The fifth season of The Crown focuses primarily on the breakdown of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage, with episode 9 seeing their divorce finalised.


The season also features Prime Minister John Major, played in season 5 of the Netflix drama by Jonny Lee Miller, and shows him in the role previously filled by Gillian Anderson's Margaret Thatcher in season 4.

The Crown season 5 suggests that Major played a part in helping to mediate Charles and Diana's divorce, after being asked to do so by the Queen. But did this really happen?

Read on for everything you need to know about the real history behind John Major's involvement in Charles and Diana's divorce.

How does John Major mediate Charles and Diana's divorce in The Crown?

Jonny Lee Miller as John Major in The Crown
Jonny Lee Miller as John Major in The Crown season 5. Netflix

In The Crown season 5 episode 9, John Major is seen telling the Queen that it could be difficult to keep relations between Charles and Diana amicable during their divorce proceedings, with tensions still running high following Diana's Panorama interview.

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The Queen tells Major that a mediator will be required, and while Major goes on to suggest some potential candidates, the Queen asks if he will take on the role. She says he is "the rarest of things: someone that is easy to like and trust", and Major agrees to act as an "umpire" for the couple.

In a meeting with Charles, Major suggests Diana may be seeking such a large sum of money from the divorce to ensure her future independence. Charles says this isn't the case, as he believes she is trying to "ruin" him.

Speaking with Diana, Major later reveals that Charles is now willing to discuss a sizeable payment, as long as Charles refrains in public from speaking about the marriage or the monarchy in a damaging manner. While she initially asks for a larger sum given these terms, Major later reveals to the Queen that "headway" has been made in the negotiations.

The divorce goes through, with Charles looking to get things sorted sooner rather than later for the sake of his and Camilla's public image.

In episode 10, following the Conservative Party's electoral defeat, the Queen tells Major that she will remain especially grateful to him for his help in mediating Charles and Diana's divorce.

Did John Major really mediate the royal couple's divorce?

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

In reality, there is no suggestion that Major played any significant part in mediating the divorce between Charles and Diana. However, Major did reportedly offer "support and guidance" earlier in the couple's relationship, in 1992 before the couple separated.

Major's biographer Anthony Seldon wrote in Major: A Political Life that Major did offer advice to the couple at this time, but that it was "to no avail" and that "after it was clear that the marriage was unsustainable, his prime concern became the constitutional position".

Major later announced the couple's formal separation in the House of Commons, saying on December 9th 1992: "It is announced from Buckingham Palace that, with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate.

"Their Royal Highnesses have no plans to divorce and their constitutional positions are unaffected. This decision has been reached amicably, and they will both continue to participate fully in the upbringing of their children."

Major's involvement in the couple's divorce proceedings in 1996 appears to have been entirely fictionalised.

A spokesperson for the real-life Major has said in relation to his depiction in the series that "discussions between the monarch and prime minister are entirely private and – for Sir John – will always remain so." Therefore, it appears impossible for the show's creators to know whether the Queen really did ask him to help mediate the divorce.

In real life, Diana was reported to have agreed to divorce Charles in February 1996, with a final agreement then reached in August of that year.

Diana was granted a financial settlement and retained both her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title of Princess of Wales. In exchange, she gave up her use of the title Her Royal Highness and relinquished any future claim to the throne.

The Crown seasons 1-5 are available to stream on Netflix 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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