The much-criticized fifth season of The Crown opens in 1991, when the marriage of Prince Charles, as he was then, and Princess Diana is crumbling. The future of Britannia looks grim, and John Major is prime minister. It ends in the summer of 1997, after the Prince and Princess have separated and divorced, Tony Blair has been elected, and Princess Diana has given her infamous Panorama interview and been invited to the south of France by Mohamed Fayed. Peter Morgan, The Crown’s writer, has said that this season “is a fictional dramatization, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family — one that has already been scrutinized and well documented by journalists, biographers and historians”. That should have given the filmmakers ample chance to produce a faithful representation of what was going on, and possibly even help us to understand it, as good fiction does. Instead, though, the series falls seriously short of the truth on numerous occasions. Here we sort the fact from the fiction.

Did a Sunday Times survey find the Queen was unpopular and out of touch?
Answer: false

So what was in the press in August 1991? By this time, the troubles in the Prince and Princess of Wales’s marriage were becoming more public. In response to a gooey 700-picture edition of Hello! on the tenth anniversary of their marriage, the well-connected biographer Selina Hastings wrote in a Telegraph article that “the princess appears deeply hurt by her husband’s unloving behavior”, and suggested that the Queen was “sufficiently worried by the state of the Waleses’ marriage, and their wretchedness, to have given instructions for plans to be devised for a constitutionally justified separation”.

The first episode of the series depicts courtiers desperately trying to hide a copy of The Sunday Times dated August 11, 1991. The front page states that half the country agree that the Queen is out of touch, has been on the throne too long and should abdicate in favor of Charles, who goes on to plot with Major about persuading his mother to stand aside.

As the real John Major has stated, the story that Prince Charles conspired with him over a possible abdication is “a barrel-load of nonsense”. The only reference to the Queen in The Sunday Times of August 11, 1991, was to “the undisputed Queen”, and this was in an ad for the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth 2. There was a survey by The Sunday Times on January 21, 1990, in which 47 percent thought that the Queen should abdicate “at some stage” — crucially, though, the poll findings were largely pro-monarchy, with nine out of ten people viewing the Queen, and indeed Charles, “mainly favorably” or “very favorably”.

Hastings also mentioned that Camilla Parker Bowles had been acting as hostess for the Prince — something that was not widely known at the time. It’s worth stating that The Crown does not mention the press openly speculating at the time about James Hewitt as a lover of the Princess (the affair took place between 1986 and 1991). More significantly, there is no acknowledgement of Barry Mannakee, the police officer who was moved from his role as bodyguard to the Princess in 1986 after a suspected affair between the two.

Did Prince Charles and Diana attempt a ‘second honeymoon’ with Charles’s friends also invited
: partly true

In the first episode of the series, the Prince is encouraged by his private secretary to rebrand a holiday to Italy as a “second honeymoon”, owing to the popularity of the marriage. The royal couple set off with their children and a group of the Prince’s friends, but he bores Diana by proposing cultural visits to historic sites, then demands they all go home early because he has to give a lecture on architecture at the University of Oxford.

The Prince and Princess of Wales did go on a summer holiday cruise in 1991 with Prince William, then nine, and Prince Harry, six, aboard the Alexander, a yacht owned by the Greek tycoon Yiannis Latsis. With them were Charles’s second cousin and close friend Norton Knatchbull, a grandson of Lord Mountbatten, and his wife, Penelope — then Lord and Lady Romsey — and their five-year-old daughter Leonora, who was suffering from a kidney tumor. Also on board were King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, and Princess Alexandra and her husband, Angus Ogilvy. In extraordinarily poor taste, The Crown casts an actress as Leonora — in real life the child became so ill that she had to be flown home from the cruise and died in London that October. The cruise began in the Greek islands, and went to Menorca, Sardinia, Corsica and Cavallo.

Did Diana’s go-between Dr James Colthurst get knocked off his bicycle on his way to meet author Andrew Morton and did Morton’s home get ransacked?
Answer: true

In the second episode Diana is introduced to Morton by Colthurst at St Thomas’s Hospital. Colthurst and Morton play squash, and Colthurst becomes Diana’s go-between in the collaboration between her and Morton over the latter’s book Diana: Her True Story.

