The true story behind the fatal avalanche on ‘The Crown’ that was a turning point for Charles and Diana’s marriage

Klosters avalanche diptych

  • In March 1988, Prince Charles was involved in a fatal avalanche accident at a Swiss ski resort.
  • The accident has come back into focus as a storyline in season four, episode 9 of Netflix's hit series "The Crown," released November 15. 
  • The avalanche and death of Major Hugh Lindsay marked a turning point in Diana and Charles' tumultuous marriage, according to royal biographers.
  • Here's how the event happened in real life and a look back in photos.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

In early March 1988, Prince Charles and Princess Diana flew to Switzerland for a ski vacation that would prove tragic.

Source: AP, The Guardian

The royal pair had rented a chalet near Klosters ski resort in the Swiss Alps for their getaway.

Source: The Guardian

Unlike other Alpine resorts favored by the well-to-do such as Saint Moritz, Klosters is not known for its glitz and glam.

Source: Conde Nast Traveller

Skiing is really the main affair, Simon Wells wrote in an article about the destination for Conde Nast Traveller. In Klosters, "it's easier to buy a box of kindling than a designer handbag," he said.

Source: Conde Nast Traveller

Charles and Diana had traveled to Klosters together on several occasions earlier in their marriage.

Source: Getty

This time, they traveled with a group of friends who included Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew's first wife who was pregnant with Princess Beatrice at the time, according to a 1988 report by the Guardian.

Source: The Guardian

On March 10, Prince Charles was skiing with a group of five on an unmarked route off the Wang run on Gotschnagrat Mountain when an avalanche hit.

Source: The Guardian

Charles escaped uninjured, but one member of their party was seriously injured. Another, Major Hugh Lindsay, did not survive. Lindsay was an aide to the Queen and a close friend of Charles.

Source: The Guardian

Charles "was visibly distressed" and "weeping" when the rescue helicopter picked him up, The Guardian reported a day after the accident.

Source: The Guardian

Diana and Ferguson had remained behind at the party's chalet that day.

Source: The Guardian

After the accident, Diana, Charles, and Ferguson flew to London to deliver the major's body to his wife, Sarah Lindsay, now Sarah Horsely.

Source: The Diana Chronicles, Insider

Instead of accompanying Prince Charles to their Highgrove residence, Diana returned to Kensington Palace with Horsley to console her, Tina Brown wrote in her 2007 book "The Diana Chronicles."

Source: The Diana Chronicles

Horsley would later describe Diana as a "close friend" in a 2008 interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

Source: The Sunday Telegraph

While the tragedy brought Horsley and Diana closer, it marked a turning point for Charles and Diana. By 1988, both had entered into extramarital affairs, and their marriage was on the rocks.

Source: Diana v. Charles: The Royal Blood Feud

"The day the Klosters avalanche was triggered […] was the day Diana finally hardened her heart against her husband," royal biographer James Whitaker and journalist Christopher Wilson wrote in "Diana v. Charles: The Royal Blood Feud."

Source: Diana v. Charles: The Royal Blood Feud 

One reason for this, according to Tina Brown, is that "Diana blamed Charles for his recklessness in choosing such a hazardous run," she wrote in "The Diana Chronicles."

Source: The Diana Chronicles

Charles returned to Klosters one year later and would return in subsequent years with his sons William and Harry, but Diana never returned to the resort, according to a book written by her bodyguard.

Source: Diana: A Closely Guarded Mystery

Wendy Berry, a housekeeper at Highgrove, noticed the toll that the event took on Prince Charles and Diana's relationship. "The tragedy affected the rest of their lives, in several ways, since it appeared to spell the end of any mutual support," she wrote in her account of the royal pair, per Brown.

Source: The Diana Chronicles, The Housekeeper's Diary

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