast Telegraph writes how ‘Joy is shared with the world,’ Lady Diana being the ‘fairytale bride.’
The Newcastle Evening Chronicle meanwhile went with ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’ whilst the Liverpool Echo proclaimed ‘Bless the Bride – Radiant Diana so captivating.’ The next day, the Daily Mirror gave the couple a full-page spread, captioning the photo simply ‘My Princess’ as the couple kissed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in front of a crowd of thousands.
Camilla Parker Bowles
Of course, one of the reasons that the fairytale marriage did not go as planned was Camilla Parker Bowles, the infamous ‘third’ person in the royal relationship. Season Four of The Crown will explore Prince Charles’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, who he went on to marry in 2005.
We thought we’d explore the press of the 1980s to see what we could find relating to Camilla Parker Bowles and her relationship with the Prince of Wales. In ‘The Crown’ the part of Camilla will be taken on by Emerald Fennell.
We found these seemingly innocent paragraphs from the Liverpool Echo, 22 June 1981, which was written prior to the ‘wedding of the century:’
Some of the young couple’s happiest and most relaxing times have been spent with two of the Prince’s special friends, Camilla Parker Bowles and her businessman husband. Charles has always valued Camilla’s advice on affairs of the heart and was delighted when she wholeheartedly approved of Diana.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror in a piece about Charles and Diana’s ‘court’ pictures Camilla Parker Bowles (above), and gives the following description of her relationship with the newly married couple in August 1981:
Colonel Andrew Parker Bowles, 41, and his beautiful wife Camilla, 33, occupy a very special place in the life of Princes Charles. Camilla Parker Bowles was asked for advice when Prince Charles was thinking of proposing to Lady Diana. And the Parker Bowleses’ rambling estate near Chippenham, Wiltshire, became an ideal meeting place for the Prince and his sweetheart during their courtship.
By 1982 Camilla Parker Bowles’ name had been included in a multiple choice quiz by the Daily Mirror, the question being ‘Who first curtsied to Princess Diana in public?’ This feels like something of an inside joke by those in the know, and no, it wasn’t Camilla. The answer section in fact reveals it to be the Governor of Gibraltar’s wife who first made this historic curtsey.
By the end of the decade newspaper reports concerned the Prince and Camilla were getting a little more seedy, as the fairytale unraveled. The Daily Mirror on 20 May 1989 reports on ‘Charles’ Holiday Fun With Camilla,’ as Princess Diana remained behind in London to carry out official engagements. Allegedly, the Turkish press had dubbed Camilla Charles’ ‘mysterious lady.’
Break-In at Buckingham Palace
Also set to be covered by Season Four of The Crown is the Buckingham Palace break-in. In one of the worst breaches of royal security during the twentieth century, unemployed painter and decorator Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace and entered the room of the Queen herself, on 9 July 1982.
Whilst this event rather surprisingly did not take over the front pages, it was reported on in the press at the time. The Belfast Telegraph carried the headline ‘Palace wine theft – man is charged,’ with Michael Fagan receiving a charge for ‘entering Buckingham Palace and stealing half a bottle of wine.’
The bottle of wine in question (or indeed half bottle) was worth £3, and it was property of the Department of the Environment. The same article reveals Fagan to be unemployed and of no fixed address.
The Daily Mirror too reports on the ‘break in at the Palace,’ which had triggered a ‘massive overhaul of security.’ This article, published on 10 July 1982, notes how the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were at Buckingham Palace at the time, whilst also listing previous breaches of palace security.
A month before John Lawrence, armed with a eight inch knife, had gained access to the grounds, whilst ‘three young Germans were discovered camping in the gardens after climbing the walls’ the previous December.
We hope you enjoyed this brief tour through the newspapers of the 1970s and 1980s and are sure Season Four of ‘The Crown’ has this and much more in store for us. Why not register with us today to find your own royal stories in our collection, or indeed, stories about your own ancestors?