The Crown (2016–…): Season 3, Episode 3 - Aberfan - full transcript

A horrible disaster in the Welsh town of Aberfan leaves scores of children dead, but when the Queen takes a week to decide to visit the town to offer solace to its people, she must confront her reasons for postponing the trip.

[man] See you later, love.

[woman] See you in a bit.

- [man] Hello, Karen.
- Are you all right, Howell, my love?

[distant, heavy metallic clunking]

[bell rings]

[boy] Home time!

All right, before you go...
Sit down, please, Rhys.

[pupils groan]

Who can tell me what's special
about tomorrow?

[boy] It's Friday!

Don't just shout out, Geraint.
Hands raised, boy.

- [Geraint] Sorry, sir.
- Yes, it's Friday.

It's the start of the weekend and, even
more importantly, the start of half-term.

And, in case you'd forgotten,

before you go on half-term,
you lot have a job to do tomorrow morning.

You're singing
"All Things Bright and Beautiful"

to the whole school in assembly.

[pupils groan]

So... don't forget to practice
at home tonight.

Take the words home to memorize them.

Memorize, Rhys Edwards:

to commit to memory, to learn by heart.

Right, everyone line up.

[excited chatter]

Quickly, come on!

Don't forget your coats.

- [girl] Thank you, sir.
- There you go.

- Well done today. Good work.
- Thank you.

- [boy] Goodbye, sir.
- [teacher] Rhys.

There you go.

[pupils shriek]


[boy] Oh, my God, I'm soaking!

♪ All things bright and beautiful ♪

♪ All creatures great and small ♪

♪ All things bright and beautiful ♪

♪ All creatures great and small ♪

♪ All things bright and wonderful ♪

♪ The Lord God... ♪

- Hello, Nan.
- [woman] Hello, love.

[kids] ♪...bright and beautiful ♪

- [groans]
- [boy 1] Hello, Dad.

- [dad] Hiya.
- [boy 2] Hi, Dad.

- Clear the table for me, would you?
- [boy 3] Yes, Mam.

- [woman] Can I get you a cup of tea?
- Please, I am gasping.

♪ All things bright and beautiful ♪

♪ All creatures great and small ♪

Geraint, love, it's time for your bath.

- I knew that was you!
- [sings]

I can hear you down the street.

It's raining cats and dogs out there, Mam.

Oh, I know. It's horrible, isn't it?

Come on. Hey.

Show me, show me, show me.

♪ All things... ♪

- ♪ Bright and beautiful ♪
- You don't need that.

- ♪ All creatures great and small ♪
- Yes.

- [boy] ♪ The purple-headed mountain ♪
- Lovely.

♪ The river running by ♪

- ♪ The sunset and the morning ♪
- Good boy.

♪ That brightens up the sky ♪

[thunder rumbles]

- [man 1] Where are we headed, then?
- [man 2] Tip seven.

[man 3] We got reports of a train down.

Come on. I'm going. I'm running late.

- Off you go, then. See you later.
- Bye, Dad.

- Bye.
- [woman] All right, Dai?

[man] How are you, all right?

- [school bell rings]
- Quickly. Quickly now, come on.

Come back here, Geraint.

- I thought we were late.
- Do your laces up!

- Morning, Beryl.
- Morning, Ivor.

Come on! [sighs]

Look at your face. You're filthy.

- [teacher] Quickly. Hurry up.
- See you later.

- Bye, Dad.
- Tara.

- See you later, then.
- Bye.

- [woman] Bye, love.
- Bye.

- [man 1] Come on, boys.
- [man 2] All right.

[man 3] Ground's bloody soaked.

[indistinct chatter]

Never seen one this bad before.

[man] Whoa!

Christ, the whole tip is unstable!
You two, stay here!


- [teacher] Bevan?
- [Bevan] Sir.

- Edwards?
- Sir.

- Phillips?
- Sir.


♪ All things bright and beautiful ♪

[pupils laugh]

Not yet, boy. In assembly. Five minutes.

Don't peak too soon.

Come on, man, hurry up.

Come on!

[typewriter clicks]

Who's supervising today, love?

Eric Ellis. You've just missed him.
He's in the canteen.


What's up? I'm trying to eat my breakfast.

We've got trouble on seven.
Something's not right.

- What do you mean?
- We should get a safety team up there

- just in case.
- [man 1] You can feel it moving.

Never seen anything like it.

- [Eric] Where?
- [man 2] Tip seven.

[Eric] Christ, is anybody up there?

[man 1] Two lads,
we left them to keep an eye on things.

- Hush, boys. Be quiet!
- [man 2] Someone should check it out.




