Showing Prince Philip and his private secretary cavorting with bare-breasted women, scenes of the duo on an official tour of the Commonwealth have become one of the most controversial episodes of hit TV drama The Crown.
Most shockingly, they culminate in an extraordinary letter written by the private secretary, Commander Mike Parker, in which he suggests Philip’s solo tour of Australia and the South Pacific in 1956-7 was a ‘five-month stag night’ with ‘whores in every port’.
As a result, Commander Parker not only loses his job, but is divorced by his wife Eileen.
Showing Prince Philip and his private secretary cavorting with bare-breasted women, scenes of the duo on an official tour of the Commonwealth have become one of the most controversial episodes of hit TV drama The Crown
Pictured: Commander Parker (Daniel Ings, far left) and Prince Philip (Matt Smith) in the Netflix drama
The only problem with this gripping tale? It is almost entirely false. The events are made up. The letter doesn’t exist – and never did.
This is not the first complaint about inaccuracy in the Netflix drama – starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith – which has so far followed the fortunes of the Royal Family over three decades.
Yet this latest resort to fiction has had a devastating effect on one family in particular – that of the late Commander Parker. His children are furious not only that their father has been branded an adulterer who was forced from his job, but, it is implied, someone who helped to procure women for Philip behind the back of the Queen.
Split: Mike Parker with his wife Eileen and children in 1952
Last night, Commander Parker’s son Michael denounced the series as ‘rubbish’, insisting his father was more of a prude than a philanderer. He said the family were keeping the episode a secret from the woman at the centre of the storyline, their 94-year-old mother.
‘I can’t believe they’ve portrayed my father like this,’ said Mr Parker, 73, from his home in Hampshire. ‘He was an honourable man and looked after Philip very well.’
There is no evidence, he said, that the tour was a ‘s**g-fest – it would have been very unlike my father’.
‘We are not telling my mother about this film as we know that she will hate it. She suffers from anxiety and this would cause her a lot of distress. My sister is seething about how inaccurate it is.
‘She told me, “It’s terrible for the family. It paints both our parents in such a bad light.” ’
Fiction as fact: Eileen Parker (played by Chloe Pirrie, left) with the letter, which was addressed to society photographer Baron
Their complaints are backed by Royal biographer Hugo Vickers, author of The Crown – Truth & Fiction. ‘The invention of false information and the distortion of facts in The Crown is deeply damaging, because a great many viewers believe what they see to be true,’ he told The Mail on Sunday.
‘However, this one not only undermines the reputations of important historical figures, it is also hurtful to private citizens who are portrayed on screen, and in this particular case are very much alive.’
The Netflix drama concentrates on the Prince’s 1956-7 tour and its immediate aftermath. In particular, it suggests that extracts from Commander Parker’s letter to society photographer Stirling Henry Nahum, known as Baron, were read out to The Thursday Club, a dining club that included Prince Philip.
Although greeted with raucous laughter, the letter sets off a chain of events: a waitress at the club hands it to Parker’s wife Eileen, who is supposedly looking for grounds to divorce her husband. She, in turn, shows it to the Queen when she visits Mrs Parker unexpectedly at her London home.
Central to The Crown’s depiction of Commander Mike Parker, private secretary to the young Prince Philip, is the letter hinting at louche behaviour
‘There is then a fabricated scene on board Britannia, in which an angry Prince Philip informs Mike Parker, “You know the rules” and demands his instant resignation,’ says Mr Vickers.
The implication is that Commander Parker must pay for his indiscretion in writing the letter. He is shown leaving Britannia in Gibraltar and Parker’s wife, meanwhile, sues for divorce. Again, the drama is inaccurate. ‘This is untrue since Mrs Parker did not institute divorce proceedings at that time, though she did wish to separate,’ says Mr Vickers. ‘Another fabricated scene shows Eileen Parker getting hold of a girl who works at The Thursday Club, and asking her for evidence against her husband.
In due course the girl hands over the made-up letter. ‘A further nonsense has the Queen ordering a car to take her to the Parkers’ London home, where she waits in the back seat until Mrs Parker arrives.
The letter: . Eileen later shows the note to the Queen (Claire Foy, right)
‘She appeals to her not to divorce her husband. Mrs Parker produces the made-up letter to show the Queen what has allegedly been going on, and then declares she has already sacrificed enough for the Royal Family, adding “I’ve had enough of doing favours for you people”. Clearly there was no such visit.’
As if it weren’t enough, Mrs Parker is portrayed as cold and dismissive.
According to Mr Vickers, the errors in The Crown are legion. ‘The series chooses more or less to ignore the official stopovers on Prince Philip’s tour as they headed to Australia for the opening of the Olympics in Melbourne,’ he says.
…And THAT letter proving they were both unfaithful? Another lie says royal expert hugo vickers
Central to The Crown’s depiction of Commander Mike Parker, private secretary to the young Prince Philip, is the letter hinting at louche behaviour.
