All episodes of The Crown season 5 are now available on Netflix, with fans already starting to make their way through the 10-part season.


Viewers who have now seen the first episode will have observed a scene which had already been widely talked about before its release - one in which Charles meets with John Major in order to discuss the idea of the Queen abdicating and making way for him to take the throne.

The scene has proved controversial since it was first reported in the press, with Major himself publicly decrying its inclusion. But how much of what is presented actually true?

Read on for everything you need to know about the meeting between Prince Charles and John Major portrayed in The Crown and whether this really happened.

What happens in Prince Charles's meeting with John Major in The Crown?

Jonny Lee Miller as John Major in The Crown
Jonny Lee Miller as John Major in The Crown. Netflix

In the first episode of The Crown season 5, Charles, portrayed by Dominic West, receives word while on holiday with Diana that The Sunday Times is set to publish a poll saying that the public believes the Queen is experiencing Queen Victoria Syndrome, in that she has been on the throne too long and grown out of touch. The poll shows that the public think she should abdicate from the throne and Charles should take over as King.

With his own interests in modernising the monarchy having already been established earlier in the episode, he asks for a meeting to be set up with Prime Minister John Major, played by Jonny Lee Miller, as soon as they are back in England, asking his private secretary to "think of a suitable pretext".

The meeting takes place at Highgrove, with Charles first asking if anyone in Major's office has informed Buckingham Palace. When Major replies that they haven't, Charles says it's "probably for the best".

Charles says there are two reasons for the meeting: first, conserving Britain's build heritage, and second, the poll in The Sunday Times. While Charles says it's dangerous to ignore polls, Major says it's "equally dangerous to be guided by them".

Charles points to the Conservative Party's "instinct for renewal" and willingness to make way for younger leaders as one of the reasons it's such a "successful electoral force", hinting this should be translated to the monarchy.

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He says that Edward VII was kept "waiting in the wings" because Queen Victoria had no confidence in him, and that it would have been "so good" if his "vision" had been incorporated earlier.

With little response from Major, Charles says he can see for himself whether the monarchy is in safe hands when he visits Balmoral, before then returning to the matter of built heritage and rural planning regulations.

What happened in real life and what has John Major said?

Prince Charles, John Major And Norma Major
Prince Charles, John Major and Norma Major. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

This scene from The Crown season 5 proved controversial before the season had even been released. Upon reports of its inclusion, a spokesperson for John Major issued a statement, saying: "Discussions between the monarch and prime minister are entirely private and – for Sir John – will always remain so."

The statement went on to say that this scene and another, in which Major and his wife discuss the royal family in disparaging terms, are "damaging and malicious fiction".

The spokesperson continued: "There was never any discussion between Sir John and the then Prince of Wales about any possible abdication of the late Queen Elizabeth II – nor was such an improbable and improper subject ever raised by the then Prince of Wales (or Sir John)."

The statement called the reported scenes "a barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false – dramatic impact."

There are no records suggesting that such a meeting ever took place and Netflix itself has admitted that the series is a "fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors".

However, there is one part of the story that is true. The Queen was facing increased media pressure during this period, with her abdication being mooted in the press as a way to revitalise the monarchy.

The Daily Mirror ran the headline "Is It Time For Her To Hang Up Her Crown?", while the Express ran one asking "With Prince Charles waiting in the wings, is it time for her to step down and enjoy a happy and glorious retirement?"

Further afield, the LA Times ran an article in May 1991 which asked: "Is the Sun Setting on Elizabeth’s Reign?"

It wrote: "Some British monarchists even suggest that the 65-year-old Queen, who has reigned since 1952, should abdicate within the next five, or at most 10, years in order to make way for her son while he is still at the height of his physical and intellectual powers."

The article continued: "While she is said to see the logic of stepping down, court insiders describe the queen as still scarred by the scandal of the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, in 1936, and concerned that if she followed suit, it might so devalue the crown that it would be the first step toward the end of the monarchy itself."

It also argued a "favourite theory" around Charles's behaviour at the time, which saw him being more publicly outspoken about various issues, was that he was "getting increasingly restless as he seeks some kind of meaningful role as a monarch-in-waiting".

The Crown season 5 will be released on Netflix on November 9th 2022 and you can watch seasons 1-4 right now. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

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