The Crown’s Portrayal of the Peoples’ Princess

Devin Wilkes, Copy Editor

The beloved Princess Diana is back in the spotlight in the latest season of Netflix’s The Crown and viewers are more than excited to relive the princess’ first royal moments that made the world fall in love with her. 

The award-winning historical drama, created and written by Peter Morgan, depicts the political, social, and personal turmoil of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and on November 15, the highly anticipated fourth season released on Netflix. Taking place in the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, this season introduces both the country’s first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles. For many fans of The Crown, this is the season everyone has been waiting for, as it is the moment we meet the innocent and charismatic Diana Spencer that will win over the entire world and remain adored decades after her tragic death. 

One of the highlights of the new season is the first time Lady Diana (her title at the time) meets Prince Charles in 1977 when she is 16 years old, and he is 13 years her senior. Played by Emma Corrin, Lady Diana first charms the prince (Josh O’Connor) and the audience as she runs around her family home dressed in costume for her school’s play of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Though he was initially dating her older sister Lady Sarah, this meeting marked the beginning of a seemingly whirlwind romance turned into a tumultuous relationship. 

The couple didn’t date until 1980, and after about six months (and only meeting each other in-person 13 more times), Charles proposed in February of 1981. As depicted in The Crown, their infamous engagement interview with BBC foreshadowed the friction between them that would result in their divorce years later. When asked if they were happy and in love, Diana immediately replied, “of course,” while Charles responded, “whatever in love means.” Though the show makes this conversation slightly more dramatic than it actually was, there’s no denying that this was an awkward and public red flag. Diana later said that it “absolutely traumatized” her. 

Despite the animosity that may have been in her relationship, the world certainly loved Princess Diana. Her royal wedding, also referred to as “the wedding of the century,” took place on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. In the presence of over 2,600 guests and broadcast on television to almost one billion people in 74 countries, people across the globe became enamored with her beauty and grace as she walked down the aisle in her taffeta wedding dress, complete with her iconic 25-foot veil. 

She didn’t just enchant people with her gorgeousness and style; Diana’s distinctive charming personality and care for the charitable helped her to win hearts as well. She became an inspiration with her understated, yet strong-willed character. The Princess of Wales also amplified HIV/AIDs awareness during a time in which homophobia stigmatized the diseases. The Crown portrays her 1989 solo trip to Harlem, where she visited a Harlem hospital and was photographed hugging a 7-year old boy with the illness, a significant moment that debunked misconceptions. 

Though she seemed like a heavenly creature, the show revealed her humanness as it represented her struggle with bulimia, a life-threatening eating disorder that lasted throughout her marriage. During her lifetime, Diana publicly spoke about her mental health and dealing with postpartum depression, self-mutilation, and bulimia, which may have stemmed from low self-esteem and issues in her marriage. In a 1995 BBC interview, she admitted to having the eating disorder for “a number of years” and described it as a “secret disease” that was “a symptom of what was going on in my marriage.” Her candid confession stunned the public, as eating disorders were rarely a public discussion. According to a statement, when creating this season, The Crown production company Left Bank Pictures worked closely with Beat, an eating disorder charity, to see that their portrayal of Diana’s bulimia was “accurate and sensitively handled.” 

By the end of season four, it is the early 90’s and Princess Diana and Prince Charles have two children, Prince William and Prince Harry. At this point, their marriage is on the verge, so the next season will likely feature the events that lead to their divorce in 1996. Unfortunately in 1997, Diana died tragically in a car accident in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris as her driver was fleeing the paparazzi. She was only 36 years old. Though the world seemed to stop when her death was announced, her presence can still be felt in many ways. Through her charisma and compassion, she redefined what it meant to be a member of the royal family. Diana was the UK’s sweetheart, but she still remains a global icon.