The Crown season 5: the ultimate fact vs fiction guide to new episodes

Your ultimate guide to the latest season of The Crown

The Crown is finally back on our screens for season five, and we couldn't be more excited to watch the latest instalment of the dramatised retelling of the Queen's reign.

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In the latest season, the show follows Her Majesty and the royal family's lives in the 1990s, and we have all of the answers for what really happened - and what the show may have embellished for dramatic purposes. Check out our ultimate fact vs fiction round-up for season five here... 

Story by Francesca Shillcock, Nicky Morris and Emmy Griffiths

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WATCH: The official trailer for season five of Netflix's smash hit, The Crown

Was HMS Brittania really the Queen's favourite home?

It's no secret that one of the Queen's favourite places to be was in Scotland. But while it is known that Balmoral, the place of her death in September 2022, was her favourite residence, HMS Britannia, based in Edinburgh, also had a special place in her and Prince Philip's heart. 

According to the yacht's official website, Britannia was the one royal residence for which the Queen and Philip had final say in its design – a reason that might explain why they loved it so much. The 1950s style was designed so that the royal couple felt like they were at home. According to Royal Yacht Britannia, the monarch described the place as the "one place where I can truly relax."

The yacht, which was known as the Queen's "floating palace" held many functions and state dinners, and was also the destination for a number of royal honeymoons including that of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Nowadays, it's no longer a royal residence but a tourist attraction.

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The Queen and Prince Philip aboard HMS Brittania

 

Did Prince Charles really support the Queen abdicating before his marriage breakdown?

One of the talking points of The Crown's latest series is the storyline alluding that the then Prince Charles was keen for the Queen to abdicate in favour of Charles taking over – something which former Prime Minister John Major denied ever happening.

In real life, given John Major's comments, it's likely that this didn't quite happen in the way the drama is portraying. "As you will know, discussions between the monarch and prime minister are entirely private and – for Sir John – will always remain so.

Prince Charles pictured with Prime Minister John Major and his wife, Norma

"But not one of the scenes you depict are accurate in any way whatsoever. They are fiction, pure and simple," the former Prime Minster told the Mail on Sunday recently. 

As to whether Charles privately did want the abdication to happen, we can't be sure. However, what we do know is that Netflix insists it's always presented itself as a fictional drama, so it's likely this storyline fits into that description.

 

Did Diana's mother lose custody of the children? Did Diana really have an unhappy childhood?

The troubles that Princess Diana faced in her childhood both personally and publicly are widely known. In 1967, it was reported that Diana's mother, Frances Spencer, had left her husband, Diana's father, John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, following an alleged affair with Peter Shand Kydd. Frances and John shared five children together, Lady (Elizabeth) Sarah Spencer, Jane, John, Charles, and, of course, Diana.

Following the divorce, it was reported that John refused to let his two younger children, John and Diana, return to London to be with their mother following the Christmas holidays. The subsequent divorce proceedings meant that John was then granted full custody of their five children. By the time Diana suddenly died in 1997, she and her mother were, allegedly, not on speaking terms.

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Princess Diana said her childhood was "very unhappy"

Diana's childhood, according to her tapes given to her biographer, Andrew Morton, was chequered with a number of traumatic moments. In his work, Andrew claimed that Diana informed him she was "always crying" because of vicious rows between her mother and father before their acrimonious divorce.

The book, In Her Own Words, features Diana stating: "It was a very unhappy childhood. Parents were busy sorting themselves out. Always seeing our mum crying. Daddy never spoke to us about it. We could never ask questions. Too many changes over nannies, very unstable, the whole thing. Generally unhappy and being detached from everyone else."

 

Was Mohamed al-Fayed really obsessed with the Queen?

Mohamed al-Fayed is portrayed in The Crown alongside his son, Dodi, who strikes up a relationship with Princess Diana. Royal followers will know that it was Dodi who was with Princess Diana in the car on that fateful night in Paris, August 31st 1997. 

But before Diana and Dodi's tragic death, his father, Mohamed, the famous Harrods tycoon, already had links to the royal family while Diana and Charles were married as they would often frequently shop at Harrods and would later meet Dodi and a polo club.

