The Crown season 5 has landed on Netflix, with episode 6 arguably turning out to be one of the darkest instalments of the show so far.


Titled Ipatiev House, the episode focuses on the brutal death of the Russian royal family – the Romanovs – in 1918, exploring how the family was related to the late Queen’s family, and how their connection impacted the UK’s relationship with Russia.

But how does the story concerning the death of the Romanovs and their eventual burial depicted in The Crown season 5 match up with reality?

Read on for everything you need to know about the Romanov family depicted in The Crown season 5, episode 6.

How does The Crown depict the Romanovs' deaths and burial?

Imelda Staunton in The Crown season 5.
Imelda Staunton in The Crown season 5. Keith Bernstein/Netflix

At the beginning of The Crown season 5 episode 6, titled Ipatiev House, we see London in 1917, where a letter is delivered from Downing Street to King George V regarding the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia.

The letter tells the Royals that the Government is willing to send a ship to carry the Romanovs to safety in England, but will only do so with the King's support.

The King suggests it is looked at by his wife Queen Mary, due to her good judgement. Asked whether they should send a ship, Mary says: "No. It's possible one might come to regret it".

In Russia, the Romanovs, who have been captured since the 1917 February Revolution, are awoken in the middle of the night in July 1918 and told they must get dressed as they are being moved to a safer place. The Tsar believes it is George saving them, but in fact it is the so-called 'Ural Executive Committee', who are taking them to their deaths.

They are told they are having a photograph taken to show they are alive and well, but in actuality are lined up and shot, being told this is because their relatives in Europe continue to attack Soviet Russia.

Their bodies are then put in the back of a truck and driven away, later being buried in the nearby forest.

In 1994, the new Russian president Boris Yeltsin is pressured by the Queen to restore dignity to her family by giving the Romanovs a proper burial.

John Major later tells the Queen that within hours of arriving back in Moscow Yeltsin ordered the excavation of the forest near Ipatiev House, and insisted the best team of forensic scientists be sent. They find remains, believed to be the Romanovs, but struggle to identify them because they were doused in acid.

Prince Philip's DNA is used to determine the remains' identities, but when the Queen and Philip visit Moscow, two of the bodies remain unidentified, meaning a burial ceremony cannot take place.

John Major later tells the Queen that they have been identified and the bodies will be buried.

What really happened to the Romanovs and when were they buried?

The Romanovs photographed circa 1916-1917.
The Romanovs photographed circa 1916-1917. Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Romanovs' death scene in The Crown largely tallies up with known history. It is understood that the Romanovs were awoken in the middle of the night, told they were having a photograph taken, and then brutally killed.

Even lines of dialogue, such as Tsarina Alexandra asking for a chair, are reported to have taken place in reality.

However, there are events depicted in the episode which have been changed. For instance, the remains of the family were actually located in the late 1970s by an amateur sleuth, excavated in 1991 and identified in 1993 – all three are depicted to have happened in 1994 in The Crown, after Boris Yeltsin's visit to London.

Tsar Nicholas' remains were only confirmed to have been identified in 1998. The reburial took place that year, with Yeltsin describing the killings as one of the most shameful pages in Russian history. There is no suggestion that Queen Elizabeth's visit to Moscow was intended to coincide with a burial ceremony.

Time has similarly been shifted when it comes to Prince Philip's involvement – he did give a DNA sample for the scientific enquiry to identify Tsar Nicholas, but there's no suggestion this happened four years before his identity was finally confirmed.

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As for the scene with George and Mary deciding not to send help to the Romanovs, there is no historical record of such a situation occurring, or of such a letter being sent from the Prime Minister to the Palace.

However, what the scene does explore is the real quandary the royals found themselves in at the time. It is known that George did express concern for Nicholas in a private letter, and believed that he was in a difficult situation as to what to do.

The new Russian government had, at one time, asked other countries to grant the Romanovs asylum, which the British agreed to, but are said to have regretted, with the Government nervous about anti-Russian (and anti-German) sentiment. The King reportedly urged the government to rescind the offer.

It is not believed the final decision as to whether to attempt to save the Romanovs was made by Mary, nor that this could have been due to some jealousy of Alexandra on Mary's part, as Penny Knatchbull at one point speculates in the episode.

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.

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 or Streaming Guide.


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