Diana did consider Morton “one of the friendly ones”; a journalist well disposed to her. Colthurst was the conduit, and she agreed to collaborate on a book about her being misunderstood and unsupported by the royal family — as well as her bulimia, suicide attempts, crumbling marriage to Charles and the presence of Camilla — by recording tapes for Morton. He and Diana made a point of never meeting face to face so that she could deny co-operating. The book was published in July 1992 amid great controversy. It is also true that before the book came out Colthurst was knocked off his bicycle, with one of the Diana tapes landing in the gutter, and Morton’s office (not his home) was ransacked — the men believed that the security forces were seeking evidence of Diana’s co-operation with him, and she believed that too.

Did Prince Philip confront Diana, telling her not to collude in a book?
: false

Also in the second episode an angry Philip visits Diana after hearing that she is collaborating on the Morton book and ominously warns her not to air the family’s dirty laundry in public, but to quietly make her own “arrangements”, as he has.

Philip did not address the book in advance of publication and therefore he did not visit Diana on the matter. When the book came out he read it on an overnight flight from the US city of Boston, on July 17 and 18, 1992. After that there was a sympathetic exchange of letters between him and Diana in which he sought ways to keep the marriage going in the public eye, even though he accepted privately that it was not going well (I have read the correspondence).

Was Diana’s telephone bugged?
Answer: true

Diana hears clicking on her telephone in several episodes. She concludes that her line is being bugged, which helps the journalist Martin Bashir to build a case that she is being spied on by Buckingham Palace and MI5, and convince her that she should tell her story to Panorama.

Diana certainly believed that her calls were being wire-tapped and had her apartment at Kensington Palace regularly swept for bugs. It was part of her paranoia. And, true, an intimate telephone call between her and her “close friend” James Gilbey, during which he called her “Squidgy”, was recorded (an important event in this era ignored by The Crown), so it is understandable that she thought these things. The transcripts of the call, which became known as “Squidgygate”, appeared in The Sun on August 23, 1992. They were recorded on New Year’s Eve in 1989, when Diana was at Sandringham. There has long been debate over whether it could have been recorded by an amateur listening to non-commercial radio frequencies, as was claimed at the time.

Did someone tamper with Diana’s car brakes?
Answer: false

In the seventh episode Diana is at the wheel of her car in London and there are photographers about, as there often were. The car goes out of control and she is in danger.

There is no recorded evidence for this but certainly Diana was sufficiently paranoid to believe that it could happen. She used to post letters in random letterboxes in case the Palace opened them.

The Camillagate recordings — did Charles really say that?
Answer: true

The fifth episode depicts the excruciating events whereby an amateur radio-airways enthusiast apparently stumbles upon a late-night, highly intimate phone conversation between Charles and Camilla in 1989 when she was still married to Andrew Parker Bowles. The embarrassing details of the conversation are gleefully relayed in The Crown line by line.

The tape, known as the Camillagate tape, lasted six minutes and had indeed been recorded in December 1989. It broke to an unsuspecting world in January 1993, when the Daily Mirror published it, justifying its action because the story had already been published in New Idea, a women’s magazine owned by Rupert Murdoch in Australia, and transcripts duly poured into the UK through fax machines. It was possible to listen to the tape by dialing a certain number. The world was horrified, not least Charles. It was certainly suggested that an amateur had strayed on to the conversation, though it is more likely that the lines were professionally bugged, possibly by GCHQ, and that many tapes — including Diana’s Squidgygate tape — were recorded until a suitably embarrassing one was overheard.

Prince Charles confesses all to Jonathan Dimbleby
Answer: true

In episode four Charles also gives his interview to Dimbleby. The journalist puts it to Charles that his friendship with Camilla caused the breakdown of his marriage. Charles replies that Camilla is a “wonderful friend I am jolly lucky to have”.

The interview, broadcast on June 29, 1994, is largely as relayed by The Crown. Charles talked of many aspects of his life and work in the film. When asked about his friendship with Camilla, he replied: “These things are so personal. It’s difficult to know how to talk about them in front of everybody. I don’t think many people would want to. There is no truth in so much of this speculation. Mrs Parker Bowles is a great friend of mine. I have a large number of friends who I am terribly lucky to have, who make the whole difference to my life, which would become intolerable otherwise. Mrs Parker Bowles has been a friend for a very long time and will continue to be a friend for a very long time.”

