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Imelda Marcos trends online over ‘The Crown’ scene that mocks dictator’s wife

Bea Cupin
Imelda Marcos trends online over ‘The Crown’ scene that mocks dictator’s wife

SEA SHELLS? Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Cater) recounts an encounter with Imelda Marcos in Season 4 of 'The Crown.'

Image courtesy of Netflix

While former first lady Imelda Marcos doesn’t shy away from attention, the anecdote in the hit series about the British Royal family is arguably the kind of attention she wouldn’t appreciate.

The wife of the late dictator and former Ilocos Norte representative Imelda Marcos was the talk of the town late Sunday evening, November 15, because of a mention in a scene from the latest season of the Netflix show The Crown.

While the former first lady doesn’t shy away from attention, the anecdote in the hit series about the British Royal family is arguably the kind of attention she wouldn’t appreciate. 

Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter), in one scene, entertains the royal family with a story where she recounts meeting Imelda, who “barges into the room” during a state dinner. Margaret then recalls Imelda saying she wanted to show off her “shell collection” – to which the rest of the royals take turns poking fun at Imelda’s accent, remarking that Margaret might have misunderstood, because Imelda was likely referring to her now-infamous shoe collection.

“No, I can assure you. It was sea shells,” says the fictional version of Princess Margaret. 

After being interrupted by Diana’s arrival, (the fictional) Margaret continues to recount her experience of being rushed across Manila and into “Madame Marcos’ private aquarium where she keeps a vast portrait of herself wearing….” She’s cut off, however, because the scene cuts to the formal announcement of Charles and Diana’s engagement.

The latest season of The Crown, which began streaming globally on November 15, covers the lives of the royals and the British government during the early 1980s and up to the early 90s. The 10-episode season begins with the assassination of Lord Louis Mountbatten and ends with the slow unravelling of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage. 

Imelda was first lady from 1965 to 1986 during the Marcos years – several of which were under Martial Law. The Marcos years are remembered for numerous cases of human rights abuses, the pilfering of public funds, and the disappearance of those who opposed the regime. 

The former first lady’s extravagance, among many other things, best illustrates the excess of the first family. She infamously owned over 3,000 pairs of shoes – from designer brands to Marikina-made pairs and owned properties in prime locations around the world. Numerous diplomatic cables, which would be leaked decades later, offer a better look into the kind of life Imelda led when they were in power. 

The US ambassador to the Philippines in the mid-1970s, William Sullivan, wrote a series of blistering criticisms of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in secret cables that were declassified and published by WikiLeaks in 2013. Sullivan said that Imelda had forced military chiefs – leaders of an institution that kept them in power – to dress in drag during her birthday party. 

Again, in real life, the same ambassador warned British diplomats in a cable that Imelda wouldn’t care about protocol in trying to secure an invite to Princess Anne’s wedding. “First lady has reputation for royal manner of life style in Philippines and would not be above lobbying for invitation to British royal wedding,” he wrote.

Imelda and her family finally fled the Philippines in 1986 during the EDSA Revolution, the conclusion of several years of protest and resistance from Filipinos.

While the Marcoses were forced into exile for several years, they have since returned to good graces in the Philippines, both socially and politically. Imelda’s children, Imee and the dictator’s namesake, Ferdinand Jr., are incumbent and former senators, respectively. Imelda’s grandchildren have also clinched elected posts in their home province of Ilocos Norte. – 

The Crown is now streaming on Netflix

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.