[dogs bark]

On your feet, into a line.
Alphabetical, please.

Quickly and quietly.

- [boy] Sir!
- [teacher] Jesus Christ!

[girl] Sir!

Under the desks, all of you!

- Quickly!
- [screaming]

Please, get under the desks! Now!

[boy] Sir!




Where I grew up, not far from here,

if we wanted to buy groceries,

bread and butter and eggs,

we'd go to the local shop.

If we wanted fresh vegetables,

we'd have to go to the open market
in central Huddersfield.

And if we wanted meat or fish
that wasn't in a tin,

we'd have to go to neighboring Milnsbridge
for the butchers and fishmongers.

Then something bigger came along,
which changed everything,

and we were told to call it
a supermarket.

Well, now we have this...

A hypermarket.

[cameras click]


Which is interesting to me
for several reasons.

It's democratic,

it's modern,

and it changes everything.

I'm afraid
you're going to have to excuse me.

Let's go.

What do we know?

[indistinct chatter]


[man] Clear the path!

I'm sorry to interrupt, Your Majesty.

Uh, I'm afraid there's been an incident
in a mining village in South Wales.

A coal waste tip collapsed
and slid into a junior school.

It's clear there's been...
significant loss of life.

I would suggest an immediate response.

What kind of response?

A statement of condolence. I've taken
the liberty of doing a quick draft.

- [Adeane] May I?
- Of course.

"I am shocked and distressed

to learn of the terrible disaster
which has taken place at Aberfan.

Please convey a message
of heartfelt sympathy

from my husband and myself
to the children's parents

and to the families
of those who have lost their lives.

Signed, Elizabeth R."

Downing Street has requested the use
of an aircraft of the Queen's flight

so that the PM can visit the site
of the tragedy later today.

- I assume that's a yes?
- [Elizabeth] Of course.

Unless you were planning...
to visit today yourself?

- Why would I go?
- What a question!

The Crown visits hospitals, Martin,
not the scenes of accidents.

Thank you, ma'am.

[Adeane] Ma'am, there's just
one more appointment to confirm today.

A four o'clock reception
for Sir Leslie Fry.

At about eight o'clock this morning,

the local branch
of the National Coal Board

received a report

that a depression had formed
in tip number seven.

- Meaning?
- Uh, it had sunk.

What's it doing sinking like that?
Isn't it solid?

[Marcia] Apparently not.

Not with all the heavy rainfall
that they've been having lately.

It seems... that all that water

turned enough of the coal waste
inside the tip into slurry

to cause the sinkhole.

And then about a quarter past nine,

that liquid waste broke free of the tip,

slid down the mountain
towards the village.

Pantglas Junior School bore the brunt
of it; several houses, too.

And how much coal was in this tip?

Too much.

Three hundred thousand cubic yards.

Plus, guidelines suggest

that tips should be no higher
than 20 feet tall.

Now, this one was over five times that.

Who from the Coal Board is there?

The local supervisor, Eric Ellis.

We're gonna need someone
higher up than that.

What about Lord Robens,
head of the Coal Board?

He was notified, but he's being invested

as Chancellor of Surrey University today

and saw no reason
to postpone the investiture.


Make sure he's there
by tomorrow morning, will you?

- [Andrew] Yes, sir.
- Now we have to be careful.

This could turn nasty very quickly.

[Andrew] Come on, Harold.

This is an accident caused
by unprecedented rainfall.

- It isn't political.
- Everything is political, Andrew.

[sirens wail]

- [Andrew] What seems to be the problem?
- The road's closed, sir.

- [Andrew] All the way?
- [bobby] All the way.

[Andrew] Sorry, sir. Roads are blocked.

People have been arriving to help all day.
We might struggle to get through.

Then we'll walk.

- [engines rumbling]
- [metal clanking]

[Wilson] Good God.

- Prime Minister.
- Yeah.

Sixty bodies recovered so far.

And counting.

- [whistle]
- [man] Quiet!

- [woman] We heard someone!
- [man] Quiet! Shh!

- [crowd falls silent]
- [engines stop]

Back to work, everyone!

[engines rumble]

[mayor] Every time the whistle blows, it
means they think they've heard something.

Another child trapped
beneath the wreckage.

[man] Mind your step, Prime Minister.

[camera whirs]

[camera clicks]

[cameras click]

[Wilson] I guarantee you...

the highest level independent inquiry
into this tragedy.

All the necessary powers...

will be given to those in charge
to take whatever action they need.

[reporters shout questions]

[reporter] Any other tips
that are a danger to the public?

I have no intention

of adding to anything
I've made in my statement.

[man] It's a bit late now!

We've been telling everyone for years
those tips were dangerous.