Mohamed al-Fayed pictured with the late Queen

Mohamed, who had long-established links with the monarch from the 1980s onwards, was reportedly negative towards the monarchy due to being denied British citizenship, according to a report in Reuters. He also publicly suggested that his son and Diana's death was a conspiracy planned by the establishment – but this claim has been vehemently denied and an inquiry proved in a court of law that the fatal crash was an accident.

 

Did Wallis Simpson really become a recluse before she died?

If you've watched The Crown from the beginning, or indeed are clued up on your royal history, then you'll be familiar with the name Wallis Simpson. The American divorcee was romantically involved with King Edward VIII, who ascended the throne in 1936. The King, later known as the Duke of Windsor, famously abdicated in order to marry Wallis, which lead to his young brother, George, taking to the throne to become George VI.

After the abdication, Edward and Wallis moved to France where they remained until Edward died in 1972. Following her husband's death, Wallis remained in Paris and lived as a recluse.

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King Edward VIII with his wife, Wallis Simpson

By the time 1980 came along, Wallis had been widowed for eight years and, at age 84, was ridden with Dementia. She passed in 1986 and it was after her death that the truth of her "quiet life" was revealed.

It transpired that French lawyer Suzanne Blum had assumed power of attorney after Edward's death, sold many of her personal items and, ultimately, and almost complete control over Wallis' life. Suzanne, who had large control over Wallis' life, was later described by royal biographer Hugo Vickers as exploitative and having an "inner malevolence."

 

Is it true that the Queen went to Eton?

During a chat with the Queen and Prince William in The Crown, the royal is revealed to know the many nicknames used daily at Eton, reminding her grandson that she attended the all-boys school to some capacity - and this is indeed the case.

Eton’s official website includes information about Her Majesty’s visits to the school, where she received tuition from Eton’s Vice-Provost, Sir Henry Marten, back in 1938. She went on to accept honorary membership of the Old Etonian Association as a result. The royal returned to the school in 2019 to reopen the Queen’s Schools - which were originally opened by Queen Victoria.

The Queen visited Eton on several occasions

 

Did Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend actually ever reunite? 

Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend might not have had a night dancing with one another again, but they did meet 30 years after their doomed romance. Margaret’s close friend Lady Glencoccer revealed their reunion on the documentary Elizabeth: Our Queen back in 2018, saying that the royal reported that Peter was "charming" and that he hadn’t changed at all.

She added" I looked out the window and saw him getting out of the car, he was an old man…Yet in her eyes he hadn’t changed. I thought that was very touching." Peter died in 1995 aged 71, while Princess Margaret died, also aged 71, in 2002.

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Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend met 30 years after their doomed romance

 

Did the conversation about 'Tampax' between Charles and Camilla actually happen?

Yes, 'Tampongate’ did indeed happen. In the months after Charles and Diana officially announced their separation, People published the intimate details of a conversation between Charles and Camilla, which included Charles making explicit comments about Tampax, which is recalled, in part, on The Crown. However, the conversations following the news, including Princess Anne’s sympathy towards her brother and Prince Philip’s fury were almost certainly fictional.

'Tampongate' did indeed happen in real life

Dominic West opened up about how the incident is presented on the show, telling The Guardian: "I remember thinking it was something so sordid and deeply, deeply embarrassing… Looking back on it, and having to play it, what you're conscious of is that the blame was not with these two people, two lovers, who were having a private conversation.

"What’s really [clear now] is how invasive and disgusting was the press's attention to it, that they printed it out verbatim and you could call a number and listen to the actual tape."

Did Prince Philip really give DNA to identify the Romanov family?

Prince Philip was indeed related to Tsarina Alexandra, who was his great aunt - and as such gave DNA vital in identifying that mass graves found in Ekaterinburg belonged to the family murdered by revolutionaries in 1918. While Philip’s opinions on the matter - which The Crown also depicts as a reason for his growing closeness to Penny Knatchbull - are fictitious, he did once speak about his relationship in public. When asked if he would want to visit Russia, he replied: "I would like to go to Russia very much, though the [expletives] murdered half my family.”

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The Romanov children

Professor of forensic genetics Dr Gill previously opened up about Philip’s blood samples in a blog post back in 2018, which read: "We were fortunate to obtain blood samples from HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who is a direct descendant of Tsarina Alexandra. Samples were also obtained from the Duke of Fife and Princess Xenia Cheremeteff Sfiri, who are related to the Tsar. The remains matched their living royal relatives and we, therefore, knew we had found the bones of the Romanovs."

