The Crown: What is the drinking game Margaret Thatcher plays at Balmoral?

New series shows prime minister playing Ibble Dibble with royal family

Olivia Petter
Thursday 26 November 2020 07:21 GMT
The Crown: The Royal family play "Ibble Dibble"
Leer en Español

The fourth season of The Crown has finally been released on Netflix.

The new season of the historical drama sees audiences introduced to Prince Charles’s (Josh O’Connor) new love interest, Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin).

But it also sees Gillian Anderson take on the role of Margaret Thatcher and explore the former prime minister’s relationship with the Queen and the rest of the royal family.

The latter is examined in episode two of the new series, when Thatcher pays a visit to Balmoral in Scotland.

After having dinner, the royal family gather in a living room along with the prime minister to play a drinking game involving blackened corks and the phrase “Ibble Dibble”.

But what is Ibble Dibble and how do you play? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Ibble Dibble?

Ibble Dibble is a popular drinking game for which you need a large group of players, ideally five or more.

The game gets its name from the phrase that players have to repeat throughout. It is a nonsensical phrase.

In order to play, you need one cork, matches, and if you drink it, alcohol.

How do you play Ibble Dibble?

To play Ibble Dibble, you must first ensure that every player has a drink.

Next, give every player a number.

Char one end of your cork by lighting it and letting it burn. Blow out the flame. The idea is that as you play, the blackened cork will be used to mark people’s faces with small black dots, which will be referred to as “dibble ibbles”.

Now you are ready to start playing Ibble Dibble. The first player must begin by holding the cork and introducing themselves according to their number followed by the phrase “Ibble Dibble”. e.g. “number three Ibble Dibble”. 

Next, they must announce how many dibble ibbles they have (which will be none at the start of the game) and then choose another player and refer to them by their number followed by the phrase. So they might say something like this: “number three Ibble Dibble with no dibble ibbles calling number five Ibble Dibble with no dibble ibbles”.

Gillian Anderson as Thatcher playing Ibble Dibble

Then it will be the turn of the person who has been allocated the number five.

The game proceeds like this until someone makes a mistake with their phrasing, which requires them to drink and have the blackened cork put to their face, resulting in them receiving a dibble ibble.

Once multiple players have received multiple dibble ibbles, the game might sound something like this:

Number four: Number four Ibble Dibble with three dibble ibbles calling number six Ibble Dibble with two dibble ibbles.

Number six: Number six Ibble Dibble with two dibble ibbles calling number two Ibble Dibble with one dibble ibble.

How accurate is the depiction of Thatcher’s visit to Balmoral in The Crown?

In The Crown, Thatcher appears visibly uncomfortable while playing the game and is called upon by Princess Margaret.

At this point, Thatcher appears to be the only person in the room with no dibble ibbles. She calls on the Queen, who has several dibble ibbles, but speaks very slowly so as not to make a mistake.

The mood in the room is very tense while Thatcher tries to play the game.

It’s not clear whether or not such a drinking game did occur between Thatcher and the royal family. 

But it is well-known that Thatcher did not enjoy her trips to Balmoral and was said to have considered them a “tedious waste of time”, according to the 2015 book The Queen And Mrs Thatcher: An Inconvenient Relationship by veteran television producer Dean Palmer.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in