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Longtime royal photographer puts some of The Crown’s contentious moments in context

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The last time Arthur Edwards took a photo of Prince Charles with Lord Louis Mountbatten, the heir to the throne had his arm around his great uncle. Similarly, Mountbatten had his arm around his great-nephew. 

They both seemed to be in fine form that day, not too long before Mountbatten lost his life to an IRA bomb in the summer of 1979 off the coast of Ireland.

“They were laughing together,” Edwards, the longtime royal photographer for the Sun newspaper, recalled over the phone from the U.K. this week. 

The recollection came to mind as controversy swirls over the newly released Season 4 of the Netflix drama The Crown.

The show takes viewers into the reign of Queen Elizabeth, with the latest season moving the action into the 1980s. In the first episode, Mountbatten is seen just before his assassination writing a letter to Charles saying he could bring “ruin and disappointment” on the Royal Family with his pursuit of Camilla Parker Bowles, who in real life is now Charles’s wife but at that time was married to someone else.

There’s no evidence — again, in real life — that such a letter was ever written or that Charles and Mountbatten quarrelled before he was killed. 

WATCH | Why latest season of The Crown has sparked controversy: 

Season 4 of The Crown has proven popular with viewers, but because it is based on relatively recent history it’s facing more criticism for distorting real-life events. 2:16

It’s just one of many moments in the latest season that have set off debate over how fact meets fiction in the award-winning drama created by Peter Morgan.

“Many people will think it’s the truth … but it’s not,” said Edwards, who snapped his first photo of Charles feeding sugar to his polo ponies in the mid-1970s, just after he’d left the Royal Navy. 

“Much of it … comes out of a scriptwriter’s brain, which I can understand because … it’s drama.” 

What bothers Edwards, he said, is the portrayal of Charles.

“I’ve worked with him now for over 40 years, and I don’t recognize that man in it.”

And therein lies a challenge of turning history into drama. 

Emerald Fennell, as Camilla Parker Bowles, meets with Diana, as played by Corrin, during Season 4 of The Crown. (Des Willie/Netflix)

“Certainly, in every season [of The Crown], there’s a blend of fact and fiction, but it stands out in Season 4 because we are getting closer to the present day,” said Toronto-based royal historian and author Carolyn Harris.

Because so many in the audience will have their own memories of how what is portrayed in Season 4 turned out in real life — how Charles’s marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, collapsed in spectacular fashion, for example — there is perhaps further potential for the controversy now swirling.

“It’s always a challenge with historical fiction that the people who are being portrayed do not know what’s going to happen next, but the audience … does,” said Harris.

In some instances, the episodes present events that played out in the public eye and reflect the historical record.

“An example is that engagement interview where Prince Charles famously said, ‘whatever in love means,'”said Harris.

But there are many other examples of events being fictionalized or put together to create a narrative. 

WATCH | Josh O’Connor talks about becoming Prince Charles for The Crown:

British actor Josh O’Connor, who portrays the Prince of Wales in season four of Netflix’s The Crown, explains what it was like to examine the “human” side of the royal. 1:03

Take Michael Fagan’s break-in at Buckingham Palace, a focus of Episode 5. That actually happened, in 1982. He breached security and made it to the Queen’s bedroom, where he spoke to her.

“But Michael Fagan describes it as a very brief conversation before he was arrested, whereas for the purposes of the series, he has a more extended dialogue about [Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher’s politics in order to tie this event to the series’s critique of political developments while [she] was prime minister,” said Harris.

Edwards worries, however, that people will believe The Crown’s version of what happened when Fagan broke into the palace that night, which isn’t true, with its portrayal of a longer chat with the Queen.

“That’s what really irritates me,” he said.

And he remains troubled by the thought that the portrayal of Charles, pilloried for a bad marriage, doesn’t reflect the driven and hard-working man he has seen up close, whether he is visiting and offering support to schoolgirls in northern Nigeria or the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland. 

“You won’t see that on Netflix.”

Diana chats with Charles in an early scene from Season 4 of The Crown. (Des Willie/Netflix via AP)

Edwards went with Charles when he returned in 2015 to the site of Mountbatten’s assassination.

“I watched him … and he was remembering it.”

As aware as Edwards is of The Crown, he has stopped watching it.  

“You’ve got to remember it’s drama; it’s not necessarily the whole truth.”

Just let loose and dance

In Corrin’s research to prepare for playing Diana, she was surprised to learn the significance of dance for the Princess of Wales. (Des Willie/Netflix)

Peter Morgan may be the creative mind behind The Crown, but in the current season, at least one moment playing out on the small screen came straight from the actor.