When Charles is asked if he tried to be “faithful and honorable” to Diana, he initially replies, “Yes, absolutely,” but is prompted by Dimbleby, who says: “And you were?” Charles adds: “Yes, until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” It is Diana’s suspected affairs with Hewitt and Mannakee that are held to be the inspiration for Charles’s remark; it was at this point and not before — according to a protection officer who was there at the time — that the Prince returned to Camilla.

The Panorama interview
Answer: true

It’s 1995, and in the seventh episode we see Bashir tricking Earl Spencer into taking him into the confidence of his sister. He also sets up forged documentation to the effect that Patrick Jephson, Diana’s private secretary, and Commander Richard Aylard, Charles’s private secretary, were being paid to spy on her, with the money going into an account in the Channel Islands. It was this that persuaded her that she should talk to the BBC.

The story as related is the accepted version of how this interview was arranged by dishonest means. During the interview, which aired on November 20, 1995, Diana said that there were “three of us in this marriage”. Diana also doubted she would ever be queen, but hoped instead to be “queen of people’s hearts”. One element of the interview not depicted in The Crown was the Princess’s admission of her own adultery. After an inquiry in 2021 about how Bashir secured the interview, the BBC officially apologized and pledged never to air the interview again, although this has not stopped The Crown from recreating it.

Was Duke Hussey, chairman of the BBC, kept in the dark about the interview by director general John Birt
Answer: partly true

The Crown’s stance is that Hussey is out of touch with the modern world and, out of irritation with his stand, Birt allows the interview to be conducted without Hussey’s knowledge. Afterwards, Hussey is so mortified that he tells the Queen that he intends to resign, but she won’t hear of it.

The BBC governors were not informed of the interview by the makers of Panorama nor by Birt. In particular, Hussey was kept in the dark because his wife was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. In his memoirs, Hussey refers to several clashes with Birt, in particular over relocating radio news and current affairs to a new building in White City, west London.

Hussey was due to retire, but postponed this at the request of No 10, owing to the Diana episode of Panorama. As he wrote, the episode “darkened my last months at the BBC”. But there was no meeting with the Queen at which he tendered his resignation. In his memoirs he explained: “I did write to the Queen’s private secretary on behalf of ‘the very many members of our staff who do not believe that this program was our finest hour’. I received a courteous letter in response.” Hussey never forgave Birt.

Did surgeon Hasnat Khan and Diana have secret dates at the cinema?
Answer: true

In episode seven Diana meets Khan, a heart surgeon at the Royal Brompton Hospital, when she goes there to visit the husband of a friend. She sneaks out in a wig to meet him at a cinema to watch Apollo 13.

Diana’s affair with Khan began in 1995 and did apparently involve surreptitious excursions to a cinema and clandestine visits by him to Diana in Kensington Palace.

Did Khan dump Diana because he was so horrified by the Panorama interview?
Answer: false

According to The Crown, Khan cuts Diana off after watching the Bashir interview, the implication being that he was shocked by what Diana had done.

In fact, the affair continued for almost two more years, until July 1997. However, Khan was never one for the limelight. He avoided publicity, and one of the reasons the affair ended was because he could not face that. He was not pleased when Diana visited his family in Pakistan without warning him. Some suggest that the reason she took up with Dodi Fayed in the summer of 1997 was to make Khan jealous.

Prince Philip’s carriage driving ‘romance’
Answer: mainly false

In episode two the Queen encourages Prince Philip to call on Knatchbull to sympathize about the death of Leonora. He arrives, meets Penelope, and suggests that she set up a charity and take up a hobby such as carriage driving. To encourage her he restores an old carriage she has in her stables. A close companionship develops.

Philip did take up driving carriages when his arthritis made playing polo impossible in 1971, and Penelope also took it up later on, possibly inspired by him. But unlike the depiction in The Crown, Penelope and Philip had already known each other for several years. She had stayed at Balmoral before she married in 1979, and the press at one time heralded her as a girlfriend of Charles, though she was in fact a decoy. She and Philip often competed at the Royal Windsor Horse Show together in the presence of the Queen. I never heard of a carriage being restored for her.

