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The Crown season 3 looks at the Aberfan disaster, but what really happened?

The Crown's season three episode was simply heartbreaking

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Emmy Griffiths
Emmy GriffithsTV & Film Editor
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One of the most affecting episodes of The Crown season three focuses on the Aberfan disaster of 1966, in which 144 people, 116 of whom were children, were killed when a coal heap collapsed and engulfed the local primary school. The heartbreaking episode saw the Queen have a delayed response to the tragedy, waiting eight days before visiting the site, then being unable to shed a tear during her visit. But just how much of it actually happened? We break the episode down here.

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The Queen visited eight days after the tragic incident

The episode opens up with just a normal Thursday in the Welsh village, the day before the Aberfan disaster, in which a classroom of children have been tasked to practice the lyrics to All Things Bright and Beautiful to sing in their assembly before breaking up for half-term a day later. With pouring rain, which we now know was the reason why the landslide occurred, it is devastating to watch the youngsters spend their last evening practicing the hymn, knowing what is to come and indeed. In this case, the scenes are largely based on truth. According to the BBC, the children of Pantglas Junior School had planned to sing the hymn during their morning assembly before breaking up at midday to start their half-term holiday.

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The landslide killed 144 children, 116 of which were children

In the episode, the Queen released a statement about the tragedy, but wouldn't visit the village. While in the show, she believes that she shouldn't go as it isn't right for the royal family to visit disaster sites, causing a great deal of controversy in the press, in reality her reasoning behind not going until over a week after the disaster was never explained. Instead, Prince Philip and Lord Snowden paid a visit to the disaster site, before the Queen eventually visited the village and met families who had lost children.

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The Queen has returned to the village four times

The episode concludes: "According to those close to her, the Queen's delayed response to the disaster remains her biggest regret as sovereign." So where did this come from? According to her former private secretary, the royal said that Aberfan was her biggest regret back in 2002. She has indeed visited the village more than any other royal during her reign; four times. She last visited in 2012 to open a new primary school, which she promised residents back in 1966.

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The village holds no ill feelings towards Her Majesty for her delayed visit. Indeed, councillor Jeff Edwards, who was eight when he survived the disaster, previously said: "If the Queen does regret not coming here straight away, I think that is misplaced. When she did arrive she was visibly upset and the people of Aberfan appreciated her being here. She came when she could and nobody would condemn her for not coming earlier, especially as everything was such a mess." Fellow villager Elaine Richards said: "She kept her promise, she is a very gracious lady. Now we have children playing in the village again."