The Crown: Who was Patrick Plunket, the Queen's friend, courtier and confidant?

Everything we know about Patrick Plunket, Queen Elizabeth II's confidant.

By Rhys Lewis Published: 26 January 2018 - 10.01am

In Dear Mrs Kennedy, episode 8 of the second season of Netflix's royal drama The Crown, the Queen meets Jackie Kennedy, glamourous First Lady of US President John F Kennedy.

The pair have a cordial first meeting when the Queen gives Jackie a tour of Buckingham Palace's private quarters, but Her Majesty later hears - through her sister Margaret - that Kennedy later told dinner party guests that the palace was “second rate, dilapidated and sad”, and like a "neglected provincial hotel", and that the Queen was an "incurious, unintelligent, unremarkable" middle-aged woman.

In the episode, the Queen invites Margaret's source - Patrick Plunket - to the palace for more detail and to ask his advice. The two seem more like old friends than Queen and courtier - so who was Patrick Plunket and what was his relationship with Her Majesty?

Who was Patrick Plunket?

Patrick Plunket, born in 1923, succeeded to the family peerage as 7th Baron Plunket when his parents were killed in a plane crash in California in 1938.

As the Queen (Claire Foy) says during their conversation: "We grew up together and we've always had a very frank and open relationship", and the two were indeed childhood friends through connections with the Queen Mother's Bowes Lyon family. Patrick's younger brother Robin was a godson of the Queen Mother herself, while the youngest brother Shaun was a godson of King George VI.

After joining the Irish Guards, Patrick became equerry to the king and then to the Queen herself until 1954 when he became Deputy Master of the Household. The role saw him supervising the Queen's public and private social life and organising parties for younger royals; in 1961 he became godfather to Margaret's son, David Armstrong-Jones.

Were the Queen and Plunket close?

Jackie Kennedy with Queen Elizabeth II during a memorial service for her husband, John F Kennedy

Outgoing bachelor Plunket is regarded as one of the few non-royals who could talk to Elizabeth on equal terms, and in his biography of the Queen, historian Ben Pimlott recounts how Plunket once scolded her about her outfit, saying: “You can’t possibly wear shoes like that".

The irreverence went both ways. When Plunket proudly showed the Queen a portrait of him painted by Graham Sutherland for which he had posed wearing a pale blue polo-necked sweater, the Queen asked him why he had chosen to be painted dressed as a dentist.

Another of the Queen's biographers, Robert Lacey, reports that Plunket acted as Elizabeth's personal shopper, visiting Mayfair and Piccadilly before Christmases and birthdays, bringing back a selection of gifts from which the Queen could make her choice of gift.

"Patrick was like a step-brother to her," one source tells Lacey; Plunket, in turn, called her "my boss". Pimlott describes him as "a cross between an elder brother and the best Jeeves of all time".

Lacey also writes that Plunket would arrange secret cinema trips and discreet lunches for the Queen and would be her default dance partner at parties. The two were said to share a similar sense of humour and their long relationship meant the Queen trusted his judgement.

“He had a wonderful memory for names and faces, plus the knack of good judgment and an amazing instinct for the right and wrong thing to do, and she relied on that,” said his brother Shaun.

Plunket was trustee of two major art collections and revived the Queen’s interest in the arts; in later years she took delight in giving guests a guided tour of Buckingham Palace’s picture gallery.

When Plunket died of cancer aged 51, the Queen unusually attended both his funeral at the Chapel Royal and his memorial service at the Guards’ Chapel; she even had a hand in writing his Times obituary.

He is buried alongside the Queen's blood relatives in the Royal Family's private burial ground at Frogmore in Windsor Park, and she even had a pavilion built in his honour in Windsor Great Park's Valley Gardens.