Season 5 of “The Crown” began with Queen Elizabeth getting to know her health vitals. It is essential to the plot as we see an older actor taking the baton forward and playing the Queen in her 60s. The Queen is content with where she is, and a trip to Scotland on her favorite Britannia, the Royal Yacht, is just the cherry on top of the sundae for her. But Elizabeth is yet to see the number of challenges that will be coming her way in the next few years in the form of tragedies and failures. Season 5 is all about finally humanizing Elizabeth, for she starts regretting plenty of decisions she made in the past after being counseled by people who were never in touch with the outside world or the youngsters of that generation. This season of “The Crown” was lukewarm; but it shed light on how the monarchy needed to look ahead and not look back for inspiration.
Episode 1: Queen Victoria Syndrome
Queen Elizabeth is getting her routine health checkup done just before she heads to Scotland with her family. Elizabeth realizes her age is catching up with her but is happy to be traveling on Britannia, the Royal Yacht. Not before Philip notices the Yacht requires some malfunctions and might require major repairs for it is a more than 30 years old vessel. Meanwhile, Charles is on a so-called “second honeymoon” with Diana and his kids in Italy. Charles and Diana are hardly getting along, and they are joined by Charles’s friends and family. Diana wanted to spend time only with her estranged husband, Harry and William. Charles, though, is made aware of an article that will be coming out about him and the Queen, and he is not worried about it. On the day the article arrives, it throws everyone off, for the article in detail talks about how Queen Elizabeth is unfit to rule, and the young Charles should take over because he reflects the modern, changing UK. The family makes sure the article does not reach the Queen, and meanwhile, Charles takes the abdication talk seriously enough that he decides to meet PM John Major and talk about the possibility of the Queen stepping down. Charles always preached about modernizing the monarchy, and he figured Elizabeth would step down and pave the way for him, as he had ideas to improve the image of his family in public. Finally, on reaching Balmoral, Elizabeth is made aware of the article, which puts her in a bad mood. Meanwhile, Elizabeth makes a request to PM Major to fund the repair work of Britannia. The PM refuses, for he thinks it won’t be right to use public money, but Elizabeth makes it clear that the Yacht is something she feels is hers, and she cannot let it go easily. Elizabeth, since the article on her is published, is slightly disturbed by the fact that she is replaceable, just like her Yacht. Elizabeth realizes she needs to change her point of view from here on, but it is a long road ahead till she becomes accepting of a lot of things around her.
Episode 2: The System
Prince Philip starts realizing and spending a lot of time carriage driving, for it keeps him busy. During one of the competitions, Philip learns of the death of his godson’s daughter due to cancer. Philip is upset and decides to spend time with Norton and his wife, Penny, and help them with their grief. Philip is taken aback by the news of a young girl passing away. Philip ends up meeting Penny instead of Norton, who shows him an old carriage that is of no use. Philip takes it up as a challenge, refurbishes the carriage, and introduces Penny to carriage driving. She develops a liking for it, and Philip starts spending more time with her. Philip, upon the passing of a child, realizes life is indeed fragile. Since he is not getting any younger, he enrolls Penny in carriage driving too, and thankfully she starts liking the activity, which helps her slowly get over her tragedy. Meanwhile, an estranged Diana is approached by an author for a book where they need to know the story from her end. The catch is that her name as a source won’t be mentioned, and she can wholeheartedly deny the claims mentioned in the book. The book is stopped from being published when the journalist and author’s home is raided, and Diana starts suspecting her phones are being tapped. Diana feels she was wronged by Charles and her family, for they never listened to her, and they were never there for her. She feels she owes it to herself to give out inside information about her life. Philip is made aware of the book by Penny, and he makes sure to visit Diana to tell her to do the right thing. Philip is an old-school man who understands Diana’s situation, for just like him, she is also an outsider who became a part of this family. He conveys that a lot of the information needs to stay in the family, for those are private and need to be sorted out privately. Philip understands where Diana’s rage is coming from, and that’s why he advises her to follow his path so that the family doesn’t lose respect for her.
