'The Crown': Queen Elizabeth's 'Annus Horribilis' Speech and What Happened to the Royal Family in 1992

Read the full text of the queen's infamous 1992 speech.

Episode 4 of The Crown's fifth season is ominously titled "Annus Horribilis." It's a unique phrase, one that was popularized by Queen Elizabeth II during her Ruby Jubilee speech in November 1992. 

As the year was drawing to an end, the queen used the speech to reflect on the scandals that had rocked the royal family over the previous months, admitting, "1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure."

From the constant press attention on Prince Charles' unhappy marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, to paparazzi scandals surrounding Prince Andrew's split from Sarah Ferguson, to the Windsor Castle fire that caused millions in damage to the royal family's primary residence, there was plenty for the queen to be distraught about at the end of 1992, and The Crown explores it all in the moving episode.

Here's a look at all the things that conspired to make the year the queen's "annus horribilis."

The Scandals 

Undoubtedly the biggest royal scandal in 1992 -- and for much of the '90s -- was the media scrutiny surrounding Princess Diana, and the end of her marriage to Prince Charles. But 1992 was the year of two major breaches of trust between Diana and the royal family.

First, was the publication of Andrew Morton's tell-all book, Diana: Her True Story. Upon its release, Morton claimed that he did not interview Diana for the book, but it was later discovered that she recorded a series of stream-of-consciousness recordings with her friend, James Colthurst, that Morton used to craft the book. 

The biography featured shocking revelations including Diana's multiple suicide attempts, memorably one where she threw herself down a flight of stairs while pregnant with Prince William, her struggles with eating disorders, and the difficult life she faced within the royal family. 

The second Diana-centric scandal of 1992 was the release of a taped conversation between her and her friend, James Gilbey, which was leaked to the press after reportedly being accidentally recorded by a radio enthusiast. The incident became known as "Squidgygate" because of the number of times that Gilbey affectionately referred to Diana as "Squidgy" during the conversation.

On the tape, Diana and Gilbey discussed a variety of topics, including her relationships with members of the royal family and Diana's fear of becoming pregnant. The leak and publication of the "Squidgygate" recordings, as well as the "Camillagate" tapes, led to intense speculation over the security of the royals' phone lines. However, then-Prime MinisterJohn Major's government eventually published two reports, both of which cleared MI5 and MI6 of involvement in the tapes.

The Splits

1992 was a tumultuous year for royal marriages, as Princess Anne finalized her divorce from her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, with whom she shares two children, and, months later, married Commander Sir Timothy Laurence, whom she had met while he served as her mother's equerry.

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, also announced his separation from wife Sarah Ferguson in 1992, following long periods of estrangement and public speculation about Fergie's relationship with Texan multimillionaire Steve Wyatt. In August of that year, the Daily Mirror published paparazzi photographs of John Bryan, an American financial manager, kissing Sarah's toes as she sunbathed topless, inviting further scandal on the royal family.

And finally, of course, there was Charles and Diana. Following the pair's very public extramarital affairs, the "Camillagate" scandal and the release of Morton's book, British Prime Minister John Major announced the couple's legal separation in Parliament in December 1992. While their divorce would not be finalized for several more years, the writing was on the wall by the end of the "annus horribilis."


The Fire

Perhaps the most flagrant and public example of the royal family's misfortune came on Nov. 20, 1992 when a fire broke out in Windsor Castle, the official residence of the queen. The fire began in the queen's Private Chapel when a curtain was ignited by a spotlight pressed up against it. Over the next 12 hours, the fire spread throughout the residence, destroying parts of the structure, priceless furniture and works of art. 

The fire caused extensive damage and the repairs over the next few years cost £36.5 million. Items from the Royal Collection lost include the Sir William Beechey portrait George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops, which was too large for firefighters to remove, several items of porcelain, multiple chandeliers, the Willis organ and the 1851 Great Exhibition Axminster carpet. Peter Brooke, then the Secretary of State for National Heritage, called the fire a "national disaster."

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The Speech

"Annus Horribilis" ends with the queen's speech at Guildhall on Nov. 24 1992, marking her Ruby Jubilee, the 40th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. In her speech, the queen reflects on the difficult year, as well as the recent Windsor Castle fire.

Read the full text of the queen's speech below:

My Lord Mayor,

Could I say, first, how delighted I am that the Lady Mayoress is here today.

This great hall has provided me with some of the most memorable events of my life. The hospitality of the City of London is famous around the world, but nowhere is it more appreciated than among the members of my family. I am deeply grateful that you, my Lord Mayor, and the Corporation, have seen fit to mark the fortieth anniversary of my Accession with this splendid lunch, and by giving me a picture which I will greatly cherish.

Thank you also for inviting representatives of so many organisations with which I and my family have special connections, in some cases stretching back over several generations. To use an expression more common north of the Border, this is a real 'gathering of the clans'.

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'. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty. This generosity and whole-hearted kindness of the Corporation of the City to Prince Philip and me would be welcome at any time, but at this particular moment, in the aftermath of Friday's tragic fire at Windsor, it is especially so.

And, after this last weekend, we appreciate all the more what has been set before us today. Years of experience, however, have made us a bit more canny than the lady, less well versed than us in the splendours of City hospitality, who, when she was offered a balloon glass for her brandy, asked for 'only half a glass, please'.

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. A well-meaning Bishop was obviously doing his best when he told Queen Victoria, "Ma'am, we cannot pray too often, nor too fervently, for the Royal Family". The Queen's reply was: "Too fervently, no; too often, yes". I, like Queen Victoria, have always been a believer in that old maxim "moderation in all things".

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.

But it can also lend an extra dimension to judgement, giving it a leavening of moderation and compassion - even of wisdom - that is sometimes lacking in the reactions of those whose task it is in life to offer instant opinions on all things great and small.

No section of the community has all the virtues, neither does any have all the vices. I am quite sure that most people try to do their jobs as best they can, even if the result is not always entirely successful. He who has never failed to reach perfection has a right to be the harshest critic.

There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life. No institution - City, Monarchy, whatever - should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don't.

But we are all part of the same fabric of our national society and that scrutiny, by one part of another, can be just as effective if it is made with a touch of gentleness, good humour and understanding.

This sort of questioning can also act, and it should do so, as an effective engine for change. The City is a good example of the way the process of change can be incorporated into the stability and continuity of a great institution. I particularly admire, my Lord Mayor, the way in which the City has adapted so nimbly to what the Prayer Book calls "The changes and chances of this mortal life".

You have set an example of how it is possible to remain effective and dynamic without losing those indefinable qualities, style and character. We only have to look around this great hall to see the truth of that.

Forty years is quite a long time. I am glad to have had the chance to witness, and to take part in, many dramatic changes in life in this country. But I am glad to say that the magnificent standard of hospitality given on so many occasions to the Sovereign by the Lord Mayor of London has not changed at all. It is an outward symbol of one other unchanging factor which I value above all - the loyalty given to me and to my family by so many people in this country, and the Commonwealth, throughout my reign.

You, my Lord Mayor, and all those whose prayers - fervent, I hope, but not too frequent - have sustained me through all these years, are friends indeed. Prince Philip and I give you all, wherever you may be, our most humble thanks.

And now I ask you to rise and drink the health of the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London.

The Crown season 5 is streaming now on Netflix.