- Season five of “The Crown” shows Queen Elizabeth II deliver the famous “annus horribilis” speech.
- The late monarch appeared to reference the Windsor fire and the breakdown of three royal marriages.
- However, the speech has been almost entirely rewritten for the show to make this more obvious.
Anyone watching “The Crown,” would agree: 1992 was not a good year for Queen Elizabeth II.
The fourth episode of the new season of the historical drama, aptly titled “Annus Horribilis,” dives into why exactly this was the case, showing the late monarch grappling with many events that threaten to destabilize the integrity of the royal family from the inside out.
Here’s the true story behind the episode, and what was changed for the purposes of dramatization.
Annus horribilis is a Latin phrase that translates to “horrible year”
Although Queen Elizabeth II popularized the phrase, it existed long before she delivered her 1992 speech at Guildhall in London, England. One of its earliest recorded uses was in 1891, according to the London Quarterly Review.
The event the Queen attended when she reflected on her difficult year was supposed to be a happy occasion. It was thrown to mark her 40th year on the throne, also known as her Ruby Jubilee.
The Queen delivered her speech four days after a fire broke out at Windsor Castle, causing more than £36.5 million in damage
It’s understandable that the Queen perhaps wasn’t in the mood to celebrate as just four days before, on November 20, 1992, a fire broke out at Windsor Castle, the royal family’s largest and oldest residence.
The castle, which overlooks London’s River Thames, was engulfed in flames for more than 15 hours before firefighters could extinguish it, per the Royal Collection Trust.
The blaze caused more than £36.5 million worth of damage, although fortunately, many priceless works of art and furniture were saved.
1992 was also the year that the marriages of three of the Queen’s four children broke down
Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and Princess Anne all ended their respective marriages the same year.
The Queen’s second son Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and his wife, Sarah Ferguson, announced that they were officially separating on March 19, 1992, two months after photographs pertaining to an affair between Ferguson and Texan oil millionaire Steve Wyatt were published in the British tabloids.
The next month, on April 23, 1992, the monarch’s only daughter Princess Anne finalized her divorce from her husband, Captain Mark Phillips. The Princess Royal and Phillips initially announced their intention to separate in 1989 but had not yet gone through with the official paperwork.
Lastly, Prince Charles and Diana’s marriage also came to an end. While the couple’s separation was announced on December 9, 1992, a few weeks after the Queen’s speech, there had been many telling signs throughout the year that their royal romance was as good as over.
Diana had secretly worked with royal biographer Andrew Morton on the sensational book “Diana: Her True Story,” which exposed Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles as well as the other problems in their marriage.
Additionally, one of Diana’s own affairs came to light in August 1992 when The Sun newspaper acquired a secretly recorded phone call conversation between Diana and Gilbey’s Gin heir James Gilbey. The ensuing scandal was dubbed “Squidgygate,” as Gilbey affectionately called Diana “Squidgy.”
Charles’ own leaked phone conversation scandal, known as “Camillagate” and “Tampongate,” was not made public until 1993.
“The Crown” has almost entirely rewritten the speech and even the “annus horribilis” line has been tweaked slightly
The speech shown on “The Crown” vastly differs from the speech the Queen actually delivered, which can be read on the Royal Family’s official website.
In her original speech, the Queen doesn’t make overt references to the difficulties she’s faced in her own life. Instead, she mentions the “last months of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty” and wonders “how future generations will judge the events of this tumultuous year.”
Meanwhile, the show’s version is far more personal, with the Queen touching upon the many royal scandals of 1992 in the line: “No institution is beyond reproach, and no member of it either.”
In “The Crown,” the Queen goes on to say: “The high standards we in the monarchy are held to by the public must be the same benchmark to which we hold ourselves personally. If we can’t admit the errors of our past, what hope for reconciliation can there be?”
Additionally, in the real speech, the late monarch credited the labeling of the year as an “annus horribilis” to one of her advisors and said: “In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘annus horribilis.'”
The “sympathetic correspondent” was later revealed to be her former assistant private secretary, Sir Edward Ford, according to his obituary in The Guardian.