Episode 3: Mou Mou
The episode moves to late 1940s Egypt, where Mohammad Fayed, a small-time businessman, confesses his love for a young Egyptian girl from a rich family. Her brother makes an offer to buy half of his business because he wants to see what kind of profits Mohammad can make. Mohammad is a key observer of things and is very strong-willed. He is also fascinated by the British, who rule over his country. Mohammad became successful in Egypt, and his wife gave birth to their son Emadi, aka Dodi Fayed. Mohammad Fayed is the front-runner to purchase the Ritz in Paris. When the buyout is successful, he gets in touch with Sydney Johnson, who was the former butler of King Edward VIII, the king who abdicated. The older Mohammad is still fascinated by the British and the British royals. He hires Sydney Johnson to get himself accustomed to British etiquette. Sydney informs him of the house where Edward and his wife, Wallis, lived, which is in a sorry state right now. Mohammad believes this is the only way to get in touch with the Queen and her family. Mohammad funds the restoration of the house and informs Elizabeth of plenty of artifacts of value to the Windsor family. Elizabeth makes sure these artifacts are moved to Windsor Castle. Sydney meanwhile falls sick and quickly passes away, not before their friendship is immortalized by Mohammad, who makes sure to; come close to the British Royals by buying off Harrods. In this episode, we get to see Dodi, the infamous boyfriend of Diana, who passed away along with her on that fateful day in Paris in 1997. Dodi is the opposite of his father and wants to produce films, unlike his father, who is a ruthless businessman. Dodi soon becomes an Academy Award-winning film producer, and his Hollywood career takes off. Meanwhile, Mohammad hopes to sit next to the Queen during the polo match when he is seated next to Princess Diana of Wales. They form a friendship immediately, unaware of the role she is going to play in his and her lives in the coming years.
Episode 4: Annus Horribilis
This episode begins with Elizabeth headed towards the celebration of her 40th year on the throne of England. Visibly upset, Elizabeth keeps a brave face and heads towards the celebration of her coronation. Sadly, nothing is going right in her family. Anne is hell-bent on marrying her boyfriend, Queen’s equerry Timothy, even though her mother is not in favor of the match. Andrew, her favorite son, is also on the verge of divorcing his wife. Meanwhile, Charles approaches his mother, requesting that she accept the plea for the separation of him and Diana, as he does not intend to be a part of any charade anymore. There is no love left between them. The Queen refuses to accept his separation plea, for she believes that as a future monarch, he is supposed to have a family to showcase to the country. Charles again puts across the plea to modernize the monarchy, for the world outside has changed and will not have a problem with him being a divorcee. The Queen is visibly upset over the fact that the marriages of her children failed, and she somehow feels she and Philip were not great parents. Windsor Castle goes up in flames, and a lot of artifacts of historical significance turn into ashes, much to the Queen’s disappointment. Princess Margaret, though, receives a letter from Peter Townsend, who requests to meet her at a formal engagement in London. They both meet and reminisce about their past and the love they shared. Margaret always felt she and Peter were meant for each other and held it against her sister for not standing up for her sibling in times of crisis. Margaret, after the burning down of the Windsor, confronts her sister about why she was denied the love that is being acknowledged by Anne. Margaret felt she needed Peter with him just as much as Elizabeth needed Philip next to him to be her guiding force. As Elizabeth prepares the speech for the event, her mother opposes the speech, for it reflects emotions that the Queen is not supposed to show. Elizabeth, backed by Philip, goes ahead and gives the speech. Elizabeth soon starts realizing what Charles said about modernizing the monarchy and decides to finally talk about 1992, a year she described as Annus Horribilis, a year of disaster for her and her family.
Episode 5: The Way Ahead
Elizabeth finally announces the separation of Diana and Charles; the news is made public by the PM and the royal family. As Charles finally feels liberated from the burden of his marriage to Diana, he starts taking initiatives that are close to his heart. He begins with improving literacy among the kids who come from poor and low-income families. Charles finally takes it upon himself to indulge in tasks and charity work, which will help him gain a positive image among the masses since he is the future monarch. Charles is all about laying the groundwork for himself because he is keen on taking the role of Prince of Wales seriously, unlike Elizabeth’s uncle, the abdicated King Edward VIII. Unfortunately, a phone transcript and the recording of Charles speaking to Camilla in a rather sexual tone get leaked, derailing Charles’s hopes to ever come back in the good books of the people. Diana is horrified, Elizabeth is embarrassed, and Camilla eventually must leave her marriage. Camilla decides to take matters into her own hands because Charles is now separated, and she can start making public appearances with him. Meanwhile, Anne is surprised to see a new and improved Charles, who seems to be confident, bold, and outspoken. The family connects this to his separation from Diana. Charles’s team decided to give a tell-all interview about his personal life and the life he wants to lead, serving the people to get over the scandal. The interview turns the wind in favor of Charles, and he goes ahead with his plans to start a trust fund that would help people combat illiteracy. Despite the scandal, which put Charles on the back foot, his resolution is strong. That is to serve people and be with Camilla. Being with Camilla surely puts Charles in the right headspace. Charles finally comes into his own and makes serving the people his priority as an heir and the future monarch.
