The new episodes of Netflix's royal drama The Crown feature some big changes for the House of Windsor.

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One of the characters going through big life changes is Anne, Princess Royal, now played by Claudia Harrison, who takes over from actress Erin Doherty who portrayed the Queen's daughter in the third and fourth seasons.

As her marriage disintegrates, Anne finds solace in the arms of another man.

So, just who is Commander Timothy Laurence and what happened between Princess Anne and the equerry in real life?

True story behind Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence’s romance

Tim Laurence smiling at Princess Anne, Princess Royal at Royal Ascot Races, Between them is Zara Phillips
Commander Tim Laurence smiling at Anne, Princess Royal at Royal Ascot Races in 1983, between them is Zara Phillips Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Anne, Princess Royal likely first met Timothy Laurence when he became an equerry for the Queen in 1986, meaning he began to move in royal circles.

At the time, Anne was still married to her first husband Captain Mark Phillips, the father of her two children Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips (later Tindall).

Anne had married Captain Phillips in 1973 but by the late 1980s, their marriage had fallen apart and both were linked with other partners.

By 1988, Commander Laurence was clearly already highly regarded by the Princess Royal, as he was named as one of only three trustees in The Princess Anne’s Charities trust.

In 1989, the true nature of the Princess Royal and Commander Laurence’s relationship became a source of public speculation when letters from the equerry to Anne were stolen and given to The Sun newspaper.

While the papers were handed over to Scotland Yard, the newspaper The Sunday Mirror noted that they were "too hot to handle” and suggested an “intimate” relationship.

As a result of this, Buckingham Palace released an official statement on the situation.

Princess Anne With Her Husband Timothy Laurence And Her Ex-husband Mark Phillips At The Gatcombe Horse Trials.
Princess Anne with her husband Timothy Laurence (right) and her ex-husband Mark Phillips (left) at The Gatcombe Horse Trials in 1994. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

It stated: “The stolen letters were addressed to the Princess Royal by Commander Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s Equerry.

“We have nothing to say about the contents of personal letters sent to Her Royal Highness by a friend which were stolen and which are the subject of a police investigation."

Later in 1989, it was officially announced that the Princess Royal would separate from her husband Captain Phillips but there were no plans for the pair to divorce.

In 1991, it was revealed by a DNA test that Captain Phillips had fathered a child outside of his marriage while in New Zealand, who had been born in 1985.

Despite this initial plan to merely separate, by 1992, the Princess Royal and her first husband were officially divorced.

Commander Tim Laurence (L) and Britain's Princess Anne are seen in their car after their wedding at Crathie Church 12 December 1992 in Scotland
Commander Tim Laurence (L) and Britain's Princess Anne are seen in their car after their wedding at Crathie Church on 12 December 1992 in Scotland.

In the aftermath, the Princess Royal and Commander Laurence made their public debut as a couple and then went on to swiftly marry near Balmoral at a Presbyterian church.

The wedding took place only days following the announcement that Charles, Prince of Wales would be legally separating from his wife Diana, Princess of Wales.

In attendance at the Princess Royal and Commander Laurence’s wedding was her mother Queen Elizabeth II, her father Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, her maternal grandmother Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, her maternal aunt Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, her younger brother Prince Edward, and her children Peter and Zara.

Despite marrying into the royal family, Commander Laurence did not receive a peerage or title.

In 2007, however, Laurence did receive a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) before he was made a personal aide-de-camp to the Queen in 2008 and then a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 2011.

More like this
ice Admiral Timothy Laurence (L) Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York (2L), Britain's Princess Anne, Princess Royal (C), Britain's Sophie, Countess of Wessex (2R) and Britain's Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex await the arrival of the hearse carrying the coffin of the late Queen Elizabeth II, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh on September 11, 2022. - Queen Elizabeth II's coffin will travel by road through Scottish towns and villages on Sunday as it begins its final journey from her beloved Scottish retreat of Balmoral. The Queen, who died on September 8, will be taken to the Palace of Holyroodhouse before lying at rest in St Giles' Cathedral, before travelling onwards to London for her funeral.
Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence (L) Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York (2L), Britain's Princess Anne, Princess Royal (C), Britain's Sophie, Countess of Wessex (2R) and Britain's Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex await the arrival of the hearse carrying the coffin of the late Queen Elizabeth II, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh on September 11, 2022. AARON CHOWN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ever since their marriage, Commander Laurence has been by the side of the Princess Royal and has accompanied her on numerous trips, state events and notable royal family moments.

The pair have attended various royal weddings: Charles, Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005; Prince William of Wales to Catherine Middleton in 2011; Prince Harry of Wales to Meghan Markle in 2018; and Princess Eugenie of York to Jack Brooksbank in 2018.

In 2022, Laurence was allowed to join the Princess Royal on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

In September, the death of Queen Elizabeth II saw Princess Anne accompany her coffin from Scotland to London by air and Laurence was by her side throughout.

The pair then went on to attend the state funeral of the late monarch together.

Who plays Commander Timothy Laurence in The Crown season 5?

Theo Fraser Steele as Commander Timothy Laurence and Claudia Harrison as Anne, Princess Royal in The Crown
Theo Fraser Steele as Commander Timothy Laurence and Claudia Harrison as Anne, Princess Royal in The Crown Netflix/Keith Bernstein

Actor Theo Fraser Steele portrays Commander Timothy Laurence in The Crown season 5.

The series inaccurately portrays Anne falling for Laurence in the 1990s before their marriage in 1992, but their relationship had actually begun in the late 1980s.

However, the show portrays Laurence as being an equerry when he catches Anne’s eye in the opening episode of the season, Queen Victoria Syndrome.

In the episode Annus Horribilis, Anne makes clear that she wants to defy precedent and remarry despite being a divorcee; refusing to be denied her marriage to Laurence. In the face of her resolve, the Queen relents to her daughter’s wishes despite concerns related to the Church of England’s dislike of remarriage.

As Anne spots palace employees whispering and eyeing the couple together after leaving a meeting with her mother, Anne defiantly kisses Laurence in full view of them before leaving in her car.

Laurence is seen in later episodes on Anne’s side.

The Crown seasons 1 to 5 are available now on Netflix.

Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.

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