This is how accurate The Crown's portrayal of Princess Diana is - from her eating disorder to her relationship with Prince Charles

Friday, 20th November 2020, 3:47 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th December 2020, 11:53 am

Season four of The Crown has divided opinion over its accuracy - with some saying the series has strayed too far into fiction.

The fourth instalment of the Netflix drama based on the royal family begins in 1977 with the election of Margaret Thatcher, and shortly afterwards, covers Prince Charles’ meeting with Diana Spencer, who he would go on to marry.

The series covers a number of touchy subjects around Diana’s life - including accusations of infidelity and an eating disorder.

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With costumes and sets produced with such stunning accuracy to real life, many viewers are wondering how true-to-life the depiction of Diana’s story is. These are the parts it got wrong - and the parts it got right.

Prince Charles’ meeting with Diana

Prince Charles’ and Diana’s first meeting in The Crown occurs when the Prince of Wales is visiting the home of Diana’s older sister, Sarah Spencer.

Diana, dressed in a costume for her school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, darts across the hall where Charles is standing and the two share a conversation about Shakespeare.

While this exact circumstance is fabricated, it is true that Charles met Diana through her older sister, Sarah.

The pairs were in fact introduced during a grouse hunt at Althorp, the Spencer family home, in November 1977 when Diana was just 16 years old.

Of his first impressions, Charles later said in an interview:

"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."

The engagement

In the series, the pair are shown to meet very few times before marrying. Though they did meet on more occasions than depicted, it’s reported that Charles and Diana did only meet in person around 13 times before marrying.

Contrary to the show’s assertion that the prince didn’t get down on one knee to propose, it’s reported that in real life he did - though the location of the proposal in the nursery is accurate.

There’s an excruciating scene in The Crown in which the couple are interviewed following their engagement in which Prince Charles responds to the question “are you in love” with the answer: “Whatever being in love means”.

This is in fact accurate - the prince did respond to this question with the answer “whatever love means”.

Charles and Camilla

It’s widely accepted that the prince was still in love with Camilla while he was courting and married to Diana; a scenario remarked on by members of the Royal Family in the series.

Hinted at in the series, it’s reported that Charles began his real-life affair with Camilla in the 1980s, causing an international scandal when the news emerged in the 90s.

The lunch between Camilla and Diana depicted in the show also reportedly took place in real life, though the real topic of conversation between the pair is unknown.

In another heartbreaking scene, Diana discovers drawings of a bracelet Charles is having made up for Camilla.

This incident apparently occurred, though Diana found the real bracelet, not just the drawings. She told her biographer Andrew Morton in 1997:

I walked into this man's office one day and I said, 'Ooh, what's in that parcel?' And he said 'Oh, you shouldn't look at that...So I opened it and there was the bracelet. I was devastated”.

Diana’s eating disorder

Season four shows Diana struggling to adjust to life in the palace, where she feels isolated and abandoned by her husband.

She develops an eating disorder - bulimia nervosa - involving binging on food then throwing it up almost immediately afterwards. This continues throughout the series.

This disorder isn’t a fabrication by the show - Princess Diana did in fact struggle with the condition for several years.

She was in fact one of the first prominent public figures to speak openly about the disorder, revealing her experience with bulimia in 1992. In 1995, she opened up to BBC Panorama about the experience, saying:

“I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals,” she explained. “It’s a repetitive pattern which is very destructive to yourself.”

Diana’s suicide attempts

In episode four, Diana is shown to be desperately unhappy, locking herself away and staying in bed while pregnant with her first child, William.

While pregnant with William, Diana was indeed reported to be unhappy in real life, claiming to have thrown herself down the stairs five months before William’s birth.

This would be just one of several suicide attempts by the unhappy princess over the years - though this is not explicitly depicted in the series.

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