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5 real-life Royal events to look for in The Crown, Season 5

A fire devastated Windsor Castle in the early ‘90s, but it was an equally destructive time for the marriage of Charles and Diana.

Destruction and divorce marked the ‘90s for the Royal Family

A stack of tabloid newspapers from 1992 with headlines about members of Britain's royal family
A selection of British tabloid headlines about the crumbling marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales is shown in a CBC-TV report from Nov. 23, 1992. (The National/CBC Archives)

Season 5 of the Netflix series The Crown debuts on Nov. 9, and Peter Knegt of CBC Arts described it as "the one we've all been waiting for since the show first premiered on Nov. 4, 2016." 

"Its story will be increasingly familiar … to those who lived through the events it depicts," said a report about The Crown on CBC.ca in October. Netflix added a disclaimer to the YouTube trailer "to inform viewers that the show is fictional," according to the report.

The trailer hints at the events Season 5 explores, including the unravelling of the marriage of Charles and Diana. 

"Tawdry tabloid headlines laid bare the many cracks in their marriage for years," noted the CBC newsletter the Royal Fascinator in an examination of the new season.

Here are five true events in the lives of the Royal Family in the 1990s as CBC saw them.

1. Charles and Diana's 10th wedding anniversary

Hope for Charles and Diana in 1991

31 years ago
Duration 6:04
In an interview with CBC's Midday on the tenth anniversary of their wedding, the editor of Majesty magazine seemsthink the marriage of Charles and Diana will last. Aired June 7, 1991.

In 1991, the CBC current affairs program Midday observed Charles and Diana's 10-year wedding anniversary with guest Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty Magazine.

"What is the latest on the marriage?" asked host Nancy Wilson.

"Well, there's all kinds of innuendo and gossip and rumours. I mean, each day we have new stories," said Seward, who was speaking remotely from London. "But I think most of them are unfounded. The trouble is nobody really knows the true state of the marriage."

2. A devastating fire

Fire at Windsor Castle in 1992

30 years ago
Duration 5:07
Stock images from CBC cameras reveal the extent of the damage when fire engulfs part of Windsor Castle. Stock footage captured in November 1992.

The opening frames of the Season 5 trailer depict the stone walls of Windsor Castle silhouetted by raging orange flames — a disaster that took place on Nov. 20, 1992. According to the Royal Trust Collection website, the fire started in Queen Victoria's Private Chapel, where a faulty spotlight ignited a curtain next to the altar.

CBC cameras captured the charred remains of the castle on Nov. 22, 1992, after the flames were extinguished. 

3. The apparent end of the 'fairy-tale romance'

Trouble for the House of Windsor

30 years ago
Duration 1:51
A fire erupts at Windsor Castle just as the paperback is released for Diana's tell-all biography in 1992. Aired Nov. 23, 1992 on CBC's The National.

The fire happened around the same time as the release of the paperback edition of Diana: Her True Story, a biography by Andrew Morton. On CBC's The National, reporter Gillian Findlay spoke to Morton about the book's new chapter, which she said concluded that "the fairy-tale romance [was] dead."

"I would have loved to have written a chapter that said they've reconciled their differences, the book has brought them together, that their friends have been united in trying to make this marriage work," he said. "It didn't happen." 

4. Separate households

Charles and Diana announce their separation in 1992

30 years ago
Duration 5:07
With the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales, London correspondent Ann MacMillan discusses what that could mean for the future of the monarchy. Aired on CBC's Midday on Dec. 9, 1992.

In December 1992 Charles and Diana separated. CBC's Midday spoke to CBC reporter Ann MacMillan in London about what impact, if any, the decision might have for the monarchy. 

"The one thing that the Buckingham Palace statement made clear was there is no talk of official divorce so in fact they will be still married but they'll be living in separate households," said MacMillan. 

5. Divorce directive from the Queen

Time for divorce, orders the Queen in 1995

27 years ago
Duration 3:09
After both Charles and Diana confess to bad behavior in their marriage in televised interviews, Queen Elizabeth orders the pair to officially end their marriage. Aired on CBC's The National Magazine on Dec. 21, 1995.

In December 1995, CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge said on The National that Charles and Diana were headed for "the world's most famous divorce" under the direction of Queen Elizabeth.

Just before Christmas, the Queen "put her royal foot down" and effectively told the pair to "end it all — end the public bickering, the humiliation, the gossip and the guessing," said reporter Paul Workman. 

"Unless she asserts her authority, this bickering will go on in public indefinitely," said constitutional expert Lord St. John of Fawsley. "She has decided that a divorce really would be the lesser of two evils and she wants to bring this whole painful episode to an end."

The Crown debuts Nov. 9 on Netflix.

 

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