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The True Story of Princess Margaret's Evening at the White House

Chelsey Sanchez
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

Nearly five decades after Princess Margaret's visit to the White House, Netflix has re-created the glamorous affair for the The Crown.

In the second episode of the royal period show's third season, the the queen's younger sister (Helena Bonham Carter) and her husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones (Ben Daniels), meet President Lyndon B. Johnson (Clancy Brown) and First Lady Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Johnson (Suzanne Kopser) in Washington, D.C. The affair is a glitzy one, ending in drinking games and dirty limericks. But did the show accurately capture the reality?

Here, we get to the bottom of what actually happened on the night of November 17, 1965.

Photo credit: Mark Kauffman - Getty Images

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon's royal tour of the United States started scandalously, with her and her entourage partying hard in Beverly Hills, brushing elbows next to then-Hollywood stars like Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, and Mia Farrow.

Their royal tour ended in Washington, D.C., capped off with a black-tie dinner at the White House, hosted by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson and wife "Lady Bird" Johnson. About 150 high-profile figures were in attendance, from members of the Rockefeller family to high-ranking U.S. politicians.

According to documents obtained by Town & Country, the menu consisted of popular dishes of the time, including Atlantic pompano amandine, roast squab, artichoke with vegetable puree, and a hearts of palm salad with Brie. They munched on praline glacé for dessert.

Town & Country reported that after dinner, the president made a toast to Princess Margaret, quoting Mark Twain, "I have traveled more than anyone else, and I have noticed that even the angels speak English with an accent."

Margaret also reportedly made a speech, adding that the visit "touched us greatly, and it will make us take home superlatively happy memories of all we have done and seen." Afterward, the party moved onto the dance floor.

Photo credit: Mark Kauffman - Getty Images

So, was the affair really as raunchy as The Crown made it seem? Though we may never know if the president and princess actually competed in a drinking game, we do know that it lasted longer than usual executive mansion events.

The New York Times reported at the time, "Everybody was talking today about the brilliant party President and Mrs. Johnson gave last night in honor of Princess Margaret and her husband. [...] The party lasted longer than most White House affairs. Margaret and her husband did not leave until 1:35 this morning and the Johnsons, celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary, stayed on until the orchestra struck up 'Good Night Ladies' at 2 a.m."

The Crown Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix. Watch

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