History repeats itself? A royal yacht and a recession in The Crown season 5

As a fictionalised retelling of the lives of the royal family, The Crown often touches on real-life events of the time, from political turmoil to national scandal.

However, season five also contains an unexpected link to current events – and it’s all to do with a yacht and a national recession.

Since the release of season five last week (Wednesday 9 November), fans have been particularly intrigued by the relationship developments between Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki), the then-Prince Charles (Dominic West) and Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams).

An additional plot point in the very first episode concerns the Queen (Imelda Staunton) wanting repairs made to the Royal Yacht Britannia amid economic turmoil in the 1990s.

In the episode, titled “Queen Victoria Syndrome”, we see Staunton’s Queen Elizabeth II make a request to the prime minister, John Major (Jonny Lee Miller), for funding for adjustments to her much-loved boat.

“It has now become clear that a small refit, a teeny-tiny little refreshment and refurbishment, is required to keep her in tip-top shape,” she begins.

“I am aware the costs for its maintenance are borne by the government, not by the Palace, and so here I am, coming to you, Prime Minister. On bended knee, for the sign-off.”

However, the Queen doesn’t quite get the response she wants, as Major suggests that the royals pay for the repairs themselves.

Imelda Staunton in ‘The Crown’ season five (Netflix)
Imelda Staunton in ‘The Crown’ season five (Netflix)

“It's just, with the royal yacht being perceived as something of a luxury, there is a danger the Palace could be seen to be asking for too much,” he explains.

When the Queen defends her proposition, noting that it “isn’t a luxury” and that a royal yacht has been part of the tradition since Charles II, Major responds: “But we’re in the midst of a global recession.”

In reality, there is no evidence that this meeting ever took place. Since the yacht needed over £17m worth of work to stay in action, it was decommissioned in 1997.

Earlier this month, plans for a yacht were similarly sunk, as the government said that they would not be building a Brexit trade yacht as previously announced.

Originally set to represent “the UK’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation”, the boat was intended to be a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia. However, since it never received the endorsement of Buckingham Palace, it was never officially referred to as a Royal Yacht.

Elsewhere, chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced on Thursday (17 November) that the UK economy was in recession during the autumn budget statement, amid the cost of living crisis, soaring inflation and rising energy prices.

The Crown season five is streaming now on Netflix. The Independent’s latest updates on the autumn budget can be found here.