Did Philip ask the Queen to ‘befriend’ Penny Knatchbull to dispel rumors of a romance?
Answer: false

In episode six Philip suggests that he needs companionship elsewhere because he and the Queen no longer have anything in common. He asks the Queen to invite Penelope to travel to church with her on Christmas Day to publicly show she is part of the family, and thus to ward off unwanted rumors. The Queen and Penelope have a frosty meeting.

The Queen and Philip got on perfectly well together in a mutually supportive marriage that lasted 73 years. The Queen and Penelope were also good friends. The Knatchbulls were included in many family parties over the years. Penelope was one of the 30 people who attended Philip’s funeral (her husband being too ill to attend). The Queen continued to invite her to the horse show in 2021 and 2022, and she was present at the Queen’s state funeral and committal service.

The love that never died between Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend
Answer: mainly false

In episode four it’s 1993 and Princess Margaret appears on Desert Island Discs. She chooses Stardust by Hoagy Carmichael, hinting that it has a special meaning. The question is asked, “Is music your first love?”, which leads her to look sad and say: “One has many first loves.” This inspires Townsend, her first love, to write to her, as apparently it was their song, and leads to a tender reunion between them after they were separated in 1955 — at which point he offers to return all her letters so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Margaret did appear on Desert Island Discs, but in 1981, and she did not choose Stardust. Her romance with Townsend, equerry to her father, became a public issue in 1953, shortly after the coronation. He was sent away to Brussels because as a divorcee he was not deemed suitable, and the love affair died. They met again in 1987 at a reunion for those who had travelled with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on their visit to South Africa in 1947. Margaret invited him (and his wife, who discreetly declined) to lunch at Kensington Palace — at which the other guests (Sir Eric and Lady Penn, and the Marquess of Abergavenny) made sure that they were talking among themselves to give Margaret and Townsend time to reminisce. I remember Margaret mentioning this lunch in 1994 and recalling that, by then, Townsend was 80.

In The Crown’s version the couple meet at an event where Stardust is played, the thwarted couple dance and Margaret ends up on a piano stool with a naval cap on. None of that happened. The Townsend family still have all his letters and papers, and have respected their father’s privacy and that of Margaret. In the episode he tells her that he does not have long to live. He died eight years later, on June 19, 1995.

Did Mohamed Fayed hire the Duke of Windsor’s valet to learn about how to be an English gentleman?
Answer: partly true

In episode four we see Mohamed Al Fayed as a child selling Coca-Cola in Egypt and spotting the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, apparently in 1946. They have their manservant Sydney Johnson with them. With aspirations to break into British society, Fayed later hires him as his valet.

Although there was no way that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were in Egypt in 1946 or later, Johnson did begin working for the duke when he became governor of the Bahamas in 1940, first as a beach boy and later at Government House. He became the duke’s valet in 1960, living at their home in Paris, later called the Villa Windsor.

After the duke died, in 1972, the duchess dismissed Johnson. Fayed took him on at some point. That he instructed Fayed as to which books he should be reading and how to shoot is exceedingly unlikely. But Johnson did encourage Fayed to renovate the villa, persuading him that its collection was unique. He died soon after that, in 1990, aged 69. I doubt that Fayed nursed him or visited his grave, or knew where he was buried, as is depicted in The Crown.

Did the Queen rudely take back furniture and items from the Villa Windsor?
Answer: false

In a bid to ingratiate himself with the royal family Fayed invites the Queen to the house to take away items that she feels are special. The Queen wants the duke’s garter banner, his coronet, his diaries (deemed to be politically sensitive, of course) and the abdication desk. She sends Robert Fellowes, her private secretary, and he duly removes them.

According to Tom Bower’s 1998 biography of Fayed, the Queen rejected all offers of mementoes. ” ‘No gratitude,’ cursed Fayed, not understanding that the royal family wanted to forget the disaster [of the abdication].” In fact, the items that we see being removed in this episode remained in the house and were sold in the Christie’s auction in New York in 1998: the garter banner was lot 81 and the abdication desk lot 843. The duke did not keep diaries, just a few appointment books.

Did Fayed sponsor horse trials so he could sit next to the Queen?
Answer: true

Fayed is told that the way into British society is to be seen with royalty, and that sponsoring the Royal Windsor Horse Show will land him a seat next to the Queen, who is clearly less keen on meeting him.

