The True Story of Prince Charles's Involvement in a Deadly Avalanche

Caroline Hallemann
·3 min read
Photo credit: Princess Diana Archive - Getty Images
Photo credit: Princess Diana Archive - Getty Images

From Town & Country

The title of the penultimate episode of The Crown's fourth season holds a double meaning. "Avalanche" simultaneously refers to Charles and Diana's relationship racing toward disaster, and a very real mass of snow dangerously hurtling down a mountain. While The Crown sometimes veers away from historical fact for dramatic effect, Prince Charles was indeed involved in a deadly snowslide in Switzerland in March of 1988.

Here's what really happened.

A royal ski holiday turned tragic when the Prince was caught in an avalanche.

Charles, Diana, Sarah Ferguson, and several other friends had traveled to Klosters for a ski holiday, but the trip abruptly turned tragic when the party was caught in an avalanche. Per an Associated Press story at the time, "Swiss authorities said the snowslide on Mt. Gotschnagrat near Klosters began about 300 feet above a group of six skiers that included Prince Charles."

Diana and Fergie weren't out on the slopes when the natural disaster occurred, but unfortunately, their friend Hugh Lindsay was killed, and Patricia Palmer-Tomkinson, suffered from severe leg injuries.

Photo credit: Georges De Keerle - Getty Images
Photo credit: Georges De Keerle - Getty Images

Prince Charles was not injured.

That said, according to the AP, "witnesses said the prince looked distraught, and one said he was weeping and shaking as a helicopter arrived to pick him up." Three other people in the party were also unharmed.

Photo credit: Georges De Keerle - Getty Images
Photo credit: Georges De Keerle - Getty Images

Diana recounted the events of the tragic day in Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words.

Diana, who hadn't been feeling well, and Fergie, who was pregnant with Princess Beatrice at the time, were resting at the chalet, when they heard a helicopter take off. They immediately knew something wasn't right when a royal aide came in to the chalet.

"We heard [a royal aide] say: 'There's been an accident.'" Once the aide realized Diana and Fergie were there, and had heard him, he didn't want to elaborate, but eventually Diana forced him to explain. "He said: 'There's been an accident and one of the party is dead.'"

At first, they didn't know who had perished in the avalanche, but it was eventually revealed to be Hugh Lindsay. Still in shock, Diana and Fergie packed up his things to be given to his wife. In Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words, Diana also revealed that she insisted they take his body home as soon as possible.

"We're going home, to take the body home to Sarah; we owe it to Sarah to take the body home. And we're not going skiing tomorrow," she said.

Photo credit: Georges De Keerle - Getty Images
Photo credit: Georges De Keerle - Getty Images

Hugh Lindsay was married, and was expecting a baby at the time of his death.

His wife Sarah, worked in the Buckingham Palace press office. She went to stay with Diana at Highgrove not long after Hugh's death.

"She cried from dawn to dusk and my sister came and every time we mentioned the name of Hugh, there were tears, tears, but I thought it was good to mention his name because she had to cleanse herself of it, and her grief went long and hard, because he was killed in a foreign country, she wasn’t out there with him, they’d only been married eight months, she was expecting a baby," Diana said.

"The whole thing was ghastly and what a nice person he was. Out of all the people who went it should never have been him."

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