[woman] It was a disaster
waiting to happen, and no one listened.

[radio] The number of casualties
in the tip disaster in South Wales

could be as high as 200.

Thirty-six people remain in hospital,
20 bodies have been recovered,

and estimates suggest that as many
as 150 more are still missing,

most of them children.

- What are you doing?
- You haven't heard the news?

No. I-I-I've been at...
Caroline's birthday party.

When you read the papers tomorrow,
you'll understand.


[Wilson sighs]

[breathing heavily]

[radio] Smoke continues to hamper rescue
efforts tonight in the village of Aberfan,

South Wales.

So far, 67 bodies, mostly children,

have been pulled from the wreckage
of Pantglas Junior School,

which was struck by coal waste
from a nearby tip.

Hope remains for many more still missing,

but work to recover bodies
is likely to continue through the night.

The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson,
visited the scene today,

and Buckingham Palace have issued
a statement of sorrow from the Queen.

The message reads,
"I am shocked and distressed

to learn of the terrible disaster
which has taken place at Aberfan.

Please convey a message
of my heartfelt sympathy

from my husband and myself
to the children's parents

and to the families
of those who have lost their lives."

That's the news from us at the moment.
Now back to London.

There will be special reports
during the...

[footsteps approach]

Prime Minister, ma'am.

As of an hour ago, the loss of life
in Aberfan stands at 116.

Now, it appears
that over 80 are still missing.

Thirty-six of the survivors
have been hospitalized.

[Elizabeth] I see.

Are any more victims expected to be found?

[Wilson] Uh, not alive, ma'am.

To make matters worse,

it has been reported that
the north shoulder of tip seven has moved

and the village is ready
for immediate evacuation.

Mechanical diggers are out of action,

bogged down in the soggy mud.

The military have been brought in to help.


given all this,

I was hoping I might persuade you to go.

One of the most unfortunate things
about being sovereign I have discovered

is that you paralyze
virtually any situation you walk into.

The very last thing
emergency and rescue services need

when they are working against the clock
is a queen turning up.

I'm not sure I agree.

Children have died.

A community is devastated.

What precisely would you have me do?

Well, comfort people.

Put on a show?

The Crown doesn't do that.

I didn't say put on a show.

I said comfort people.

- [presses button]
- [bell rings]

Your Majesty.

[door opens]

[door closes]

[clock chimes]

[Queen Mother] Morning, darling. Tea?

[Margaret] Anyone object
if I had something stronger?

- Coffee?
- No, I was thinking whiskey.

- Margaret, it's nine o'clock.
- Yes, I know.

But it's not morning.
Not in my world, anyway.

Tony called in the small hours,

from a call box
in the middle of nowhere.

- [phone line beeps]
- [coins clatter]

Hello, it's me.

Can you do something for me?

[Margaret] He told me to go
into the children's bedrooms

and kiss them

while they slept.

As soon as he got to Aberfan,

he went straight to the school.

It was... unimaginably awful.


used to digging for coal,

now digging to reach their children.

Many of them spent several hours

stuck under the mud beside dead friends.

[Margaret] Buried alive.

Running out of air.

He then went to the mortuary,

where people were waiting
to identify the children's bodies.

Nurses and Salvation Army volunteers,

they were writing a description
of each adult, each child.

Noting any possessions they found

in their pockets, like, like, uh...

a handkerchief or...

sweets, anything,

to help identify them.


And from there I went to the hospital.

[Margaret] There he comforted a man

who was holding his son's school cap.

After the hospital,

he wanted to walk back to the house
where he was due to stay,

but he carried on walking...

and walking.

I walked and walked and walked.

No, I've never heard him like that.

I hope I never do again.

[councilor] We have Geoffrey Morgan
from the National Coal Board

and George Thomas,

Minister of State for Wales,
here to answer our questions.

Will you both accept responsibility?


The National Coal Board cannot
accept responsibility for the weather!

[man] Rubbish!

[Morgan] Abnormal levels of rainfall
have created extraordinary conditions.

You've known about the spring
under the tip for years!

- I wrote to you!
- So did I!

That's what's caused this, not rainfall!

[woman] And nothing was done!

"Buried alive
by the National Coal Board."

That's what I want to see written
on my child's death certificate!


[woman] What about financial assistance?

We've got people in dire need now!

When's government going to step in? When?

Let us be quite clear.

A dreadful tragedy has taken place.

But blame for that

cannot be placed at the door
of the Labour Party.

Tip number seven was built in 1958
when the Labour Party wasn't in power.


I had a visit today
from certain members of the Cabinet.

No need to tell me who.

Who are concerned
that this is all turning political.

[Wilson] Of course it's turning political.

[Marcia] And they want you to do something
to deflect the blame.

Their view is if the Labour government
pay the price for this tragedy,

and the Tories make political capital
from it, it would be obscene

and a betrayal,

not just of the people of South Wales,

but of all of us in the movement.

We've been waiting for this
for too long, Harold.

Thirteen years in opposition,

and now we're finally in power,
in government.

We cannot allow ourselves

to be crucified
on the altar of public opinion

over something that isn't our fault.

Hmm, when people are angry,
they throw stones at their leaders.

Then it's a duty
not just to deflect that anger,

but to show solidarity
with our supporters.


- This is grief, Marcia.
- It's injustice.

It's just another
in a long list of injustices.

No, it's parents grieving their children.

It's also cold-hearted refusal
to accept responsibility

by the people who are to blame,
the Tories.

And now they're making us the scapegoats.

Well, what do you want me to do about it?

[lighter clicks]

[Marcia] Make sure they take the blame!

And if you can't blame it on the Tories,
and you won't press it in the House,

and you can't go after the NCB
until the tribunal is over,

then perhaps we should look
for another establishment figure

to deflect negative attention.


- [Marcia] Her!
- The Queen?

Well, you must admit
her behavior is symptomatic

of establishment neglect.

Her behavior is unfortunate.

- You went to see her today, didn't you?
- Yes.

[Marcia] And you asked her again to go?


[Marcia] And what did she say?

"The Crown doesn't go."

[Wilson] Something like that.

The Duke of Edinburgh is now going.

They pulled him away
from some duck shoot.

Yes, but she isn't?

Perhaps there's good reason for that.

Maybe she finds that kind
of situation difficult.

Losing your children is difficult!

Losing brothers and sisters is difficult!

Living in a mining village where
the Coal Board abandons you is difficult!

And instead of sticking the knife in her

and allowing us all to vent our anger
at someone cold-hearted,

you'd sooner let your own team
take the blame!

You're pathetic! You disgust me!

So you keep telling me.

If you ever want to be a real leader,

a real man, a real socialist,

you're going to have to grow some balls!

[TV] The NCB is a creation
of the Labour Party.

[crowd cheers]

This is a government-made disaster!


Take responsibility!

- Is this the school just here?
- This is the school, yes.


[church bell rings]

[bishop] And God shall wipe away
all tears from their eyes.

And there shall be no more death.

Neither sorrow nor crying.

Neither shall there be any more pain.

For the former things are passed away.

[church bell rings]

Fear not, for I am with thee.

He shall feed His flock like a shepherd.

He shall gather the lambs with His arms

and carry them in His bosom

and shall gently lead
those that are with young.

And the streets of the city
shall be full of boys and girls

playing in the streets thereof.

"And they shall be mine,"
said the Lord of Hosts.

In that day when I make up my jewels.

And I will spare them,

as a man spareth his own son
that serveth him.

I saw four angels standing
on the four corners of the Earth.

I heard a voice from Heaven.

♪ Jesu, lover of my soul ♪

♪ Let me to Thy bosom fly ♪

♪ While the nearer waters roll ♪

♪ While the tempest still is high ♪

♪ Other refuge have I none ♪

♪ Hangs my helpless soul on Thee ♪

♪ Leave, oh, leave me not alone ♪

♪ Still support and comfort me ♪

♪ All my trust on Thee is stayed ♪

♪ All my help from Thee I bring ♪

[singing fades]

- How was it?
- Extraordinary.

The grief, the anger,

at the government,
at the Coal Board, but...

at God, too.

Eighty-one children were buried today.

The rage, in all the faces,
behind all the eyes.

They didn't smash things up.
They didn't fight in the streets.

What did they do?

[Philip] They sang. The whole community.

It's... it's the most astonishing thing
I've... I've ever heard.

Did you weep?

Did I weep?

What kind of question is that?

Just a question. Did you weep?

I might have wept, yes.

Are you going to tell me
it was inappropriate?

And the fact is
anyone who heard that hymn today

would not just have wept...

they would've been broken
into a thousand tiny pieces.


[sighs] Right.

I see.

Thank you for letting me know.


[Adeane] We've had a tip-off
from a friendly newspaper editor

that the government,

determined not to take the blame
for Aberfan,

have decided to refocus the subject
of the national conversation

and has briefed newspapers that...

"One person has been conspicuously
absent from Aberfan,

and that is our Queen.

The scandalous lack of care and interest,

one can only assume it is that,
by our head of state

is symptomatic of a lack of care
from the traditional establishment,

not just for the people of Wales,
but for the whole working class."

And the Prime Minister gave that
his blessing?

Well, I think we have to assume so.

[Charteris] On arrival at RAF St. Athan,
you will be received

by Sir Cennydd Traherne,
Lord Lieutenant of Glamorgan,

and taken via car
to the school disaster site in Aberfan.

Then on to the Bethania Chapel

for the presentation of the heroes
and survivors of the disaster.

There will then be a visit
to the cemetery,

where you will lay a wreath.

And finally,
a visit to the home of a local miner,

Thomas Edwards,
who lost relatives in the disaster

and scheduled conversations
with several other grieving families.

The whole trip should be
approximately two and a half hours.

Without wishing to prompt,
Your Majesty,

you may wish to consider
that this is Wales, not England.

A display of emotion would not just
be considered appropriate,

it's expected.

[music plays over dialogue]

[cameras click]

This is Councilor Ellis,
who lost seven relatives.

- Seven?
- Yes, ma'am.

- Three children and four nephews.
- I'm so sorry.

Karen and Alun Jenkins, ma'am,
who lost their son, Ewan,

and his four cousins,
Tegwen, Bryn, Mair, and Ben.


Thomas and Gwen Edwards, ma'am,
whose home this is.

They lost their two children, and, uh...

this is Howell, Gwen's father,

who managed to rescue
one of the grandchildren.


She has something for you, ma'am.

Thank you.

From the remaining children of Aberfan.

- Thank you.
- You're welcome.

[cameras click]

[woman] We're so glad to have you here,
Your Majesty.

[Elizabeth] I can only imagine.
I'm so sorry.

That's very lovely.

Do you all live on this road?

[music plays over dialogue]

The Duke of Edinburgh said the families

sung a hymn
when they buried their children.

Yes, ma'am.

Is there any way I might hear it?

I'm sure we can find a recording.

And ask the Prime Minister
to come and see me

as soon as possible.

[Charteris] Yes, ma'am.

- [presses button]
- [bell rings]

[footsteps approach]

[door opens]

The Prime Minister, Your Majesty.

Your Majesty.

[door closes]

Churchill would have had the character
to do it face to face.

Come to think of it,
so would Anthony Eden.

And Harold Macmillan.

Each of them would have had the courage
to express their anger to me directly.

None of them would ever have resorted
to going behind my back like that.

I have it on authority
you tipped off journalists

that I was letting the side down
by not going to Aberfan.

- Never.
- It wasn't you?

No, ma'am.

But... perhaps one or two
of my colleagues,

concerned at the anger
being directed at the government...

Broke ranks?
Took matters into their own hands?

It's possible.

Perhaps they're right.

The people of Aberfan deserved
a prompt response.

They didn't get one.

They deserved a display of compassion,

of empathy from their Queen.

And they got it yesterday.

They got nothing.

I dabbed a bone-dry eye,
and by some miracle, no one noticed.

After the Blitz,

when we visited hospitals,

I saw what my parents,
the King and Queen, saw.

They wept.

I couldn't.

Well, you... you were a child.
What do you expect?

[Elizabeth] Not just as a child.

When my grandmother, Queen Mary,

whom I loved very much,

when she died...


Well, she had been ill a long time.
It had been expected.

When I had my first child,

a moment of such significance
for every mother...

I have known for some time
there is something wrong with me.

Not wrong.

Deficient, then.

How else would you describe it
when something is missing?

These meetings are confidential, yes?

I have never done a day's manual work
in my life.

Not one.

I am an academic,
a privileged Oxford don,

not a worker.

I don't like beer. I prefer brandy.

I prefer wild salmon to tinned salmon.

Chateaubriand to steak and kidney pie.

And I don't like pipe smoking.

I far prefer cigars.

But cigars are a symbol
of capitalist privilege.

So, I smoke a pipe,

on the campaign trail and on television.

Makes me more... approachable.



We can't be everything to everyone
and still be true to ourselves.

We do what we have to do as leaders.
That's our job.

Our job is to calm more crises
than we create.

That's our job,
and you do it very well indeed.

And in a way,
your absence of emotion is a blessing.

No one needs hysteria
from a head of state.

And the truth is,

we barely need humanity.

Prime Minister.

Your Majesty.

[door opens]

[door closes]

[vinyl crackles]

[choir] ♪ Jesu, lover of my soul ♪

♪ Let me to Thy bosom fly ♪

♪ While the nearer waters roll ♪

♪ While the tempest still is high ♪

♪ Other refuge have I none ♪

♪ Hangs my helpless soul on Thee ♪

♪ Leave, oh, leave me not alone ♪

♪ Still support and comfort me... ♪

[singing fades]

[bell rings]