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A Royal Connection: SS United States Helps Fact-Check Netflix Hit "The Crown"

You might not think that America's Flagship has much to do with the hit Netflix historical drama "The Crown," but think again!

A recent article by the Washington Post takes a look at the show's second season, evaluating its realism in depicting a friendly relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and famous American evangelist Billy Graham. Breaking down the evidence, the SS United States plays a surprising role.

Claire Foy, center, plays Queen Elizabeth II in “The Crown.” (Robert Viglasky/Netflix via AP)

The second season of "The Crown" portrays Queen Elizabeth II as someone who "wrestled deeply with questions of faith." She met Graham for the first time in 1955, when he delivered an Easter Sunday sermon in in the royal family’s private chapel.

Well known in the United States and internationally, Graham's rallies could draw thousands and his sermons were widely broadcast on radio and television. According to the show, the two would go on to develop a friendship, with the queen turning to Graham for advice and spiritual guidance.

But how realistic is this depiction? The Washington Post assesses the show's overall accuracy, with an attention to sometimes minor details.

American minister Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth II, 1989. (Billy Graham Library)

One way in which "The Crown" appears to diverge from reality is in its depiction of Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham. The article playfully notes that Ruth "probably didn’t wear ugly shoes to meet the queen" as she does in the Netflix show, and continues:

A picture of the pair leaving for the 1954 crusade aboard the SS United States shows Ruth with a fur stole over one arm wearing leather gloves and a corsage. “She had a great sense of style and unless ugly sandals were ‘in,’ I don’t think she would have worn them to meet the queen for the first time,” [biographer Anne Blue Wills] said.

See a photograph of the Grahams onboard below:

American minister Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth Graham, aboard the SS United States, 1954.

It's no surprise that Billy and Ruth Graham chose to travel aboard the Big U. The SS United States was the ship on which to sail in the 1950s and '60s, with famous passengers including Marlon Brando, Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, Judy Garland, John F. Kennedy, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Find out which other details "The Crown" gets right — and wrong — about Queen Elizabeth II and Billy Graham. Read the full Washington Post article HERE.


The SS United States has been a cultural icon since her maiden voyage in 1952. She continues to inspire authors, artists and musicians around the country. Now, America's Flagship needs our help. Help us save the Big U — become a member of the SS United States Conservancy today!

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