The Crown: 3 Things From Season 5 That Are Reportedly True And 2 That Are Fiction

Imelda Staunton as Elizabeth II on The Crown
(Image credit: Netflix)

Spoiler Warning: The following article contains major spoilers for The Crown Season 5. If you don’t want to have the show ruined for you, please go back and watch the 10-episode season on Netflix.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have either completed The Crown Season 5 or don’t mind having the major plot points of a historical drama series ruined for you. And if either of those statements are, in fact, true, there is probably and even greater chance you want to separate fact from fiction with the happenings of the penultimate season of the incredibly popular and incredibly expensive Netflix series.

Below, will break down three scenes that reportedly happened in real life and two scenarios dreamt up by The Crown creator Peter Morgan and his writing team. It should be noted that this isn’t an attack on the creatives hard at work on The Crown (the royal drama makes for excellent TV), but instead to provide greater context for one of the most trying times in the royal family’s somewhat modern history. That being said, let’s dive into some of the biggest moments from The Crown Season 5 and figure out what’s real and what’s fantasy…

Imelda Staunton on the Britannia on The Crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fact: Queen Elizabeth II Had A Strong Emotional Connection With The Britannia Royal Yacht

The Crown Season 5 is bookended by two episodes that focus, in part, on the fondness Queen Elizabeth II (played this time by Imelda Staunton) had for the Britannia, the Royal Yacht the sovereign had to used to travel the world time and time again throughout much of the first five decades of her reign. When it came time to decommission the aging ship, she (and other members of the Royal Family) attempted to prolong the inevitable, due in part to her emotional connection with the vessel.

According to Robert Lacey, who served as a historical consultant on The Crown, the real-life Queen Elizabeth II had a deep connection with Britannia as depicted on the series. When speaking with the Washington Post, Lacey noted that the only time the Sovereign, who passed away in September 2022, cried in public was “when [the] royal yacht was decommissioned” in 1997. Earlier in the piece, a quote from biographer Robert Hardman is used, stating “there were few places where the Queen would be happier” than on the ship.

Jonny Lee Miller sitting in Prince Charles' office on The Crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fiction: John Major Says The ‘Abdication’ Discussion With Prince Charles Never Happened

While Queen Elizabeth II was off trying to save the Britannia from being decommissioned during The Crown Season 5 opener, her son and heir, Prince Charles (Dominic West) was all wrapped up in a recent poll regarding his mother and what is called “Queen Victoria Syndrome” (not stepping aside so the younger Prince of Wales can become king). This plot line, which comes up at several points throughout the rest of the season, led to a rather uncomfortable meeting between Charles and new Prime Minister John Major (Jonny Lee Miller), in which the queen’s son talked about his mother abdicating the throne.

There is just one problem, at least in the eyes of the real-life John Major, who told the Daily Mail that the conversation depicted in the series never happened, calling the scene a “barrel load of malicious nonsense.” And, the chances of the now King Charles III commenting on the matter seems to be less than zero, as the monarch allegedly stopped watching The Crown prior to the latest season. Those close with the royal family, however, have spoken out about a number of issues with the Netflix show.

Salim Daw and Jude Akuwudike on a beach on The Crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fact: Mohamed Al Fayed Did Hire The Former Longtime Valet Of King Edward VIII

Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw), the father of Dodi Al-Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), who also died in the August 1997 Paris car crash that claimed the life of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki), is the primary focus of The Crown Season 5 episode “Mou Mou.” The episode follows the Egyptian businessman’s rise from a poor boy selling bottles of Coca Cola to one of the owners of the Hôtel Ritz Paris and an Academy Award-winning producer (Chariots of Fire). Another aspect of Al-Fayed’s life touched upon is his fascination with the royal family, which started when he saw the former King Edward VIII after he abdicated the throne. This near-obsession with the royals goes as far as seeing the business magnate hire Edward's former longtime valet.

During an episode of the official podcast of The Crown (via the New York Times), the show’s creator, Peter Morgan, revealed that he initially had some difficulty finding a way to connect Mohamed Al-Fayed to the royal family, but was relieved when he discovered that Sydney Johnson (Connie M’Gadzah) served Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, for 30 years after he abdicated the throne, saying “the story just fell into my lap.” Throughout the discussion, Morgan also provided some key insight into the relationship the Bahaman valet had with the Windsors and Al-Fayed throughout his life.

Prasanna Puwanarajah in The Crown.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fact: Martin Bashir Did Use Fake Documents For The BBC Interview

The Princess Diana Panorama interview conducted by former BBC journalist Martin Bashir (Prasanna Puwanarajah) in November 1995 was a major thread throughout much of The Crown Season 5, and had parts of several episodes showing how it came together, as well as the fallout from its controversial revelations. One aspect of the saga that is covered in great detail was the process of how Bashir got the Princess of Wales to sign off on the interview in the first place: the use of forged documents to make it seem as if the royal family and government were spying on her.

Following an internal inquiry, the BBC published a report in 2021 claiming the former journalist, who also raised controversy with his 2003 Living with Michael Jackson documentary, acted in a “deceitful” way to get close to Diana in the first place. This included going to her brother Charles Spencer (Philip Cumbus) with faked bank statements pointing to alleged spying by the government. The report also claimed that Bashir lied to multiple people within the BBC before and following the explosive interview that rocked a nation more than 25 years earlier.

Humayun Saeed on The Crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fiction: Princess Diana’s Butler Claimed She And Hasnat Khan Didn’t Break Their Relationship Off Immediately Following The BBC Interview

The final two episodes of The Crown Season 5 focused heavily on the fallout of the Panorama interview, including heated interactions between Princess Diana and Prince Charles during and after their divorce proceedings. At one point, the Princess of Wales, talking about how she felt isolated following the Panorama appearance, revealed that Hasnat Khan (Humayun Saeed), the Pakistani heart surgeon she had fallen for, didn’t want anything to do with her in its fallout. 

During a 2008 interview with the Telegraph, Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, revealed that the pair actually didn’t split up for good until July 1997, a month before the Princess of Wales died following a car wreck in Paris. According to Burrell, Diana was still “burning a candle” for Khan, even after she was connected to Dodi Al-Fayed.

All five seasons of The Crown are available for anyone with a Netflix subscription. The sixth final installment of the royal drama is currently in production, meaning soon enough, we'll be breaking down all the crucial scenes to see what is fact and what is fiction.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.