"The Crown" Will Cover the Queen's Annus Horribilis, but What Does That Mean?


The highly anticipated season 5 of "The Crown" arrives on 9 Nov., transporting audiences back to Brtain in 1991. A 65-year-old Queen Elizabeth II is entering her 39th year at the helm, and the series is set to cover around half of the tumultuous ensuing decade for the Queen and her family.

Continuing the tradition of bringing a fresh cast every two seasons to realistically portray the ageing Royals, season three and four's Olivia Colman is this time replaced by Imelda Staunton as the monarch, while Jonathan Pryce takes up the reigns as Prince Philip. Margaret Thatcher (played gloriously in season 4 by Gillian Anderson) is gone, after being unceremoniously shown the door of Number 10 by duplicitous members of her own party. She is replaced by the surprisingly cast Jonny Lee Miller taking on the role of John Major (most well-known for his role as Sick Boy in "Trainspotting", and short-lived marriage to Angelina Jolie.)

Prince Charles (morphing from Josh O'Connor into Dominic West) is set to have some shocking storylines this season, with some critics arguing the series is insensitive in light of the Queen's death on 8 Sept., with others reminding viewers the show is more fiction than fact and to enjoy it as entertainment. Elizabeth Debicki taking over from Emma Corrin as Princess Diana is likely to have her work cut out portraying the People's Princess, and reimagining the infamous interview with Martin Bashir.

The late monarch famously labelled 1992 as her "annus horribilis" and fans are eager to see how the Netflix drama will take on this period in "The Crown" season 5, but what does this actually mean? And what really happened? Read ahead for more on the term and every incident it entailed.

What Does Annus Horribilis Mean?

Annus Horribilis is a Latin phrase, meaning "horrible year". The bygone expression was brought back to public attention when used by Queen Elizabeth II in a speech to mark her Ruby Jubilee at Guildhall on 24 Nov., 1992. The Queen said "1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis." She added, "I sometimes wonder how future generations will judge the events of this tumultuous year. I dare say that history will take a slightly more moderate view than that of some contemporary commentators. Distance is well-known to lend enchantment, even to the less attractive views. After all, it has the inestimable advantage of hindsight."

It turns out that 1992 was an extremely challenging time for the monarch. The early '90s had already seen a shift in the public's relationship with the Royals, which saw the public questioning their relevance. It was unheard of for the stoic Queen to even allude to personal events or feelings, causing even more shockwaves to follow her public revelation. She was possibly aware of the shift in public feeling towards her as she made her speech, while her family acted recklessly around her and added to her dismay.

Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York Separate

One of the contributing factors to the Queen's Annus Horribilis was the separation of her son Prince Andrew, and his wife Sarah, the Duchess of York. The couple married on 23 July, 1986, and separated in early 1992.

Sarah was working in PR at an art gallery when the pair were introduced by Princess Diana. Sarah's father, Major Ronald Ferguson, was Prince Charles's polo manager and the family had been friends with Diana's family, the Spencers, for many years. According to Vanity Fair, Diana recommended that Sarah, who was 26-years-old at the time, be invited to an event at Windsor Castle during Royal Ascot 1985. Sarah and Andrew officially met at this event, making their relationship public shortly afterwards.

The couple's first daughter Beatrice, was born on 8 Aug., 1988, followed by second daughter Eugenie on 23 March, 1990. Shortly afterwards, cracks began to show in the relationship with Sarah pointing to the amount of time they spent apart as the cause, revealing in a 2010 interview that, due to Prince Andrew's naval career, she saw him for only 40 days a year. According to Harper's Bazaar Sarah said of the arrangement "I spent my entire first pregnancy alone. When Beatrice was born, Andrew got 10 days of shore leave." The couple separated at the beginning of 1992 and the start of the Queen's Annus Horribilis. In August of the same year, Sarah became embroiled in further public scandal when intimate photos of her and American businessman John Bryan were leaked. They were officially divorced on 30 May, 1996.

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips Divorce

Adding to the Annus Horribilis were the Queen's only daughter Princess Anne and husband Captain Mark Phillips, when their divorce was finalised in 1992. The couple had married on 14 Nov., 1973 and separated in 1989. The divorce was completed on 23 April, 1992.

Their courtship was long, with their engagement not being announced until five years after their relationship began. Being the first of the Queen's children to get married, the wedding caused quite a stir. The ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey, and was watched by approximately 500 million people worldwide in an 8-hour broadcast. Their first child Peter was born in 1977, with daughter Zara arriving in 1981. Throughout the early '80s, speculation was rife that the marriage was in trouble, with Mark notably absent from public royal occasions.

A bombshell came for Anne when it was revealed Mark had fathered a child with another woman in the mid 80s. It was reported by Tatler that he had an affair with New Zealand art teacher Heather Tonkin, who had given birth to their daughter Felicity, in 1985. A DNA test carried out in 1991 confirmed Mark as the father, while there were reports circulating of Anne's alleged affairs as well. After she and Mark divorced in 1992, Anne married Timothy Laurence within months.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana Separate

In a brutal blow to the Queen, her Annus Horribilus saw three of her four children suffer a marriage breakdown, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated. The couple became engaged on 24 Feb., 1981, marrying on 29 July of the same year. They had first met when Diana was 16 and Charles, 29, as depicted in "The Crown" season 4.

But their marriage was not to last, largely thought to be due in part to Charles's love for his now current wife, Queen Consort Camilla. An unhappy Diana admitted to suffering postnatal depression, self-harming, and bulimia during her marriage to Charles, which she alleged only pushed him further away.

In her infamous 1995 interview with Martin Bashir on BBC Panorama, Diana also admitted to having an extramarital affair during her time with Charles, predominantly caused by loneliness and the realisation there were "three of us in this marriage", alluding to knowledge of her husband's ongoing relationship with Camilla. Although Charles and Diana separated during the Annus Horribilus, their divorce wasn't finalised until 1996. Diana sadly died a year later, on 31 Aug. 31, 1997.

Fire at Windsor Castle

A fire broke out at the Queen's beloved Windsor Castle on 20 Nov. 1992 brought her Annus Horribilis to a close. The fire began in Queen Victoria's Private Chapel, where a faulty spotlight set fire to a curtain resting against it. The blaze began at 11.30 a.m. with fire crews working through the night to extinguish the flames, that were finally put out at 2.30 a.m. on Saturday, 21 Nov. The fire had burned for 15 hours, destroying 115 rooms, including nine State Rooms.

Due to rewiring work being completed in the building, a lot of precious works of art and items of furniture had already been removed and were therefore saved. Overall, only two works of art were lost forever - a Sir William Beechey equestrian portrait entitled "George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops", which had been too large to remove and an 1820s sideboard by Morel and Seddon. Several items were partly burnt but able to be salvaged.

The Queen was not present at the Castle at the time of the fire, and was notified of it by Prince Andrew over the phone. Andrew was staying at the Castle at the time while completing research for a course he was studying nearby. To help foot the repair bill, the Queen opened up parts of Buckingham Palace to the public for the first time, using the entry fees to go towards the restoration fund. This covered around 70 percent of the bill, with the Queen reportedly donating £2 million of her own money to make up the deficit. The final cost of the refurbishment came to £36.5 million, and took five years to complete. The official completion date was 20 Nov. 1997, which fell on the five year anniversary of the fire breaking out and was also the 50th wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip.