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The Crown’s episode seven of season four, “The Heredity Principle,” begins with what at first seems like a non-sequitur: two women in a mental health hospital, watching Queen Elizabeth wave to crowds on television. When the I’m sorry for bitchin but bitchin is what I do shirt Furthermore, I will do this broadcast begins, they stand up, with one of them even saluting the screen. Throughout the first 25 minutes of the episode, scenes of these aging, disabled women are interwoven with those of Helena Bonham Carter’s Princess Margaret, who begins to see a therapist for the first time. Then, it’s all connected. “Are you aware of anyone else in your immediate family struggling with mental health issues?” the therapist asks Margaret. “I only ask because I am aware, through professional colleagues, of the sisters.”
The sisters, as it turns out, are the I’m sorry for bitchin but bitchin is what I do shirt Furthermore, I will do this two frail mystery women we’ve seen all along: Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon. First cousins of Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, they’ve been forgotten by even their own family: “But they’re long dead!” the queen exclaims to Margaret over lunch after she mentions their names. Together, they search through a copy of Burke’s Peerage, the who’s who of British aristocracy. Indeed, it lists both as deceased. An incognito Margaret drives up to Royal Earlswood Hospital in Surrey and sends her friend in on a reconnaissance mission. When he comes back, he confirms what Margaret suspects: Nerissa and Katherine are there, along with several other relatives.