What really happened during Prince Charles’ tragic ski accident

Netflix’s The Crown has been causing quite the stir for the royal family, shedding light on old wounds and bringing past scandals to the forefront once more. While the series is considered to be a work of fiction, the show does focus on various historical elements, including Prince Charles’ real-life ski accident that resulted in the tragic death of Major Hugh Lindsay, Queen Elizabeth II’s former aide. 

As reported by Marie Claire, the story goes that Charles and Princess Diana regularly took trips to the luxury Klosters ski resort in Switzerland and the trip that resulted in tragedy started out like many of the ones before. In 1988, Charles and Diana visited the resort and, while Diana stayed behind with Sarah Ferguson, former wife of Charles’ brother Prince Andrew, an avalanche struck while Charles was on the slopes. Although Charles was not trapped by the avalanche, two people from the group were not so lucky. Unfortunately, Lindsay succumbed to his injuries, and Patricia Palmer-Tomkinson suffered serious injuries that resulted in two broken legs.

Later it was determined that, although Charles could not be charged for Lindsay’s death and Palmer-Tomkinson’s injuries (via a report from the Los Angeles Times), he and his entire group were at fault for the accident due to Charles willingly leading them down a challenging slope while also disregarding the avalanche warning that was issued for the day.

Prince Charles' ski accident drove a wedge in his marriage

Luckily for Princess Diana, she was not on the slopes at the time of the accident. As reported by Marie Claire, both Diana and Sarah Ferguson, her sister-in-law at the time, opted to stay inside at their chalet. Phew! Yet, while Diana emerged unscathed in the physical sense, it’s rumored that the incident, which resulted in the loss of one man’s life, plagued her already strained marriage to Charles. To make matters much worse, the late Major Hugh Lindsay was also expecting a child with his wife, Sarah Horsley, at the time of his death. 

The trip was immediately cut short following the horrific accident and it was up to Diana to take charge while Prince Charles was still visibly shaken by the traumatic event. Diana took the time-honored approach of “standing by her man,” portraying a united front to the public, but the biography The Diana Chronicles, written by Tina Brown, painted a much different picture. According to Brown, Diana “blamed Charles for his recklessness in choosing such a hazardous run,” and privately spent her time comforting Lindsay’s grieving widow, the mother-to-be. Meanwhile, Charles was left to wallow in his own guilt. “I still find it hard to understand why I survived and he didn’t,” Charles reportedly wrote in a letter (via The Guardian).

Major Hugh Lindsay's widow was 'horrified' by Netflix's portrayal of the accident

While Major Hugh Lindsay’s widow, Sarah Horsley, was willing to forgive Prince Charles for his part in her husband’s tragic death — even going on to name Charles as her daughter’s godfather — make no mistake, she was not willing to go as easy on the makers of The Crown for dredging up a very traumatic time in her life.

After asking Netflix to forego highlighting the accident that killed her husband, she was extremely disappointed that they decided to move forward anyway. “I was horrified when I was told [the episode] was happening and was very concerned about the impact on my daughter,” Horsley told The Telegraph. “I’m very upset by it and I’m dreading people seeing it. I wrote to them asking them not to do it, not to use the accident. I suppose members of the royal family have to grin and bear it, but for me it’s a very private tragedy.”

While Horsley admitted that Netflix responded to her request with “a very kind letter,” stating that they understood her concerns, but hoped that she would ultimately feel “that they deal with difficult subject matters with integrity and great sensitivity.” According to Horsley, however, that simply was not enough. “I think it’s very unkind to many members of the family [to dramatise the accident],” she declared. We cannot even imagine how much it must hurt to see this tragedy reenacted for viewers’ entertainment.

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