Episode 6: Ipatiev House
As a new year and a new decade came in, the cold war was over, the Berlin wall fell, and the USSR finally disintegrated. The UK is keen on hosting Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and Elizabeth is excited to host the Russian Premier as well. Meanwhile, Philip is busy with carriage driving competitions with his friends, including Penny Knatchbull. Elizabeth hosts Boris at her palace, where she makes the demand that the Romanovs be buried with dignity, which they were denied after they were killed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. The Romanovs were related to the Windsor family through Philip and Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s grandfather and the last Tsar of Russia were first cousins; meanwhile, Tsarina Alexandra was the great aunt to Philip. Burying them with utmost dignity was a big deal for Elizabeth and Philip. The Russian President agrees to her demands and starts the work of exhuming the bones of the Romanovs. To confirm if the bones belong to the Romanovs, the scientists ask Philip to give them his DNA. Philip is surprised to have a new connection. He goes on a reading spree and comes across plenty of books on how he is connected to the Romanovs, which overwhelms him. Philip is happy to know how far science has advanced, and his help was required to identify the Romanovs. Elizabeth, though, is upset to see Philip not spending time with her, to which Philip’s response is that he doesn’t think he and Elizabeth have anything in common. He reveals his friendship with Penny to Elizabeth. Philip, in the last few years, felt a little left out physically and emotionally with Elizabeth. They are two different people, essentially but deeply in love with one another. Philip and Penny’s friendship is formed by the fact that they are intellectually similar. Philip reveals to Elizabeth her family’s indirect hand in the killing of the Romanovs, which Penny and Philip discussed. Elizabeth is curious to know how Penny is in person and what her theories are. Penny suggests Queen Mary was jealous of Tsarina Alexandra, and that was the reason she did not want Romanovs on English soil. Elizabeth is impressed by her research, which contradicts her theory. Elizabeth states Queen Mary did not want public unrest caused by socialists if the Romanovs were given asylum in England. Political unrest led to the monarchy being overthrown, which Queen Mary did not want to risk and decided against Romanovs’s entry into England. This episode showed the personal side of Elizabeth, who was visibly angry and jealous of Philip’s friendship with Penny.
Episode 7: No Woman’s Land
Diana is comforting one of her staff at a local hospital when she comes across Dr. Hasnat Khan, a Pakistani – British heart surgeon. She finds his presence rather comforting than anybody she knows. Diana feels attracted to Dr. Hasnat and keeps visiting the hospital just to have a glance at or converse with him. Hasnat, on the other hand, is also enamored by her ability to connect with sick patients. He believes she has a radiance that brings a smile to people’s faces. Hasnat and Diana like each other, but his demanding job and her presence in the media are what make Hasnat uncomfortable in the beginning. They soon start dating, but Hasnat still wonders what Diana sees in him. Hasnat is slightly taken aback by the fact that Diana is attracted to him. Diana is honest and reveals she likes him because she would rather have someone ordinary than a prince who broke her heart. At the same time, Diana and Charles are eager to send William and Harry off to Eton. Diana’s brother Charles is approached by a journalist named Martin Bashir, who fuels her suspicions of being followed and her phone being tapped. This makes Diana and Charles more paranoid. While feeding into her paranoia, the journalist makes sure he gets a yes from her to talk about her life and being married to Prince Charles and his family. Diana, since the separation is alone and has no clue which direction to head to, she sadly has no purpose left. This makes her decide to give an interview to BBC as they are the only way to talk about herself as she feels vindictive.
