Princess Diana's Friends and Fans Say "The Crown" Is Hard to Watch
"Knowing how it all came to an end made it all the more tragic," said one fan of the princess.
Much of The Crown's new season is centered around Princess Diana's introduction into the royal family, her disintegrating marriage to Prince Charles as a result of his affair with the Camilla Parker Bowles, and the princess's struggles with bulimia. While Season 4 of The Crown has earned rave reviews from critics, many of those closest to Diana and admirers of the late princess have found it difficult to see Emma Corrin reenact well-known events in Diana's life. Watching the brutal depiction of her eating disorder and the Wales' highly fraught exchanges play out on the small screen is all the more difficult knowing Diana's story ends in tragedy.
"For me, The Crown is very to true life in depicting the Diana I knew," said one close friend of the late princess of the latest season, which was released on Netflix on Nov. 15. Even for those people who briefly met her or saw her at events, the Diana they encountered was sadly very much like her portrayal on The Crown. Read on to hear what they have to say and for more on Season 4, check out 5 Heartbreaking Ways Princess Diana Defines "The Crown's" New Season.
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"It was hard to watch how much she struggled."
A close friend of Diana's, who met her in New York in 1989, told Best Life she's struggled to watch the realistic portrayal of the People's Princess.
"I met Diana for the first time when she visited New York City at a gala at the World Financial Center's Winter Garden and was struck by her openness and vulnerability," the friend said when asked about the accuracy of The Crown's depiction of Diana's trip to Manhattan in 1989. "The Crown captured her nervousness on the tour and her genuine concern for the children struggling with AIDs, who she met when she visited Harlem Hospital. The recreation of the Victor Edelstein gown she wore [to a gala at the Brooklyn Academy of Music] is close to perfect."
Diana's friend found the princess had seemingly come into her own the next time they saw each other at the CFDA Awards at Lincoln Center in 1995. "She giggled about how nervous she'd been on that first trip. By then, she was determined to find happiness outside the Royal family," the confidant said. "It was hard to watch how much she struggled to gain the royals' acceptance. For me, The Crown is very to true life in depicting the Diana I knew."
"I don't think any of us really knew how lonely she probably had been for years."
Lisa Chambers, former managing editor of TV Guide, remembered her impressions of Diana when she saw her at the Crocodile Dundee 2 movie premiere in London during the summer of 1988. "I remember she had an incredible amount of makeup on. She looked thin and beautiful. Charles was there, but was invisible next to her," Chambers recalled.
"I thought she looked rather lonely or sad having to show up for this ridiculous movie," she added. "I think The Crown likely got it right with the wrenchingly sad depiction of the stunted emotional life of the royals. I don't think any of us really knew how lonely she probably had been for years." And for more on Diana's fashion transformation in her early years, here are 10 Photos That Perfectly Capture Princess Diana's '80s Style Evolution.
"Everyone felt she was 'unstable.'"
Filmmaker Sandra Luckow also found The Crown's portrayal of Diana to be painfully accurate. "I was certain that Diana had cooperated when Andrew Morton's book first came out [in 1992]. I was doing some work for the Academy of Eating Disorders at the time and knew the details were too accurate to be second or third hand," she told Best Life. "I remember going to see the Crown Jewels in 1994 and the guard talking to me at length about how everyone felt she was 'unstable.'"
Luckow admitted she's "hated every portrayal of Diana until this season of The Crown."
"I think it was certainly told from the family's point of view. To me, it felt like there was a justification of their opinion of Diana," she added. "Watching The Crown has been an interesting journey for me. I liked the royal family more than I ever thought I would in the first three seasons and have disliked them more than I ever thought I would in Season 4." And if you want regular updates on the royals and more, sign up for our daily newsletter.
"I relived the heartache for her."
Author Claudia Gryvatz Copquin followed Diana's "so-called fairytale story" and was heartbroken to see how it "all fell apart."
"Little by little we found out in real time back then what had been going on between Charles and Camilla, the bulimia, the Queen's coldness, culminating in that shattering interview with Martin Bashir, in which Diana laid it all out for us," Copquin said, referring to the Panorama sit-down. "So while watching it play out on The Crown, I relived the heartache for her. Knowing how it all came to an end made it all the more tragic." And for more on the People's Princess from those closest to her, check out Diana Would Have Healed William and Harry's Rift, Says Royal Biographer.
"I was always mystified why The Firm did not do everything in their power for her to succeed."
Public relations executive Susan Arnot Heaney, who headed up global PR for the cosmetic company Elizabeth Arden, met Diana on a receiving line during the princess's only trip to Chicago in 1996.
"We sent Diana a laundry basket filled with dozens of products, beautifully packaged, of course. She told me she and her ladies sat on the floor and opened it all with much delight," said Heaney. "I was always mystified why The Firm did not do everything in their power for her to succeed and flourish, which was to their advantage."
"She had a special glow."
Also in 1996, the year before her tragic death, photographer Greg Pace snapped Diana at a benefit for the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research in Washington, D.C., and saw a side of the princess that made the world fall in love with her. "Of of all the celebrities I photographed [that night], Diana was one that really radiated when she entered the room," Pace said. "She had a special glow." And for more on the impact the princess had, here are 13 Amazing Ways Princess Diana Changed the Royal Family Forever.
"Her life in photos sure was different from her very sad and lonely reality."
In 1997, just months before she died, Diana presented a different side of herself during her last trip to Washington, D.C. Pam Singer, who was a producer for Larry King Live at the time, met Diana at the Red Cross Ball. "A friend and I saw she was standing all alone, so we went up and introduced ourselves. She was kind, but was so thin and visibly unhappy. Her life in photos sure was different from her very sad and lonely reality."
"There is a lot of conjecture and a lot of invention."
But for one person who knew Diana her entire life, The Crown's depiction doesn't tell the full story. When asked in an interview about his latest book, The White Ship, if the show's latest season made for uncomfortable viewing, Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, said, "You can hang [the show] on fact, but the bits in between are not fact."
"The worry for me is that people see a program like that and they forget that it is fiction. They assume, especially foreigners, I find Americans tell me they have watched The Crown as if they have taken a history lesson. Well, they haven't," Spencer said on Love Your Weekend With Alan Titchmarsh. "There is a lot of conjecture and a lot of invention, isn't there?"
Spencer also revealed The Crown's producers asked if they could shoot at the family's ancestral home, Althorp. "I said obviously not," he explained. And to find out the royal family's thoughts on the series, check out Here's What All the British Royals Really Think About "The Crown."