In episode nine of The Crown season four, the Prince and Princess of Wales are on a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland when there is a devastating avalanche on Gotschnagrat Mountain. The couple’s friend Hugh Lindsay tragically died and Charles himself narrowly escaped the same fate. Major Lindsay, who was a former Equerry to the Queen, was just 34 and his wife was six or seven months pregnant at the time.
Charles and Diana both react strongly to the loss and near-death experience, with Charles realising he truly wants out of the marriage, while Diana is renewed in her energies to try to make it work.
Diana vows in a meeting with the Queen that she is determined to fight for the marriage, to the consternation of Charles.
However, this was by no means the only skiing holiday the couple went on and one particular trip was not so good for Diana’s feelings towards her husband, after Charles made a rather cruel comment to his wife.
Princess Diana was feeling unwell and miserable, while Sarah ‒ affectionately known as Fergie ‒ was an expert skier and impressed everyone with her taming of the slopes.
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Prince Charles and Princess Diana on a skiing holiday
Josh O’Conner as Prince Charles and Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown
Charles reportedly said to Diana: “Why can’t you be more like Fergie?”
This comment only helped cement Diana’s insecurities that she already had about Fergie.
When the Duchess of York first joined the Royal Family, Diana struggled with feeling overshadowed by the newcomer.
For one thing, Fergie was more popular than her within the family, especially the Queen.
Charles, Diana, Fergie and Andrew on a ski holiday together
According to a 2006 Daily Mail article, the Queen “loved Fergie” because she “took part in everything ‒ maybe wearing bright pink pants, but loving it”.
Fergie also enjoys all the outdoor pursuits the royals liked: she was an expert rider, learned to carriage drive and was also handy on skis.
Diana admitted she got “jealous” of her friend, because it seemed to come so easily to her.
The princess reportedly said: “[Fergie] kept saying to me: ‘You mustn’t worry, everything is going to be fine.’
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Charles, Diana and Fergie return to the UK with the coffin of Hugh Lindsay
“I couldn’t understand it, she was actually enjoying herself, whereas I was fighting to survive.
“I couldn’t understand how she could find it so easy.
“I thought she would be like me and put her head down and be shy.
“No, a different kettle of fish altogether and she wooed everybody in this family and did it so well. She left me looking like dirt.”
At first, Diana’s insecurities led her to emulate Fergie and pulled similar stunts, like wearing leather trousers to a concert, but found they tended to blow up in her face.
She told her biographer Andrew Morton: “I made so many balls-ups trying to be like Fergie.
“I went to a pop concert in leather trousers, which I thought were frightfully ‘with it’, frightfully pleased to act my own age, completely putting out of my mind that I was the future Queen, and future Queens don’t wear leather like that in public.”
Ultimately, it was Fergie’s boisterous personality that also landed her in trouble.
She started alienating the Royal Family with antics like holding raucous parties with the footmen, where she and her father would pass around risque presents.
Both royal brides ended up separating from their husbands in 1992 and divorcing in 1996.
Fergie features briefly in season four of The Crown, but only at a distance.
She and Andrew marry in episode eight, and Prince Charles is snubbed by the groom who chooses Prince Edward to be his best man.