At one point, Diana — played by Emma Corrin — dances by herself with wild abandon inside a very well-appointed room at Buckingham Palace — or in this case, a stately home filling the role of the palace where Diana went to live after her engagement to Prince Charles was announced in 1981.

“It was one of my favourite scenes to film,” Corrin said in a recent interview with the Royal Fascinator. 

“I loved it because they wanted to choreograph it, and I said, ‘Do you mind if we don’t … I don’t think we can choreograph a moment like that. I’d love to just let loose and dance.'”

So she did, and she chose the song that was blasting over the speakers during filming, a bit of musical time travel to 1998, and Cher’s Believe.

Corrin’s love for the song dates back a few years. 

“There’s a theatre company in Britain called DV8, and they do this show called The Cost of Living, and there’s an amazing dance scene,” she said. “A guy does this dance to Cher’s  … Believe…. It’s like the truest form of expression I’ve seen.”

In Corrin’s research for the role, she was surprised to learn how important dance was for Diana.

“It was quite a private thing,” said Corrin. “You see her dancing and what that does, how that is such a mode of expression and release, and I thought that was really interesting.”

Looking ahead — and looking back

Plans are underway to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, recognizing 70 years on the throne. (Toby Melville/The Associated Press)

Every so often over the past few years, there have been rumblings about whether Queen Elizabeth, now 94, might step aside from her role as she gets older.

And as soon as those rumblings emerge, other royal observers are quick to note how that is unlikely for a variety of reasons, including the dark shadow cast by her uncle’s abdication as King Edward VIII in 1936, her deep devotion to duty and how she has always considered her role as one for life.

So it wasn’t too surprising to see that scenario play out again in recent days when one royal biographer suggested Elizabeth might “step down” when she turns 95 next April. 

But soon after, there was also a very strong signal from Buckingham Palace about looking ahead in her reign.

The first plans were announced for celebrations in 2022 to mark her Platinum Jubilee, or 70 years on the throne. It would be an unprecedented milestone — no British monarch has reigned as long as she has. In the United Kingdom, it will culminate in a four-day bank holiday weekend in early June.

Oliver Dowden, the British culture secretary, said it would be a “truly historic moment” worthy of a “celebration to remember,”  the BBC reported.

Royals in Canada

Diana waves to spectators as she leaves the hotel en route to Commonwealth Stadium and the opening of the World University Games in Edmonton on July 1, 1983, her 22nd birthday. (Ron Poling/The Canadian Press)

While members of the Royal Family have made numerous trips to Canada over the years, The Crown hasn’t turned its dramatic attention to them yet, even though the show has featured several foreign visits.

“It’s a shame,” said royal historian Harris, because during Queen Elizabeth’s reign, “there have been some very interesting Canadian tours.”

Sure, there’s been a brief glimpse of a Canadian flag at a table during a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting portrayed in The Crown.

“But we don’t see Canada assuming a prominent role, whereas the series has had at least three tours of Australia,” Harris said.

One episode in the current Season 4 focuses on Charles and Diana’s 1983 trip Down Under. Shortly after that visit, Charles and Diana came to Canada. Had that been portrayed in The Crown, it would have backed up a developing theme, Harris said.

During the visit, Diana celebrated her 22nd birthday on Canada Day.

“There’s press footage of Canadians giving Charles birthday cards to give to Diana, and a scene like that would have supported the theme of that episode of Charles feeling overshadowed by Diana,” said Harris.

Edwards, the Sun photographer, was along for that trip, and has been to Canada about 15 times with members of the Royal Family.

WATCH | Charles and Diana’s 1983 Canadian visit takes them west:

Charles and Diana reach the last stop on their 1983 tour of Canada. 1:52

The 1983 trip lasted 17 days and was “fantastic,” he said. “It was just brilliant. I can recall it like it was yesterday. We criss-crossed the country.”

During the opening of the World University Games in Edmonton on July 1, the crowd sang Happy Birthday to Diana.

“The whole crowd. It was phenomenal,” said Edwards.

Harris sees potential plotting for future seasons of The Crown possibly playing into how the series has portrayed foreign visits so far.

“We see a stronger Australia focus, and it’s certainly possible that the 1999 Australian referendum [on the monarchy] may come up in a subsequent season so some of this may be building towards that.

“But definitely in terms of the Commonwealth, certain nations are emphasized more than others in the series.”

Royally quotable

“Let us reflect on all that we have been through together and all that we have learned. Let us remember all victims of war, tyranny and persecution; those who laid down their lives for the freedoms we cherish; and those who struggle for these freedoms to this day.”    

