The year is 1953, and as the young Queen prepares for her Coronation she and her Prince are locked in a furious row over whether he should kneel before her during the ceremony.
He tells her: ‘I will not kneel before my wife.’ She offers the withering put-down: ‘A strong man would be able to kneel.’
The moment hardly reflects the accepted public image of the solid and affectionate relationship enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Glower and the Glory: The TV show’s version of the Coronation, depicting an unhappy Philip kneeling before the Queen to pledge his loyalty
Yet this is how life was at the start of their marriage, according to a controversial new drama that claims the couple’s early years were rocked by turbulent events behind the scenes.
The forthcoming ten-part television series, called The Crown, stars Wolf Hall actress Claire Foy as the Queen and former Doctor Who Matt Smith as the Prince. It depicts the young Philip as being unhappy at having to abandon his Naval duties to play second fiddle to his young wife.
In the lavish re-creation of the Coronation – which is believed to be the first of its kind – Philip is shown glowering as he kneels before the Queen to take his oath of loyalty.
The £150 million production will also claim that Philip was furious when his children were given the name Windsor rather than Mountbatten.
In one scene, an angry Philip says: ‘You have taken my career from me, you have taken my home, you have taken my name. What kind of marriage is this? What kind of family?’
The explosive scenes have been written by Peter Morgan, the dramatist who previously explored the Monarch’s life and reign in the Oscar-winning film The Queen and the smash-hit play The Audience.
But it is a vision of history that leading historians have already cast doubt upon. They argue that Philip, who had been a member of the Greek royal family before his marriage to Elizabeth in 1947, would have known exactly what was in store for him when he agreed to marry.
Constitutional expert Christopher Wilson said: ‘I doubt Prince Philip ever spoke those words to his wife, because he came from a royal house which had borrowed so much of its ritual and protocol from the British Royal Family. He knew full well what was expected of him in public, and was prepared to go along with it.
I doubt if he has ever bowed to her in private
‘On the other hand, there’s no question who wears the trousers in the relationship when they are behind closed doors. I doubt that even once, in all their nearly 70 years together, has he bowed to his wife in private.’
Philip Ziegler, who has written a series of Royal biographies and histories, said: ‘It would be surprising if any strong-minded, enterprising man who wants to have his own career wouldn’t have been slightly irritated about having to walk two steps behind someone else. So I wouldn’t call the scene total fiction but I don’t think it should be blown up into the cause of a major crisis.’
And Hugo Vickers, the Royal biographer who wrote an acclaimed book about the Coronation, said the Queen made sure Philip’s wishes were accommodated for the service. Mr Vickers said: ‘He didn’t want to be King and it is true that the Archbishop tried to minimise his participation, but the Queen went out of her way to include him in the service, for example at the Communion.’
Duty calls: Matt Smith will play Prince Philip (right) and Claire Foy will take on the role of the Queen in the new drama (left)
The Coronation scenes are unlikely to be the only point of controversy in the drama, produced by the American broadcaster Netflix. Perhaps inevitably, the drama focuses on the scandals and Royal romances that have captivated the public over the years.
The first series of ten one-hour episodes will cover the key events of the Queen’s early life, including the abdication crisis of 1936, her marriage to Philip in 1947, the death of her beloved father King George VI in 1952, the Coronation and the scandal sparked by her sister Princess Margaret’s love affair with the divorced commoner Group Captain Peter Townsend.
Producers created the splendours of the Coronation using Ely Cathedral as a stand-in for Westminster Abbey, and the show is being hailed as the most lavish Royal biopic yet. Mr Wilson said: ‘Nobody has ever tried to portray the Queen’s Coronation on film before, either in the cinema or on TV. That’s because it’s always been viewed in the past as a risky undertaking on account of the cost of staging it, of the sanctity of the occasion, and also because it’s such a complex ritual that would be so easy to get wrong.’
The Crown co-stars American actor John Lithgow as Winston Churchill, Greg Wise as Lord Mountbatten and Jeremy Northam as Sir Anthony Eden, and will be shown later this year.
Subsequent series will tackle a different decade of the Queen’s reign, leading up to the present day.
A spokesman for the drama declined to explain the programme’s sources for its depiction of the Queen’s marriage. A Buckingham Palace spokesman declined to comment.