Fayed sponsored the Royal Windsor Horse Show for some years from 1982 until he was informed that his efforts were no longer welcome, in 1998, and this was entirely to try to win over the Queen. He was photographed walking along with her, and the photo was prominently displayed in his office to impress clients. “Thankfully the celluloid never captured the soulless frigidity of the meeting,” Bower wrote.

How did Diana and Fayed really meet?
Answer: false

In episode three Fayed meets Diana, Princess of Wales when she is sent to sit next to him at the horse show instead of the Queen. In episode ten he spots her alone at Swan Lake after her divorce and invites her to dinner, then to the south of France.

Diana met Fayed when she was shopping in Harrods — he always tried to lure her into his office. They met occasionally at charity events. Bower’s biography reveals that he was forever inviting her to stay with him at his homes in Gstaad, Balnagown and St Tropez, but that she always declined, until the ill-fated summer of 1997. She met Fayed’s son Dodi briefly at a polo match at Cirencester in 1986. The next time they met would seem to have been when Fayed imported Dodi to the south of France to seduce her, in the summer of 1997, with ultimately fatal results.

Was Dodi’s fiancée sent packing by Fayed?
Answer: true

In episode ten Dodi is seen flying his fiancée, the actress Kelly Fisher, to meet his father after they have been house-hunting in Malibu. He is then forced to dump her on his father’s command.

Fisher was expecting to live in Malibu, she had an engagement ring. All was looking good, but when Fayed saw the possibilities of diverting his son to ensnare the Princess of Wales, Fisher was effectively toast. She was fobbed off with excuses, and the first she knew about Diana was when she and everyone else saw photos of her and Dodi frolicking on Fayed’s superyacht Jonikal, in what came to be called “the kiss photo”.

On August 14, 1997, Fisher announced that she was suing Dodi, and was seen on camera with her lawyer and her mother, displaying a sapphire ring surrounded with diamonds. On September 1, 1997, after the deaths of Dodi and Diana, her lawyer announced that despite her right to pursue his estate for damages she was dropping all claims.

Were the Queen and Philip reluctant to modernize the monarchy, angering Prince Charles?
Answer: true but ultimately false

In episode five senior members of the royal family meet and form the Way Ahead Group to discuss how the monarchy can be moved forward. Charles is shown to be pushing for change, while the rest of the family are stuck in a rut.

The Way Ahead Group, in which senior members of the royal family and their staff discussed how to modernize the monarchy, certainly existed for a time. But it was the Queen who was very much to the fore in suggesting and approving change.

Did Queen Mary really prevent Tsar Nicholas II and his family from being recused to England, leaving them to be murdered by a firing squad?
Answer: false

In episode six a letter is delivered to King George V in 1917 asking for a ship to be sent to rescue his cousin Tsar Nicholas II. He defers to his wife, who advises against it. The idea is advanced that Queen Mary was jealous of the tsarina because her first fiancé, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, had courted the future tsarina, this is then countermanded by the Queen saying that the problem was that the tsarina was pro-German during the First World War.

It was certainly not Queen Mary’s decision to leave the tsar to his fate. We might blame George V. Kenneth Rose, his biographer, did so, suggesting that he was “doubly menaced by a whispering campaign that doubted his patriotism, and by an upsurge of republicanism”. He was not keen to have the tsarina in Britain, blaming her “for the present state that exists in Russia”. But Jane Ridley, a more sympathetic biographer, has pointed out that an “offer of asylum from George would have made no difference”. The Romanovs were under strict house arrest and escape was impossible.

Did the Queen only agree to a state visit to Russia if Boris Yeltsin gives the Tsar and his family a proper burial?
Answer: partly true

In episode six a boorish, drunken Boris Yeltsin visits Britain and invites the Queen to visit Russia. She says she will go only if the remains of the tsar and his family are found and properly buried. Philip is asked to give DNA to help to identify them.

Yeltsin did visit Britain, and lunched with the Queen on November 10, 1992. She accepted an invitation to Russia “on principle”, but this had nothing to do with the burial of the tsar. The Queen’s state visit to Russia took place in 1994, and I was there throughout it. In reality the Queen made a point of avoiding as many tsarist connections as possible.

Tsar Nicholas II was finally buried in St Petersburg on July 17, 1998. Prince Michael of Kent attended. The Queen and Prince Philip did not. However, it is true that Prince Philip’s DNA helped to identify the tsar’s family’s remains, Prince Philip’s maternal grandmother having been the tsarina’s eldest sister.

