Queen Elizabeth and Jackie Kennedy's real relationship

Let's just say 2017 was the year of the powerful woman. With Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins' box office breaking run with Wonder Woman, to The Silence Breakers behind the #MeToo movement being named Time's Person of the Year, now is as good a time as ever to talk about women in positions of power, both contemporary and historically.

Enter the late, great First Lady Jacqueline "Jackie" Kennedy, and the curious relationship she had with Queen Elizabeth II, reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. Both icons in their own right, the two women held powerful positions at a time in history when few others did. And, as reflection tells us, those positions may have had a profound effect upon their relationship. C'mon, we all know royals (whether actual royalty or the US equivalent) can be a little weird.

The subject of the relationship between these two figureheads has come back into the public imagination with the dramatized portrayal of Jackie Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth in a 2017 episode of Netflix's hit show The CrownA historical drama series, The Crown is a semi-biographical telling of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, starring Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth. Season two episode "Dear Mrs Kennedy" sees the Queen and Jackie Kennedy meet for the first time at Buckingham Palace. 

Spoiler alert! 

Let's just say that they don't exactly hit it off. We'll explore the depiction of their interaction on the show, as well as reveal which parts are historically accurate.

The Kennedys' visit to Buckingham Palace is dramatic, to say the least

Dramatically portrayed as the ultimate catfight, the episode is set during the Kennedys' 1961 visit to Buckingham Palace, a visit which did take place in real life, though the details were not entirely historically accurate. 

With the Queen Mother (Victoria Hamilton) already singing praises of Jackie Kennedy's grace and beauty before her arrival, crowds gather to cheer on the Kennedys' motorcade as it arrives at Buckingham Palace. Servants and honored guests alike rush to the windows to peek at the car as it arrives, and even the Queen's husband and consort Prince Philip (Matt Smith) can't contain his excitement at the arrival of the U.S. president and the first lady. Queen Elizabeth's response to this situation? "They've all gone mad."

While there is certainly some exaggeration for dramatic effect going on in the show, there appears to have been some real tension between the two women during this visit. Yes, certain details depicted in The Crown, according to The Washington Post, are not real. "As a historical document, it's certainly not a dissertation," they reported, though, the episode captured the spirit of the encounter. "The queen's resentment was real," Kitty Kelley wrote in The Royals (via The Washington Post).

A power play over dinner

Though we know the TV show took some poetic license with details, the general reality of the situation wasn't far from the drama portrayed in the episode. 

Arriving in the UK after a well publicized trip to France, the Kennedys arrived at Buckingham Palace to attend a dinner thrown in their honor by Queen Elizabeth. Leaning on her star power, Jackie Kennedy insisted that her sister — Caroline Lee Radziwill — and brother-in-law be invited to the party. The problem? Her brother-in-law, the Polish prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł, was by this point on his third marriage, a fact that the stiff upper lip of the 1960s era British monarchy reportedly objected to.

Eventually Jackie Kennedy did get her way, and her sister and brother-in-law got their dinner invites. It looked like she had won, until Jackie realised that the Queen had seemingly gotten her revenge by neglecting to invite certain members of the monarchy whom she knew Jackie wanted to meet and be photographed with.

Jackie was apparently particularly vexed by the absence of the Princesses Margaret and Marina. As People reported on Jackie Kennedy biography American's Queen by Sarah Bradford, Jackie later reportedly told her close friend Gore Vidal: "No Margaret, no Marina, no one except every Commonwealth minister of agriculture they could find!"

What did Jackie really say about the Queen?

Despite the initial conflict, we see a tentative bond between the two women during a scene where Queen Elizabeth introduces Jackie to her Corgi pups, and the two women discuss their mutual feelings of insecurity regarding their positions of power.

This common ground is short lived, however, as Lord Plunket (Sam Crane) informs Queen Elizabeth that Jackie called 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 condemned Buckingham Palace as "second rate, dilapidated and sad, like a neglected provincial hotel."