— Prince Charles, during a visit to Germany to attend events commemorating its national day of mourning, which focused on British-German relations this year.

Royal reads

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, look at a homemade wedding anniversary card from their great-grandchildren Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, ahead of their 73rd wedding anniversary in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle on Nov. 17, 2020. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images Europe/Reuters)

  1. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary on Friday, and a photo was released of them reading a card from their great-grandchildren. [CBC]

  2. In a rare statement, Prince William has said he welcomes an investigation by the BBC into circumstances around the controversial Panorama interview his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, gave to Martin Bashir in 1995. [CBC]

  3. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, did authorize a friend to talk to the authors of Finding Freedom, a biography of her and Prince Harry that was published this summer, court papers say. [ITV]

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Curling icon Sandra Schmirler delivered in the biggest moments

It’s been exactly 20 years since Canada lost one of the greatest curlers ever to play the game.

Sandra Schmirler’s death on March 2, 2000 sent a shockwave not only across this country, but around the world – she was down to earth, extremely relatable and humble to a fault.

And she won everything there was to win in the sport.

Born in Biggar, Sask., “Schmirler the Curler” was larger than life.

She was also a remarkable curler, leading her Saskatchewan foursome to three Tournament of Hearts titles, three world championships and an Olympic gold medal in 1998.

Two decades later, Schmirler’s legacy is felt at every major curling event and in rinks across Canada.

Here are some of her most memorable curling moments.

1st Hearts win

Schmirler, Jan Betker, Marcia Gudereit and Joan McCusker joined forces in 1991 and quickly made their mark on the curling world.

With the Tournament of Hearts being held in Brandon, Man., in 1993, the Saskatchewan rink made it to the final. There, they faced the hometown favourites — Maureen Bonar’s Manitoba squad — in somewhat hostile territory.

Schmirler and company silenced the crowd, capturing Saskatchewan’s first national championship in 13 years.

Back-to-back Tournament of Hearts championships

Schmirler returned to the Tournament of Hearts in 1994 as Team Canada, looking to defend the title.

After cruising through the round robin with 10 wins and just one loss, Schmirler earned a direct entry into the championship game.

Down 3-2 to Manitoba’s Connie Laliberte in the final end, Schmirler found some magic and scored three in the 10th to capture her second-straight national title.

3-time Hearts Champion

Schmirler would win her third and final Tournament of Hearts championship in Vancouver in 1997.

She took on Ontario’s Alison Goring in the championship game – Schmirler took an early 3-0 lead after stealing two in the second end and would cruise to victory.

Schmirler ran Ontario out of stones in the 10th end to win the women’s Canadian championship for a third time in five years.

The Shot

In late November, 1997 after winning the Tournament of Hearts and World Championship, Schmirler took aim at earning the right to represent Canada at the 1998 Olympics.

She’d make it all the way to the championship game against Shannon Kleibrink.

The pressure was immense and it was a back and forth battle throughout the draw.

In trouble, down 4-3 in the seventh end, Schmirler made one of the more memorable shots in curling. She played an in-off, ricocheting her rock off her own yellow stone at the top of the twelve-foot, careening it toward the button, and taking out Kleibrink’s rock to score three.

Schmirler scored three more in the ninth end to secure a 9-6 victory and represent Canada at Nagano 1998.

WATCH | ‘The Shot’:

1998 Olympics 1:36

Olympic Gold

Schmirler and her Saskatchewan foursome were the heavy favourites heading into the 1998 Olympics having won three world championships in the past five years.

And it was a relatively easy round robin for the team, going 8-1 through the nine games. But their gold medal journey nearly came to a screeching halt in the semifinal against Great Britain.

With hammer in the extra end, all Schmirler needed to do was draw her rock into the full eight-foot, but it looked heavy.

The team and fans watched as the rock kept sliding. It stopped just in time for victory. Schmirler was overrun with emotion and relief and now poised for a gold medal matchup.

WATCH | Schmirler comes up clutch against Great Britain:

1998 Olympics 2:45

The gold medal game lacked drama as Schmirler scored three in the first end against Denmark and never looked back. They’d win 7-5 and claim Canada’s first Olympic gold medal.

WATCH | Schmirler wins Canada’s 1st Olympic gold medal:

1998 Olympics 2:40

When they returned to Regina, more than 1,500 people packed the airport to welcome the team home.

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‘Heart-racing’ Scotties providing dramatic moments

Six-time champion Jennifer Jones admits these wild Scotties Tournament of Hearts results are “entertaining” and “fun for the fans.”