Did John Major act as an intermediary in the Wales divorce?
Answer: false

In episode nine the Queen asks Major to intervene to help warring Charles and Diana to come to a financial agreement, since he is such a calm presence, trusted by all. We see him doing just that.

Major did get involved with trying to prevent the marriage from breaking down in 1992, at the time when Andrew Morton’s book was published. But according to Anthony Seldon, Major’s biographer, “any support and guidance Major could offer was to no avail. After it was clear that the marriage was unsustainable, his prime concern became the constitutional position.”

Did Prince Charles and Camilla swan off on holiday on Britannia’s last voyage?
Answer: false

In episode ten Charles is sent to Hong Kong for the handover ceremony returning Hong Kong to the Chinese. He is forced to fly business class while the politicians fly first class. He then swans off on a holiday in the yacht with Camilla, visiting Manila and the Paracel Islands.

Charles did preside over the handover ceremony on June 30 and July 1, 1997. It is extremely unlikely that he flew business class. After he left Hong Kong he paid an official visit to the Philippines, so there was no gadding about on the royal yacht on holiday with Mrs Parker Bowles: she was not there. He flew directly to Heathrow from Manila with Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, on July 4.

Did Camilla hire a spin doctor to improve her popularity?
Answer: partly true

In episode nine Camilla is encouraged to meet Mark Bolland, a young, ambitious adman, and she persuades Charles that they should hire him to resurrect her from a position of extreme unpopularity.

Bolland served as deputy private secretary to the Prince of Wales from 1997 until 2002. So far as I recall, it was the other way round. He came into the royal household then set about maneuvering Camilla’s image. At this he was extremely successful. From a very low point at the time of the death of the Princess of Wales, he brought Camilla out of the shadows, had her photographed leaving the Ritz with Charles in 1999, and must ultimately be credited with moving the couple to a position where they could marry in 2005.

Did the Queen Mother advise against the annus horribilis speech?
Answer: false

Despite the Queen Mother warning her not to, the Queen heads to Guildhall (although the scene was filmed in the Great Hall at Greenwich) to give her 1992 “annus horribilis” speech in reference to the collapse of the marriages of Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew.

We know that all those marriages collapsed in 1992, and that Windsor Castle caught fire in November that year. And the Queen did give her speech, but there is no evidence that the Queen Mother tried to prevent her from delivering it.

Did the Queen believe Britannia was her expression?
Answer: false

In episode one we see the Queen in conflict with Major on his summer visit to Balmoral because she is anxious to retain the Royal Yacht Britannia, calling it her “expression” — in other words, the only “residence” she had created, the others having been inherited. He declares that the newish civil list rise (something dreamt up by the film-makers) could deal with costs for the royal yacht. Major is made to describe the older members of the royal family as “dangerously deluded and out of touch”, the junior royals as “feckless, entitled and lost”.

Britannia was certainly much loved by the Queen. It enabled her to travel to outposts of the Commonwealth and overseas territories, which would have been hard to reach by plane in those days, and to host entertainment for return state banquets on board (as she did in St Petersburg in 1994). It was used for the Western Isles cruise, taking her and her family up to Scotland for their summer holiday, and was one of the few places where the Queen could relax.

The Queen would never have made remarks to her prime minister about Britannia being her expression. Nor, for what it is worth, would Major have attended the Ghillies Ball on the traditional visit of the prime minister to Balmoral in the late summer. Prime ministers do sometimes go to the Braemar Games (witness a widely yawning Cherie Blair some years later).

Did John Major offer to try to stop the decommissioning of the royal yacht, Britannia?
Answer: false

In episode ten Major, the now outgoing prime minister, offers to intervene with newly elected Tony Blair over Britannia. Blair suggests a new yacht, paid for by private sponsorship, £65 million and to be called New Britain.

It was Major’s government that initially announced the decommissioning of Britannia, in 1994. Part of Blair’s 1997 election campaign was based on him mocking the idea of a new royal yacht at vast expense. The yacht set off on its last official voyage — to Hong Kong for the handover ceremony — in 1997, and was decommissioned in December.

Season Five of The Crown is available for streaming on Netflix

Hugo Vickers is a broadcaster and the author of several books, including Alice and The Sphinx