Episode 8: Gunpowder
The continuation to episode 7, where Diana finally agrees to give an interview to BBC Panorama on her life as a royal. It is around the same time; William starts spending a lot of time with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, after his school hours and teaches her how to use the new television with more channels. Elizabeth, at this point, feels out of touch with technology and new forms of channels that have come up other than the BBC. Diana finds some discrepancies in the claims made by Martin Bashir. Diana mentions that it was her brother who found the discrepancies, to which Martin responds that the people behind her got her brother on their side. Gunpowder refers to the fact that November 5, 1605, was “Guy Fawkes Night,” a day when Guy Fawkes and other revolutionaries attempted to kill the King and the Queen using gunpowder. This is a metaphor for Diana giving an explosive interview on “Guy Fawkes Night” that will expose the monarchy of England. Diana informs the Queen of the interview, and the country is not ready for what she has to say about her former family. Diana goes out all guns blazing, making sure she takes down Charles and his family with it. Charles is again let down by his estranged wife, for she claims he is unfit to be king of the country.
Episode 9: Couple 31
Elizabeth, since the explosive interview given by Diana to BBC, agrees to grant permission to Charles and Diana to file for divorce. The court is the place where their divorce will be finalized. Various couples come by to file for the same but have many different reasons to get divorced. All the couples are given a designated number, and they are referred to that number until their divorce is finalized by the judge. Diana and Charles are couple No. 31. Charles is keen on getting out as soon as possible, but Diana is hell-bent on the demands she puts forward and makes sure they are met. Charles’s PR guy suggests the idea of coming to negotiation with Diana and finishes this chapter once and for all. The enmity Charles and Diana carry for one another are palpable. Elizabeth wants this issue to be sorted out without a lot of brouhaha. The divorce is the talk of the town, and Elizabeth wants all the noise to go down. Elizabeth requests that PM John Major be the negotiator between the parties so that they reach a point of agreement. Almost all of Diana’s demands are met, and the couple No. 31 in the court finally sign their divorce papers. Charles is relieved, while Diana is still very lonely. Elizabeth is concerned for Diana and conveys that to her son. Charles visits Kensington Palace to meet her. Charles can finally talk to her without being angry or anxious, and so can Diana. They talk about mistakes they made, which blows up into an argument. Diana and Charles are both very self-centered and, till the end, do not admit each other’s mistakes. Admitting their mistakes would have made Diana calmer, and Charles realize that Diana is not a bad person.
Episode 10: Decommissioned
The divorce is now done, and Charles is happy to have taken the plunge, for he is now able to spend more time with Camilla, as well as take her along with him on plenty of public engagements. Charles’ aim to take the monarchy towards modernity is seen when he is all set to head to Hong Kong for the transfer of power to China. Meanwhile, fresh elections removed PM John Major from power, and England has Tony Blair, from the Labor Party, as the new Prime Minister. Elizabeth puts forth another plea to restore Britannia, but Tony Blair isn’t keen on it, which she understood from their first meeting. Elizabeth finally decides on decommissioning Britannia, for she realizes the vessel is way past its prime and she should not hold on to her past. Though she knows what it means to her, a part of her might go with it, but Elizabeth does not change her mind. Elizabeth fears that, just like her Yacht, with age, she will also be replaceable, and that thought upsets her. With Charles in Hong Kong for the ceremony of handing over their colony to China, he reminds everybody how their family and monarchy will fade out. Before anything of the sort happens, he is willing to take the monarchy forward for the population to relate to it. Charles has a word with Tony Blair, whom he believes will be able to relate to him, but Elizabeth receives word of this meeting and is furious at Charles. She admits to making mistakes but will not step away from the throne, for she believes this is her duty till her last breath. Meanwhile, Diana is lonelier than ever and runs into Mohammad Fayed. He and his wife offer to take him to St. Tropez for a short vacation with Diana and her kids, to which Diana agrees. Dodi, on the other hand, has a tough time getting out of his father’s shadow. He takes it upon himself to marry his American girlfriend, whether his father likes it or not. Diana, Dodi, and Charles are alike in that they are stuck in their predicament but are somehow trying to break away from being the typical ones to being the extraordinary ones.
Season 5 of “The Crown” is more relatable because it happened in an era where there was abundance of television available for the masses to watch and absorb all the tabloids, and paparazzi culture. “The Crown” as always did not sugar coat any aspect of the relationship the Royals shared with the media or with one another. Everyone was waiting to watch how the Princess Diana saga would be painted in this show, and the makers did not let us down. “The Crown” Season 6 would surely showcase the departing of the famous Royal who is still talked about and remains relevant till date.