The drama suggests that the incriminating note, which refers to ‘whores’, was written by Parker from aboard The Royal Yacht, Britannia.
It is supposedly read aloud to Philip’s friends by society photographer Baron and is even shown to the Queen before Parker’s wife, Eileen, instructs her lawyer to institute divorce proceedings on the grounds of his infidelity.
None of this was true, however. There was no letter. Nor could it have been read aloud by Baron (full name Stirling Henry Nahum) since he died on September 5, 1956. Prince Philip and Commander Parker did not leave aboard Britannia until October 15.
The Queen did not visit Mrs Parker at her home. Mrs Parker did not instigate divorce proceedings at that time, and only wanted to separate.
She might have wished to end the marriage but she did not want her husband to have to resign his post as Prince Philip’s private secretary.
She also did not want news of the separation to break while the trip was ongoing.
According to the real life Mrs Parker, both the Queen and Philip asked Parker to stay on. As it happens he remained with Prince Philip until late in 1957.
‘They make it appear that Prince Philip hated formality and was only happy playing games such as cricket and tug-of-war. There are scenes with him watching bare-breasted girls dancing and even dancing himself.
‘There is a hazy scene of a man shot at dusk descending on to one of these women for sex. It is hard to identify this figure, but it looks like Mike Parker – based on no evidence whatsoever.’
What is true, however, is that there was a close and trusting relationship between Prince Philip and Commander Parker. The two met in 1942 when they were sub-lieutenants in the Royal Navy, heading the destroyers HMS Lauderdale and HMS Wallace, which were on convoy duty patrolling the east coast of Britain.
Parker fell in love with his wife, then Eileen Allan, at around the same time. She had been a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (known as the Wrens) and the only child of the owner of the Gourock Ropework Company in Ayrshire. ‘My mother was a Wrens driver in Troon,’ says Michael Parker. ‘She joined under age to avoid the munitions factory, which was an unpleasant place to work.
‘She was driving him from his ship to his digs. She also met the actor James Robertson Justice. Apparently, the two men fought over my mother and my father won.’
The couple married in 1943, by which stage Parker was First Lieutenant on the destroyer HMS Wessex. Prince Philip, meanwhile, was on its sister ship, Whelp.
Both were part of the 27th destroyer flotilla which sailed to the Pacific in time for the Japanese surrender in September 1945. The two men became firm friends on shore leave in North Africa and Australia. Commander Parker later insisted that, although surrounded by ‘armfuls of girls’, the two men had behaved properly.
‘Of course, we had fun in North Africa, but never anything outrageous,’ he said. ‘We’d drink together and then we’d go and have a bloody good meal.
‘People are always asking, “Did you go to the local estaminets and screw everything in sight?” And the answer is No. It never came into the picture. There was so much else to do.’
For the next decade Parker was present at the most dramatic moments in the Prince’s life, accompanying him to Monte Carlo to pick up his late father’s effects in 1946; attending his stag do in The Dorchester in 1947 and playing squash with him on the night Prince Charles was born in 1948.
As Commander Parker spent more time with the Royals, so his marriage disintegrated, and his wife sought a separation
The same year, Commander Parker made Philip godfather to his daughter Julie, who is a week younger that the Prince of Wales.
Parker was present on the night the then Princess Elizabeth became Queen, breaking the news of King George VI’s death to the Duke of Edinburgh, at Sagana Lodge, after a night at Treetops in Kenya. The Prince, in turn, told the Queen.
‘Our families got on well,’ says Michael Parker. ‘We used to go to Buckingham Palace parties and my parents would have them over to dinner before she became Queen.’
The truth about his parents’ marriage, he believes, is that it disintegrated because of the amount of time they spent apart.
‘It is no secret our parents had an unhappy marriage,’ he says. ‘When you worked for the Royal Family then, it was a six-day-a-week job.
‘Their divorce was a huge cause celebre. I remember being at prep school and they had a battle to keep the newspapers away from me.
‘Divorce was very difficult in those days and my father did the decent thing and provided the grounds for my mother to divorce him. He made an appointment with a photographer who “caught” him in bed with another woman.’
Equally he does not believe rumours that the Duke of Edinburgh had dalliances on tour. ‘I never heard any evidence of that,’ he said. ‘I don’t see it as a s**g-fest. My father was quite prudish.
‘I have subsequently learnt that Prince Philip and my father had enemies in the Palace. I think there was a lot of snobbiness going on and the rumours stem from there.’
As Commander Parker spent more time with the Royals, so his marriage disintegrated, and his wife sought a separation.
It was not until 1958 that they formally divorced, on the grounds of his adultery at their home in Smith Street, Chelsea. Custody of Michael, then 13, and Julie, nine, was awarded to their mother.
By then Parker, who died in 2001, had tendered his resignation, which was accepted by Prince Philip.