In a new episode of the historical Netflix drama that follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Imelda was briefly mentioned in a scene that highlights the problematic extravagance she is infamous for.
In the scene, Princess Margaret, played by Helena Bonham Carter, recalls meeting Imelda during a state banquet in Manila.
“She [Imelda] makes a beeline straight for me, says she’s desperate to show me her … wait for it,” Princess Margaret pauses for effect. “Shoe collection,” her niece Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) interrupts, before Princess Margaret corrects her, saying, “shell collection.”
“She was probably trying to say ‘shoe’ and you misunderstood her,” the indelicate Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) says. The royals then proceed to mock Marcos’ accent, bursting into a fit of laughter.
Now on many people’s minds is: did this encounter actually happen?
In fact, Princess Margaret did make a state visit to the Philippines in 1980, and was welcomed by Imelda at the airport. At this point, Imelda’s husband Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was at the peak of his power as dictator, six years before the historic People Power Revolution would overthrow him in 1986.
According to photos and accounts of the visit, Princess Margaret visited the tomb of national hero Jose Rizal, attended the inauguration of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, and viewed locally made handicrafts. After which, a dinner was held in her honor at the Presidential Malacañang Palace in Manila.
However, exact details of their encounter are not widely available, so it’s hard to say whether or not the seashell story did happen.
Fleeting yet impactful, the scene has garnered strong reactions from Filipinos, many amused because it openly pokes fun at Imelda, whose family reportedly stole billions of dollars from the Filipino people while her husband was in power.
Imelda is known to live a life of luxury and wealth, especially while First Lady. Not only did she amass massive collections of art, jewellery, and properties, she was also known for owning as many as 3,000 pairs of shoes.
CNN Philippines reported that from 1986 to 2017, the Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGC) has only recovered about $3.6 billion of the estimated $10 billion Marcos and his cronies stole.
Apart from corruption, President Marcos’ rule also led to numerous human rights violations, including the killing and torture of government dissenters. Still, the Marcoses remain widely popular in the Philippines. Imelda herself was still part of the House of Representatives until last year. Her son Bongbong Marcos ran for vice president in 2016 and is still protesting his loss.
Last year, a documentary on Imelda, The Kingmaker debuted internationally at the 76th Venice Film Festival. It tells the story of her political career, as well as the Marcos family’s return to political power.