They were America’s closest thing to royalty — and in 1961, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy traveled across the pond for an extraordinary meeting with the world’s ultimate royals: Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip.
But while the two ladies appeared to hit it off in person, The Crown depicts some post-visit drama between the Queen and the first lady.
The Buckingham Palace visit is the subject of a season 2 episode of the Golden Globe-winning drama, which returned to Netflix December 8. The episode features guest stars Michael C. Hall as JFK and Jodi Balfour as Jackie, alongside Claire Foy‘s Elizabeth and Matt Smith’s Philip.
The episode depicts Queen Elizabeth picking up on flirting between her husband and Jackie. When Philip suggests that the first lady would like him to show her around the palace, Elizabeth retorts, “It’s my house so I’ll do it.”
Although the visit seemingly goes well, the show depicts the Queen later hearing rumors from her equerry that Jackie has been speaking ill of her behind her back.
Lord Plunkett claimed that during a party at the home of Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill, the first lady dubbed 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.”
Jackie added that Buckingham Palace was “second rate, dilapidated and sad, like a neglected provincial hotel.”
Elizabeth collects herself and replies, “Well, we must have her again soon.”
Though the harsh comments from Jackie are dreamed up by The Crown‘s writer, Peter Morgan, the president’s wife is said to have gossiped with friends about the visit. The Telegraph reports Cecil Beaton wrote in his diaries that Jackie was underwhelmed by Buckingham Palace as well as Elizabeth’s gown.
Writer Gore Vidal also said that Jackie found the Queen “pretty heavy going” and felt “resented” by her, according to the outlet.
And the evening itself was also not without its share of drama. Special allowance had to be made for Jackie’s sister and brother-in-law, Princess Lee Radziwill and Prince Stanislas Radziwill to attend the dinner. Although Lee had married into the Polish royal family (hence the regal titles), she and her husband were on their second and third marriages, respectively, and divorcées were traditionally not invited to state dinners at Buckingham Palace at that time. (The dinner was not considered an official state visit; that was expected to follow, but JFK’s assassination two years later in 1963 meant that it never took place.)
According to the Jackie Kennedy biography America’s Queen by Sarah Bradford, Queen Elizabeth reluctantly waived her rule about divorce for the occasion, but “retaliated” by excluding Jackie’s requested attendees, Princess Margaret and Princess Marina, from the guest list.
“The Queen had her revenge,” Jackie joked to writer and friend Gore Vidal, according to the book. “No Margaret, no Marina, no one except every Commonwealth minister of agriculture they could find.”
Guest list drama aside, Kennedy White House aide Angier Biddle Duke described the evening as “very pleasant, very charming, very attractive!” in a 1964 interview.