Meghan Markle may find some lessons about her late mother-in-law Princess Diana in the latest season of The Crown. This is what the Netflix drama gets right.
Meghan Markle may find some lessons about her late mother-in-law Princess Diana in the latest season of The Crown. This is what the Netflix drama gets right.

Fact v fiction: Princess Di and The Crown

Meghan Markle may find the latest season of The Crown particularly interesting - and not simply to brush up on her British history.

While comparisons to her late mother-in-law have proved onerous since she wed Prince Harry two years ago, Diana's troubling time in 'the Firm' - at least, as the writers of the Netflix drama see it - will only act to affirm the former Suits star's complaints she was made "unwelcome" by factions within the Palace establishment.

The shocking neglect and manipulation of a young Lady Diana Spencer, when she first became engaged to Prince Charles, will confound those who believed the Royal family had embraced the 19 year old, instead of what the TV series portrays as one of the loneliest and confusing times in her young life.

Royal roles! Princess Diana (Emma Corrisn) and Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) in a scene from The Crown. Picture: Netflix
Royal roles! Princess Diana (Emma Corrisn) and Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) in a scene from The Crown. Picture: Netflix

 

Emma Corrin plays Princess Di as vulnerable and naive in season four of The Crown. Picture: Netflix
Emma Corrin plays Princess Di as vulnerable and naive in season four of The Crown. Picture: Netflix

 

Emma Corrin, who plays the role of Diana, brilliantly captures her vulnerability and youthful naivety, after being thrust into an unfamiliar world of antiquated rules and surprising isolation.

Besides her physical similarities, Corrin delivers the performance of a lifetime as the People's Princess, who finds strength in serving the ill, lost and lonely; in a family that turned a blind eye to her husband's betrayal with Camilla Parker Bowles.

With Queen Elizabeth keeping a regal distance, and the rest of the family jealous of the attention the pretty princess received, the Mountbatten-Windsors come off in this season of The Crown as "boorish, snobbish and rude."

That is a line attributed to Margaret Thatcher's husband Denis, in a scene purporting to capture the couple's first trip to Balmoral with the monarch and her family.

 

The real Charles and Diana, pictured in 1983 at Wentworth Sheraton Hotel in Sydney. Picture: News Corp Australia
The real Charles and Diana, pictured in 1983 at Wentworth Sheraton Hotel in Sydney. Picture: News Corp Australia

 

If the small screenwriters are to be believed, the visit was not a happy one for Britain's first female prime minister who was treated with apparent disdain by the Queen and mocked mercilessly by those around her.

But the ill-will was reciprocated, with Gillian Anderson, as Mrs Thatcher, remarking of the Royal Family: "I'm struggling to find any redeeming features in these people at all. They aren't sophisticated or cultured, elegant or anything close to it" - hinting at the tense relationship the PM would have with the Queen during most of her controversial leadership.

It's certainly not a flattering portrait of Her Majesty, who is shown to enable the character flaws of her children, that would long plague them and the Royal family into their adulthood.

So which of these dramas is fact or fiction?

LORD MOUNTBATTEN WAS MURDERED BY THE IRA

Lord Mounbatten was staying at his holiday home, Classiebawn Castle in County Sligo. On the morning of August 27, 1979, 'Dickie' as he was known by the Royal Family, took his daughter, Patricia, her twin sons and friends out on his fishing boat, Shadow V, in search of lobsters. At 11.45am, the vessel was blown apart by 50 pounds of gelignite, hidden on the boat the night before by the IRA. The Queen's cousin, his daughter, her son Nicholas and a local boy were killed. In previous years, the boat had been watched to prevent a bomb being placed on it. But for reasons unknown, in the year of Mountbatten's death that surveillance was withdrawn.

