The Crown season 5 episode guide, from tampongate to Diana’s Panorama interview

What happens in the new episodes of Netflix’s hit drama – and how much of it is true?

Ellie Harrison
Saturday 12 November 2022 19:33 GMT
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The Crown Season 5 trailer

The storylines in the fifth season of The Crown have provoked much backlash, from scenes showing the former Prince Charles trying to force the Queen’s abdication to others suggesting Prince Philip was unfaithful to the late monarch.

Prominent figures, including Judi Dench, have demanded that the drama carry a disclaimer to make clear that the events of the series aren’t entirely factual. While The Crown actor Jonathan Pryce, has called these reactions to the show “hugely disappointing”, claiming that viewers know it’s a drama, not a documentary.

Some of the storylines in season five are pretty close to the truth. Others, not so much.

Here’s a full rundown of what is covered in each episode of The Crown season five, and links to our articles about what’s fact versus what’s fiction in the series.

Episode one: Queen Victoria Syndrome

In the first instalment of the new series, the monarchy is shown in the midst of an existential crisis. It needs to modernise to win over the public who, according to a Sunday Times poll at the time called “Queen Victoria Syndrome”, believed the Queen should step down as monarch.

This episode also sees Princess Anne set her sights on her future husband Sir Timothy Laurence for the first time, and it introduces viewers to Countess Mountbatten and her poorly daughter Leonora Knatchbull, who died aged five in 1991, from kidney cancer.

One scene that has been met with outrage sees the former Prince Charles having a secret meeting with the then prime minister John Major, arguing that he should be made King sooner rather than later.

Episode two: The System

Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip, Natascha McElhone as Penny Knatchbull
Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip, Natascha McElhone as Penny Knatchbull (Neflix)

In this episode, Prince Philip’s “friendship” with Countess Mountbatten (Penelope Knatchbull) is explored, with him comforting her after the death of her daughter and introducing her to carriage driving. The series has been criticised for implying that the late royal had an inappropriate relationship with the Countess and was unfaithful to the Queen.

We also see Princess Diana’s friend, James Colthurst, introducing her to journalist Andrew Morton. Diana recorded interviews for Morton, for his 1992 book Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words. In the show, she’s seen speaking about numerous suicide attempts in tapes for the book.

Diana’s involvement in the book was seen by many at the time as a declaration of war against the royal family.

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Episode three: Mou Mou

The third episode is an introduction to Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed and his son Dodi (who later dated Diana), and also includes the death of Wallis Simpson – the American wife of King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne.

It shows Mohamed’s determination to get as close to the monarchy as possible, and includes a storyline about him buying Edward VIII and Simpson’s French chateau.

We also see Mohamed bonding with Diana, and Diana and Dodi getting a first glimpse of each other at a horse racing event.

Episode four: Annus Horribilis

Imelda Staunton as the Queen
Imelda Staunton as the Queen (Keith Bernstein)

In a 1992 speech, the Queen opened up about her “annus horribilis”.

This episode reflects on what the Queen was going through at that time, from the fire at Windsor Castle to the three failed marriages among the Queen’s children.

It also zones in on Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend – the RAF officer she fell in love with in the 1950s. It contains numerous flashbacks to their affair, and the Queen forbidding them from being together.

It shows Townsend getting back in touch with the princess before his death.

Episode five: The Way Ahead

Olivia Williams as Camilla, Dominic West as Charles
Olivia Williams as Camilla, Dominic West as Charles (Netflix)

This instalment is all about Prince (now King) Charles. It looks at his desire for faster modernisation of the monarchy, as well as his work with The Prince’s Trust. It also chronicles the leaking of a phone call in which he told Camilla Parker Bowles that he wanted to live inside her as a tampon, and him later admitting to adultery in a TV interview with Jonathan Dimbleby.

Diana’s “Revenge Dress” – the black off-the-shoulder garment she wore after the interview – also features in this episode.

Episode six: Ipatiev House

In this one, the Queen meets the former president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. The episode goes back in time and looks at whether King George V really betrayed the country’s last tsar a century ago.

The show implies there was a rivalry between the Queen and Penelope Knatchbull, and that the Queen only made friends with her to prevent rumours of Prince Philip having an affair.

A conversation is shown between the Queen and Philip in which he insists his relationship with Knatchbull is purely spiritual and not physical.

Episode seven: No Woman’s Land

This instalment depicts Martin Bashir manipulating Diana into doing the 1995 Panorama interview, by telling her she needs to get her story out in the public realm because he believes security services are tapping her phone on behalf of the royals. He is also shown convincing her she can’t trust any of her closest friends or employees.

In the episode, she also meets Hasnat Khan, the doctor she had a romantic relationship with, and it’s implied she was paranoid that someone was trying to kill her.

Episode eight: Gunpowder

Prasanna Puwanarajah as Martin Bashir
Prasanna Puwanarajah as Martin Bashir (Keith Bernstein)

One of the episodes most likely to spark controversy is episode eight. It’s all about the filming, broadcasting and fallout of the Panorama interview.

In the interview, Diana famously noted, in reference to her husband’s relationship with Parker Bowles, that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”.

An inquiry later found Bashir guilty of deceit and breaching BBC editorial conduct to obtain the interview.

Episode nine: Couple 31

Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially divorce in this episode, and Parker Bowles hires a spin doctor, Mark Bolland, to try to encourage the public to accept her.

John Major is shown as mediating between the couple for their divorce settlement.

Episode ten: Decomissioned

In the series finale, Tony Blair comes to power.

Diana is also shown packing for a holiday with Mohamed Al Fayed, with his son Dodi shown proposing to American model Kelly Fisher.

Season six of The Crown is expected to show Diana and Dodi beginning a relationship, and the events surrounding the couple’s subsequent death in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

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