Kerri Einarson says it’s an “emotional roller-coaster.”

And three-time Scotties champion Rachel Homan just wanted to get some rest after a turbulent Tuesday in Moose Jaw, Sask.

“I’m tired. I’m ready for bed right now,” she said.

There’s no question this year’s tournament has had a flair for the dramatics — games full of twists and turns, including a history-making shot. Just take a look at what happened on Tuesday and you’ll quickly get the picture.

The day started with a stunning result. Team Nunavut, skipped by Lori Eddy, had only once won a game at the Scotties since the new format was implemented.

They were taking on Krista McCarville’s Northern Ontario rink, a seasoned team that lost in the Scotties championship just four years ago. Then they took the ice, and everything changed.

It looked as though McCarville was going to cruise to victory, leading Nunavut 5-1 halfway through the game. But then Eddy mounted a remarkable comeback.

They scored two in the sixth to cut the lead to 5-3, before stealing points in the eighth, ninth and 10th end to shock the curling world and leave McCarville wondering what just happened.

“I’m just ticked off,” McCarville said. “We were playing really well. We had a couple of picks and one of them was on a hit for two that I was making that would have put us up really big and it’s just frustrating.”

Eddy, who last played in the Scotties in 1997, was overrun with emotion.

“I can’t believe that just happened,” she said. “[It’s] like a dream come true. Don’t get me started or I’ll start to cry.”

Team Nunavut skip Lori Eddy pulled off the upset of the Scotties tournament after defeating Northern Ontario. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

7th-ender makes Scotties history

That’s how Tuesday started and then it hit a different level during the afternoon draw.

New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford, who was sitting with a 1-3 record, was taking on the world’s No. 3-ranked team from Manitoba. Einarson and her team were cruising through the competition, undefeated through four games. This matchup, at least on paper, appeared to heavily favour Manitoba. But then in the seventh end everything changed.

With the score tied 4-4, New Brunswick kept loading the house with rocks. Manitoba kept missing. And by the time Crawford settled in the hack to throw her final stone, she was looking at an open hit for seven.

The crowd inside Mosaic Place was buzzing as the rock slid down the sheet. Crawford nailed it. The seven points were the most scored in one end in Scotties history.

“We didn’t see that until my last shot,” Crawford said. “I don’t think we counted anything until it was done. I knew I was throwing for a lot but didn’t know it was seven.”

The end, and loss, was jolting for Einarson and her team.

“We missed quite a few in that end and we weren’t sharp this game,” said Einarson.

They lost 13-7.

WATCH | New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford makes history:

New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford records largest single end score with hammer in Scotties history during match against Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson. 0:48

Competition gap closing

But there was no time for Einarson and her team to dwell on giving up seven. Just hours after making history for all the wrong reasons, they took to the ice against Saskatchewan in a game of massive significance in the standings.

And perhaps Einarson’s day best sums up the wild ride so far at this year’s Scotties — giving up seven in the afternoon and then scoring five in the fourth end against Saskatchewan in the night draw and easily winning 10-6.

“It’s an emotional roller-coaster. Sometimes you’re not as sharp and sometimes you’re bang-on. Staying focused all throughout the event is crucial,” Einarson said. “If you aren’t sharp, teams here will beat you.”

All of this can only mean good things for Canadian women’s curling. There’s always a conversation at the Scotties about the divide between the pro teams and some of the other provinces and territories that aren’t always competitive.

But this year the gap has closed and teams across the country seem to be raising their level of play.

Wild-card skip Jennifer Jones booked her rink’s spot in the Scotties championship round on Tuesday with a 9-7 win over Nova Scotia. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

“We’re coming out here playing our A-game and it’s almost not good enough,” Homan said. “All these teams came to win. It’s great to see. The competition level is so high right now. They’re putting so much into curling.”

And then there’s Jennifer Jones, who has won more games than any other skip in Scotties history. Year after year, Jones is so difficult to beat at the national championship — but this year has been an adventure.

Jones had to win the wild-card game last Friday just to get into the event. During past three nights at the Scotties Jones secured victory on the last shot of the game, including two extra-end wins in thrilling fashion.

“It gets the heart racing. Maybe causes a lack of sleep at night because of the adrenaline rush but it’s a lot of fun,” Jones said.

At 5-1, Jones has now clinched a spot in the championship round and knows the pressure is rising as the playoffs near.

“We’ve always known we have to play our best to beat every team here. Everybody here puts in a ton of effort,” she said.

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Radio silence and a desperate turn: The final moments of Flight PS752

Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 lifted off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport at 6:12 a.m. local time Wednesday — almost an hour late.