 

Lord Louis Mountbatten. Picture: Getty Images
Lord Louis Mountbatten. Picture: Getty Images

DIANA WAS HER SISTER'S CLEANING LADY

While the world met Diana as a shy nursery school aide, back in 1981, her side hustle was actually working as a cleaner for her sister, Sarah Spencer (now Sarah McCorquodale). Earning just £1 an hour before she married Prince Charles, she would tell biographer Andrew Morton that she took pride in her domestic duties, cleaning the Chelsea flat of her big sister and her flatmate, Lucinda, who said Sarah treated Diana "like a doormat".

 

‘Like a doormat’. Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown. Picture: Netflix
‘Like a doormat’. Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown. Picture: Netflix

 

DIANA FIRST MET CHARLES DRESSED AS A NYMPH

In one of the most whimsical scenes in new season of The Crown, Charles first encounters a 16-year-old Diana as she flits about Althorp House (the Spencer family home), dressed as a woodland nymph for a school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. But in fact, the prince was introduced to the teen when he was invited to a shooting party by her sister and his then girlfriend, Sarah. In his engagement interview, Charles would say of the impression she made: 'I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16 year old she was. I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything.'

 

PM THATCHER HAD A TESTY TIME WITH THE QUEEN

When you're both used to being the most important woman in the room, it's easy to see where the tension between Queen Elizabeth and British PM, Margaret Thatcher began. While their weekly meetings were kept civil, it's understood the Queen was unsettled by Thatcher's political and social agenda, which plunged the nation into a devastating recession, triggered riots and saw the explosion of homelessness. Instead of changing course, Mrs Thatcher made it clear the Iron Lady was "not for turning."

 

DIANA SPENT TIME ROLLER-SKATING AROUND THE PALACE

A plan by the Palace to keep Diana from paparazzi before the wedding saw her move into her own apartment within Buckingham Palace. Left largely alone, with little to do between wedding appointments, she would apparently put on her Walkman and a pair of rollerskates and skate through the historic halls. It was a fun fact Emma Corrin enjoyed learning about the woman she played: "The sense of fun that she obviously had before she became royal and that she kind of maintained, that I think, was quite rare."

 

‘Quite rare’. Princess Diana’s true character is being explored in the latest season of The Crown. Picture: Netflix
‘Quite rare’. Princess Diana’s true character is being explored in the latest season of The Crown. Picture: Netflix

 

CAMILLA TRIGGERED DIANA'S BULIMIA

When bride-to-be Diana realised just how close Camilla and Charles still were, it was too late to call off the wedding of the century. So, as she revealed in Andrew Morton's biography, she would turn her frustrations on herself, disappearing into a battle with bulimia.

"The bulimia started the week after we got engaged. My husband put his hand on my waistline and said: 'Oh, a bit chubby here, aren't we?' and that triggered off something in me." She continued: "And the Camilla thing … The first time I was measured for my wedding dress, I was 29 inches around the waist. The day I got married, I was 23½ inches. I had shrunk into nothing from February to July."

 

A comment by Prince Charles about Diana’s weight is said to have triggered her eating disorder, The Crown explores. Picture: Netflix
A comment by Prince Charles about Diana’s weight is said to have triggered her eating disorder, The Crown explores. Picture: Netflix

 

 

ANNE WAS JEALOUS OF DIANA, THE MEDIA DARLING

Her 'cool girl' appeal in season 3 starts to wear off in the latest episodes, as Princess Anne struggles with her own unhappy marriage, plus the strain of training for a place in England's Olympic equestrian team and raising two children, Peter and Zara. But it's her envy of Diana that has set tongues wagging, confirmed previously in a 2002 documentary, The Real Princess Anne, which claimed Anne was "extremely annoyed when Diana became centre of stage."

Steve Woods, a royal photographer during the Diana era said Anne "viewed [Diana and Sarah Ferguson] as lessening the stature of the Royal Family," and that it brought, "too much tabloid attention for her."

The Crown is streaming on Netflix.

 

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Originally published as Fact v fiction: Princess Di and The Crown


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