The Crown season 5 begins with the couple embarking on a trip to Italy with their family.
Before Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage devolves into the “War of the Waleses” on The Crown, there is a brief moment of respite. In the first episode of the fifth season, the couple embark on a so-called “second honeymoon” with their sons William and Harry and close friends on a yacht in the Mediterranean. It’s an idyllic, sunny prelude to the storm that would soon follow.
As they embark on the Alexandra, the Prince and Princess of Wales (Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki) smile for the paparazzi and kiss in front of the cameras, hamming up “some of the old magic” for the public. But the PDA-fest covers up the cracks beneath the surface: As we saw at the end of season 4, the couple were pushed to their limits in the marriage, with Charles (then portrayed by Josh O’Connor) calling their union a “grotesque misalliance.” Their loved-up photo ops on this second honeymoon are meant to convince the masses otherwise, and by the way the crowd cheers and snaps photos, they are totally buying it. The facade doesn’t last for long, though. Later in the episode, Charles and Diana break into a shouting match when he says he has to leave the getaway early for a speaking engagement. (He would actually have a private audience with Prime Minister John Major.)
The real life Charles and Diana did go on a trip to Italy in August 1991, which the press dubbed as their “second honeymoon” and marked 10 years of marriage. They were photographed smiling and in good spirits on the yacht Alexandria, Diana in ’80s floral frocks and sunglasses and Charles in summer suits. According to History Extra, the website of BBC History Magazine, the couple and their boys were aboard the naval yacht Alexandra outside of Naples.
The exact events on the real vacation are unknown to the public but it’s likely the Waleses’ marriage was already falling apart by this point. Earlier that year, there were reports of the couple staying on separate floors during a trip to Czechoslovakia, and during a solo trip to Tuscany that May, Charles reportedly stayed half an hour away from Camilla Parker Bowles. Also, Diana secretly recorded tapes for Andrew Morton’s biography Diana: In Her Own Words from 1991 to 1992, though it’s unclear whether that started before or after the Italian getaway. The book was published the following year in 1992, and in that December, the Prince and Princess of Wales formally announced their plans to separate.
The royal marriage was already bursting at the seams, and it would take more than a sail on the Mediterranean to fix that.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.
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