The regularly scheduled trip to Kyiv was supposed to take just under four hours. But something went disastrously wrong for the Boeing 737-800 within minutes.

Tracking data suggests the flight climbed to just over 2,400 metres and reached a speed of 500 km/h before it plunged back to earth, crashing near a soccer field and irrigation canal outside the town of Parand, 30 kilometres northwest of the airport. 

Video broadcast by Iranian state TV shows what purports to be the final moments of the flight, with flames coming from an aircraft, then a blinding flash lighting up the pre-dawn darkness as the plane carrying nine crew and 167 passengers — 63 Canadians among them —  slams into the ground.

By the time the sun rose, an hour later, the search for survivors had already been abandoned. 

The plane, fully loaded with fuel for a 2,300-kilometre flight, exploded on impact. Footage from the scene shows smoldering piles of debris scattered across a wide area. 

63 Canadians among the dead after a plane crashes after takeoff in Iran 0:29

A full list of the names of passengers and their birth years — ranging from 1950 to 2016 — was made available by authorities in Tehran and Kyiv within hours of the tragedy. And Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko sent out a tweet in what was the middle of the night in North America confirming their nationalities: 82 Iranians, the 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including the crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghan nationals, and three citizens each from the U.K. and Germany.

The timing of the tragedy — just four hours after the Iranians launched a barrage of missiles at two bases housing U.S. and other international military personnel in Iraq, an initial reprisal for the Americans’ Jan. 3 killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani — raised fears that the plane might have been shot down, or sabotaged. 

Shortly after the attacks on Tuesday evening (eastern time), the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority issued restrictions prohibiting American commercial carriers from flying over Iran, Iraq and the waters of the Persian Gulf. 

But Iranian officials were quick to attribute the crash to a mechanical failure. On Wednesday, Qassem Biniaz, a spokesperson for Iran’s Transportation Ministry, told state-run media that it appeared the pilot had lost control after a fire started in one of the plane’s engines.

Whatever occurred, it happened quickly: Hassan Rezaeifar, the chief crash investigator for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said the pilot never declared an emergency, and wasn’t in communication with air traffic control during the final moments of the flight.

Rescue workers had already recovered both of the Boeing 737’s black boxes, Iranian media reported.

Ukrainian officials aren’t jumping to any conclusions.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has instructed the country’s prosecutor general to set up a commission to investigate the crash, and is also ordering immediate inspections for all passenger planes.

“All possible versions of what occurred must be examined,” Zelensky wrote in a Facebook post

At a morning news conference at the Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv — Flight PS752’s destination — executives from Ukraine International Airlines described the plane’s crew as “excellent,” “reliable,” and highly trained. They said the aircraft underwent routine maintenance on Monday, and there were no reports of problems prior to takeoff. 

A woman reacts during a news briefing following the crash of the Boeing 737-800 plane, flight PS752, on the outskirts of Tehran, at the Boryspil International Airport, outside Kyiv. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Flight logs show the plane, which was delivered to the airline by Boeing in mid-2016, had already made 22 trips since Jan. 1, travelling to and from Tehran, Paris, Milan and London. 

The airline announced an indefinite suspension of its five-day-a-week service to Tehran, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The crash is the first fatal accident for the airline, which was founded in the 1990s and operates a fleet of more than 40 Boeing and Embraer jets.

The 737-800 is an older generation of Boeing, with a different flight control system than the troubled 737 Max, which has been grounded worldwide as a result of crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in October 2018 and March 2019. Although, there have been a number of fatal crashes involving 737-800s, including a March 2016 disaster in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, that killed 62 people, and a May 2010 crash in Mangalore, India, that killed more than 150 people.

On Wednesday evening, Tehran time, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization released its initial report on Flight PS752. The document, written in Farsi, says communication with the aircraft was lost at 6:18 a.m., shortly after the pilot had been cleared to ascend to 8,000 metres. Witnesses on the ground — and other flight crews in the air — reported seeing flames coming from the plane.

The report says an emergency signal was activated, but the transmitter antenna became disconnected at some point as the plane was going down. And it also says the aircraft was on a path to return to Imam Khomeini International when it hit the ground.

Debris from the plane is scattered at the crash site outside of Tehran. (Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA via Reuters)

Iranian authorities say they have reached out to their counterparts in Ukraine, the U.S., Sweden and Canada for help in the investigation and assistance in identifying and repatriating the dead.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it has appointed an expert to receive and review information from the Iranian investigators. 

A team of crash experts from Ukraine is already en route to Tehran, the report from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization says.

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