Everything ‘The Crown’ Season 5 Got Right and Wrong
The lead-up to the release of The Crown’s fifth season has arguably been its most anticipated one to date, with the fictionalized version of the Royal Family embarking on what the late Queen herself described as her annus horribilis. From the return of familiar faces like Group Captain Peter Townsend to Princess Diana’s infamous Panorama interview, Peter Morgan and his team pulled out all the stops and brought audiences back to one of the House of Windsor’s most scandal-driven decades—but just how much of it was true?
We’ve compiled some of this season’s most shocking and intriguing moments and classified them as whether or not they actually happened or if there is any semblance of truth to them because, as many wise sages on the internet have pointed out, there is only one way to watch The Crown: by having Google fired up and ready for any random searches.
Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend’s Reunion—TRUE
Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend’s heartbreaking love affair was a vital plot point of the show’s earlier seasons and was wonderfully brought to life by Vanessa Kirby and Ben Miles. We don’t hear much about Peter after he writes a letter to Margaret in Season 2, expressing his intent to marry someone else and thereby spurring the princess to find love anew for herself.
As mentioned in the episode, the Group Captain was aboard the HMS Vanguard as equerry to King George VI. He sailed with the Royal Family all the way to South Africa, where then Princess Elizabeth made a speech marking her 21st birthday. Although there are no accounts of Princess Margaret and Townsend rekindling their affections or exchanging their old letters as seen in the episode, it is confirmed that they were both at the reunion.
I think Tampongate was on everyone’s predictions as to the events this season of The Crown would cover but I doubt anyone thought that they would actually recreate the entire conversation word for word. As seen in the episode, the phone call itself actually happened in 1989 but was not released to the public until years later after the then Prince and Princess of Wales had announced their separation.
Mohamed Al-Fayed, Sydney Johnson, and the Duke of Windsor’s French Estate—TRUE
One of the most interesting episodes of The Crown this season was the third, which focused on Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian business whose son Dodi would eventually perish in a car crash with Princess Diana. The episode centers on his humble beginnings, slow rise, and eventually, his hiring of a man named Sydney Johnson, who was once valet to the Duke of Windsor. All this is rooted in reality. Although there are reports of Al-Fayed’s hostility towards the monarchy for their continuous denial of granting him citizenship, the mogul has always found an interest in the Duke of Windsor and the story of how he had given up his throne to marry the woman he loved (he probably didn’t know the guy was a Nazi). Like in the episode, he did purchase the Duke’s estate and restored it. He owns the extravagant palace to this day.
Finding the Romanovs—TRUE
When remains that were suspected to be that of the long-lost Romanovs were exhumed in Yekaterinburg, there was a need to confirm if it was really them. And so, Princes Philip and Michael of Kent were asked to provide DNA samples, which they willingly provided. In the show, they only show Prince Philip who makes the trip to Russia together with the Queen. The episode also makes several flashbacks to the events prior to the execution of the last Imperial Family of Russia and touched on how King George V refused to help Tsar Nicholas II. Again, that bit is also true.
Attempts at a PR Clean-Up—TRUE
In one of the latest season’s episodes, Prince Charles comes up with an all-new team dedicated to rehabilitating both his and Camilla Parker-Bowles’ image to the public in hopes that they would be more “accepting” of her. Again, this is also true. In real life, she even went on to be a patron of the National Osteoporosis Society but took a step back when news of Princess Diana’s passing shocked the world in 1997.
The bugging of Princess Diana’s phones—UNCLEAR
There is no concrete evidence to prove that the late Princess’ phones really were bugged. However, her fear that they were wiretapped is grounded in reality. In an interview with The Guardian, Princess Diana’s former private secretary shared that she “clearly” was of the belief that her calls were being recorded.
“Her actions were such, in terms of changing her telephone number, that it was clear that that was a concern to her, yes,” he said.
The fear remained with the princess until the very last days leading up to her death.
Dodi Al-Fayed’s Fiancé—UNCLEAR
Although the show has yet to provide us with scenes of Diana and Dodi in a relationship, it has provided us with brief glimpses into Dodi’s life. And as seen in the show, he was reportedly engaged to a model named Kelly Fisher before getting involved with the late princess. Fisher notably filed a case against Dodi for leaving her and for allegedly not paying her a certain sum he had promised her. She dropped all charges upon his and Princess Diana’s death.
Talks of abdication—FALSE
This season started with a huge and scandalous plotline involving Prince Charles attempting to convince then Prime Minister John Major to persuade his mother the Queen to abdicate the throne. Major’s real-life counterpart was, of course, quick to call on the show’s bluff and immediately called for its boycotting.
Others who served under his tenure like David Mellor were also quick to follow suit, stating: “To conspire with the heir to the throne to try to force a monarch he had sworn to serve to stand down is simply not something [Major] would ever have contemplated. No one in their right mind would have suggested it and no one as sensible as Charles would ever have imagined that this was possible or desirable.”
The friendly meeting—FALSE
In the “Couple 31” episode, we watch Prince Charles pay Princess Diana a visit after the signing and formalization of their separation. There in her Kensington Apartments, they give their relationship a sort of post-mortem and talk about where it went wrong and the small things they somehow got right, which culminated in Charles storming off after yet another argument.
Personally, this was the scene I first remember looking up as I was watching when the season first dropped. And I was a little surprised to find out that there are actually no accounts of it taking place, although it’s been well-documented that the former couple stayed on amicable terms following the split.
The heads up before the Panorama interview—FALSE
Although the interview itself was eerily accurate (people all over the internet have stitched the original interview with the reenactment on the show countless times since the season aired), not every detail in the episode was as spot on. Among these glaring differences is the fact that it wasn’t Princess Diana herself who delivered the news of her move to the Queen as the show depicts.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Patrick Jephson, a former aid of the late Princess had this to say: “I know it was made up because I was there, and I can tell you that the princess absolutely failed to summon up the necessary courage and delegated the job to me. So, sitting beside her in her Jaguar en route to an official engagement, I used the car telephone to call the Queen’s private secretary and break the sensational news. In a comedy of confusion—the genuine mark of reality—the only person in the Queen’s office at the time was Her Majesty’s press secretary who thus got the vital information seconds before he received it first hand from the BBC.”
Warnings from Prince Philip against the Andrew Morton book—FALSE
The Crown is known for taking liberties in some aspects of its depiction of the Windsors’ characterization, most particularly when it comes to their relationships with one another. In its earlier seasons, it showed Prince Charles’ difficult relationships with both of his parents, Prince Philip’s personal struggles as a child and his own strained relations with his parents, and even the rivalry between the Queen and her beloved sister Princess Margaret.
Among its more interesting takes is its perspective on the relationship between the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Diana. In Series Four of the show, with Emma Corrin as Diana and Tobias Menzies as the Duke, the showrunners decided to show the bond between the two. This carries itself into Season Five with Philip once again coming to Diana and providing her with advice (a thing the dialogue seems to imply that he regularly does) against coming out with a book. As we all know, the princess of course pursues the idea and the book is eventually published.
Although interesting, there are no actual accounts of this ever happening. But the writers may have been onto something. Many royal biographers have often credited the late prince for overseeing most of the family’s internal affairs as the Queen goes about her duties, so warning Diana about the book may be within the realm of possibility.
(featured image: Netflix)
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