Did Charles want the Queen to abdicate? Fact vs fiction in The Crown season 5

The truth about THAT moment

A split collage showing Dominic West as Prince Charles and Jonny Lee Miller as John Major
(Image credit: Future/Netflix)

Those watching episode one of the new series have been wondering if Charles did want the Queen to abdicate - as suggested on screen.

Royal fans have welcomed the return of The Crown this November, with ten new episodes exploring the next chapter of the royals in the rocky period that was the nineties. The hit Netflix show has come under fire for it's portrayal of the famous family and events that take place in season 5. Starting with small things such as Princess Diana's height and the actress who plays Diana being taller than the late Princess Diana, to sensational scenes that make the audience question whether they actually happened.

One such incident that viewers are wanting fact-checked is a certain meeting that takes place between Prince Charles (played by Dominic West) and Prime Minister of the time John Major (Jonny Lee Miller). We've done our research to give you the true story behind The Crown scene.

Did Charles want the Queen to abdicate? 

No, the real-life John Major has confirmed that Charles never approached him or had a conversation with him that suggested he wanted the Queen to abdicate. He's called the scene from The Crown as "a barrel-load of nonsense".

A spokesperson for the former Prime Minister rubbished The Crown season 5 storyline in a statement to Sky News. "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)."

Prince Charles greeting Prime Minister John Major and his wife Norma in May 1995

Prince Charles greeting Prime Minister John Major and his wife Norma in May 1995.

(Image credit: Getty)

The representative goes on to state that scenes such as this "should be seen as nothing other than damaging and malicious fiction. A barrel-load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false – dramatic impact".

Broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby has been another prominient figure to publicly dispute that Charles wanted the Queen to abdicate. A friend of King Charles, he told The Mail on Sunday: "The Crown is full of nonsense, but this is nonsense on stilts."

One voice who has shown support for The Crown and the storyline is Patrick Jephson, Diana's former private secretary. A consultant for the current series, he acknowledged via The Telegraph that the Charles and John Major meeting was not "strictly accurate". However he claimed this was because "the discussion was actually held with a previous prime minister".

"I was looking out for lies and cruel falsehoods that would have allowed my inner critic to throw metaphorical tomato soup all over the picture the artists were painting," he wrote for the paper, adding: "I didn’t find any."

Netflix have responded to criticism for the storyline, maintaining that the show "has always been presented as a drama based on historical events".

"Series five is a fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family – one that has already been scrutinised and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians," reads the full Netflix statement.

The Crown scene: Charles hints at Queen's abdication

The controversial scene which suggests that Charles wanted the Queen to abdicate takes place in episode one - titled Queen Victoria Syndrome. It sees Prince Charles (Dominic West) leave his Italian honeymoon early for a private meeting with John Major (Jonny Lee Miller). 

The meeting takes place at Charle's Highgrove House and is prompted by a Sunday Times opinion poll, who's results claim 47% of the public believe Charles should replace Queen Elizabeth I as monarch.

"It was just a poll, Sir, polls come and go," Major relays to Charles, who replies: "But it’s dangerous to ignore them. There must have been many polls around the time of Mrs Thatcher’s departure, some people wanted the Iron Lady gone forever. 

Dominic West portraying Prince Charles in a scene from The Crown season 5

(Image credit: Netflix)

"What makes the Conservative party successful?" the fictional Prince Charles continues. "Its instinct for renewal and its willingness to make way for someone younger. For almost 60 years my great-great-grandfather Edward VII was kept waiting in the wings.

"He longed to be given responsibilities but his mother refused," Charles adds. "And yet when his time came he proved his doubters wrong and his reign was a triumph."

Charles receives little response from Prime Minister Major following his outpouring and the conversation returns to the meeting's other agenda of heritage and rural planning regulations.

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.