Did Queen Mary refuse to allow the Romanov family asylum in the UK?

In The Crown, Queen Mary refuses to allow the government to send an offer allowing the Romanov family - the disposed of Tsar and his family - a chance of asylum in the UK, with their position in Russia leading to their deaths. The reality of the situation is much more complicated. According to History.com, while the British government initially agreed to allow the family to come to the UK, they almost instantly regretted their decision due to the deeply negative opinion of the British public, and fear that their arrival may cause an uprising, leading King George to request that the government reverse their decision.

Queen Mary and the royal family pictured on the Buckingham Palace balcony

Equally, several European countries also declined to grant them asylum due to fears of the new Russian government. The Romanovs were unable to leave Russia at a crucial time and were ultimately moved to Siberia, and executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries, along with their five children and four working members of their household. While it was thought that Queen Mary was indeed not particularly fond of Tsarina Alexandra, there is no evidence that the royal had any involvement in the difficult affair.

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Did Princess Diana wear wigs as a disguise in public?

Yes, Princess Diana did indeed wear wigs in public to disguise her identity at times.  

A friend of the late royal, Simone Simmons, revealed in the 2017 documentary film, Princess Diana: The Woman Inside, that Diana wore a wig when she didn't want to be recognised during a trip to Hampstead Heath. "In spite of the media putting her in the spotlight, she put on her wig, wore what she wanted, came for walks on Hampstead Heath, went to the charity shop with me in Camden High Street," Simone said in the documentary. 

Diana's former butler and close confidante, Paul Burrell, also witnessed her wearing a disguise. He previously revealed to the New York Post that in 1996, during her relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khanhad, Paul had been dispatched to buy a brown wig and a pair of non-prescription glasses from a shop on Oxford Street so that the princess could go on a date. "The disguise was her ticket to normality and freedom," he said. 

Princess Diana being photographed at Luanda airport in 1996

 

Did Princess Diana have a relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan?

Yes, Princess Diana had a two-year-long relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. The pair met when Diana visited a friend's husband, Joe Toffolo, at the Royal Brompton Hospital, where Hasnat was supervising Joe's triple bypass surgery. 

After weeks of visiting the hospital on multiple occasions, Diana and Hasnat went on a date. Their romance was kept a secret, with Diana wearing a black wig to sneak into the Soho jazz club, Ronnie Scott's, on one occasion. In a separate instance, with the help of butler Paul Burrell, Hasnat hid in the boot of a car that was driven into Kensington Palace to visit the princess. Diana even visited Hasnat's parents' home in Pakistan. 

The couple's relationship came to an end only five weeks before Diana's tragic passing in August 1997.

At an inquest into her death in 2008, Hasnat expressed his worries about marrying Diana. He said: "My main concern about us getting married was that my life would be hell because of who she was.

"I knew I would not be able to live a normal life and if we ever had children together, I would not be able to take them anywhere or do normal things with them."

 

Diana and Hasnat were in a relationship for two years

 

Did Princess Diana think someone had cut her brakes?

While driving back to Kensington Palace from a doctor’s appointment in Marylebone in November 1995, there was a brake failure in Diana's green Audi, according to royal author John Morgan in his book, The Assassination of Princess Diana

John said that Diana was "convinced it was no accident".  

The princess' friend, Simone Simmons revealed that a "panic-stricken" Diana rang her following the incident. Simone recalled in the book: "She rang me and said: 'Someone’s tampered with my brakes... They are trying to bump me off.' She was panic-stricken and very upset."

She continued: "As she approached some traffic lights she put her foot on the brake but nothing happened and the car kept coasting forward. When eventually it came to a halt she leapt out, abandoned it and went straight back to Kensington Palace in a taxi."

Diana drove an Audi Cabriolet

 

Was Princess Diana tricked into giving Martin Bashir interview? 

An inquiry into Martin Bashir's 1995 interview with Princess Diana held in May 2021 found that the journalist acted in a "deceitful" way and faked documents to obtain the interview. 

An inquiry found that Martin Bashir had acted in a "deceitful" way

Martin mocked up fake bank statements which suggested that people were being paid to keep Diana under surveillance. The now-disgraced reporter showed the fake documents to Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, to gain his trust so he would introduce Martin to the princess.

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