As it turns out, The Crown creator and writer Peter Morgan wasn't quite as hyperbolic as you'd expect. Royal historian Hugo Vickers at The Times reported on Gore Vidal's 1995 memoir Palimpsest, where he revisits notes from his life in 1961. According to Vidal's account, Jackie described the Queen as "pretty heavy-going" and told him: "I think the queen resented me. Philip was nice, but nervous. One felt absolutely no relationship between them. The queen was human only once."

It wasn't all bad, though. As Vickers wrote, Jackie later told photographer Cecil Beaton: "They were all tremendously kind and nice". And yet she remained unimpressed by the decoration of Buckingham Palace, the Queen's dress sense and her "flat" hair.

Ouch. Whether or not the Queen knew of these remarks at the time, though, is not a matter of public record.

Were prescription drugs involved?

On The Crown, after hearing of Jackie's unsavory comments about her, Queen Elizabeth responds diplomatically, stating "Well, we must have her again soon." A few months later, Jackie returns to apologize for her words after learning that the Queen has heard them, blaming medication given to her by her doctor for her loose and biting tongue.

The show's reference to Jackie being on prescription drugs does indeed have a basis in fact — quite a scandalous one, as it turns out. As The Telegraph reports, the Kennedys' physician Dr. Max Jacobson accompanied the couple on their trip to Paris prior to their arrival in the UK.

Dr. Jacobson gained notoriety for treating his high profile celebrity clients with amphetamine injections. As the New York Post reported on Dr. Feelgood — an investigative book of Dr. Jacobson's life and influence — Jackie was one of his patients, whom he reportedly dosed with the drug. Jacobson's "secret vitamin formula" indeed contained what we now know to be methamphetamine. Jacobson used his formula to treated the aches, pains, and lethargy of the rich and famous of the time, from the Kennedys to Marilyn Monroe.

But, while there is a basis in fact for the drugs reference in The Crown, we'll never know for certain if Jackie was under the influence at the time — especially as there's no evidence that the apology scene between Jackie and the Queen took place in real life. In reality the two women wouldn't meet again until March 1962.

The jealousy may have gone both ways

The set-up for conflict between the two women in The Crown is a simple one — a relationship between two powerful women based on a healthy dose of jealousy, that old chestnut. What the episode doesn't highlight is that the jealousy may have actually gone both ways in real life. 

The show posits that Queen Elizabeth was jealous of Jackie for various reasons: she received the Queen Mother's praise, she was on the receiving end of Prince Philip's seemingly flirtatious behaviour, and she held beauty and star power. Though, Vidal suggests that it was perhaps Jackie who was jealous of the position of power held by the Queen, and the apparent cattiness of their interactions may have been driven by Jackie's need to prove herself to the monarchy. As Vidal related to Democracy Now:

"We all called her Jackie. Nobody called her 'Jacqueline.' And she just — she insisted, when they moved to the White House, that she be known as Jacqueline Kennedy, to which her sister-in-law Eunice Kennedy said, 'Why? Because it rhymes with 'queen'?' Oh, those girls."

A cordial women-only lunch

Despite all rumors of unrest between the two women, decorum ultimately won out when the Queen invited Jackie to return to Buckingham Palace while she was visiting her sister in London nine months later in March 1962.

This time, the two met for lunch without John F. Kennedy or Prince Philip along for the ride, and what transpired between the two is still the subject of much speculation. All Jackie said to the press of the matter was: "I don't think I should say anything about it except how grateful I am and how charming she was."

The two women wouldn't meet again for a few years, and, as we know, the circumstances of that meeting were sadly bereft.

A sad reunion

Only two years after the dramatic Buckingham Palace visit, Jackie Kennedy's husband and then-president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas in November 1963. The publicness of his death shocked the world, with Jackie's blood splattered pink Chanel suit still remembered in popular culture today.

John F. Kennedy's funeral was attended by Prince Philip, but not Queen Elizabeth. The Queen would later open the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede in England in 1965, a vast pathway featuring a plinth inscribed with a quotation from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address. The opening ceremony of this monument was attended by Jackie and her children, Caroline and John Jr., and though what may have transpired between the two women at the memorial is not public record, we can assume that this time nothing but kind words passed between them.