What The Crown Doesn’t Show You About The Charles And Diana Story
The doomed relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the ’80s and ’90s was one of the most publicized unions in tabloid history. What began as a fairytale romance soon became a tragedy, as Charles and Diana struggled to keep their marriage alive. Charles began an infamous affair with his old flame (now wife) Camilla Parker-Bowles; as Diana said in her notorious BBC interview with Martin Bashir, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Of course, Diana had her own affairs, too.
In season 4 of The Crown, a whole new generation was introduced to the tale of Charles and Diana. However, as the creators of the dramatic series are clear to note, the show is not a documentary. “There are two sorts of truth,” Robert Lacey, the show’s historical consultant, told Town & Country. “There’s historical truth and then there’s the larger truth about the past.” He went on to explain that certain important moments are left out of The Crown, too.
While we love watching The Crown, we couldn’t help but wonder — what really happened between Prince Charles and Princess Diana?
Prince Charles actually met Diana Spencer in a field
In the first episode of season 4 of The Crown, Prince Charles meets Diana Spencer in a whimsical, otherworldly meet-cute. While visiting his latest fling, Sarah Spencer, Charles meets a young Diana while he’s waiting in a hallway. The princess-to-be is dressed as a “mad tree,” for an upcoming school performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She hides behind a series of plants, and the pair eye each other from between the branches. As Emma Corrin (who played Diana) said on The Drew Barrymore Show, it’s a somewhat Shakespearean scene. They have a point — it’s all very similar to the fish bowl scene in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
While this meeting is undeniably appropriate for the artistic journey of the two characters, the fact is, it never happened; The Crown left out the real meeting between Charles and Diana. According to a 1981 edition of the Daily Times, the real meeting took place in a field in 1977. As Diana put it, they met “in the middle of a pillowed field” during a pheasant shoot — a little less mystical than the version shown in The Crown!
Prince Charles was less of a gentlemen during his courtship of Diana Spencer
In The Crown, Prince Charles and Diana Spencer’s early relationship is incredibly proper. On their first date to the opera, they sit with Diana’s chaperone, who keeps a watchful eye over the pair. At the end of the date, they share a handshake.
However, according to the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, which used the late princess’ interview tapes, the courtship was a little more passionate in real life (via Evening Standard). Diana recalled one conversation between the pair after the death of Lord Mountbatten. In the show, this conversation takes place in public, with Charles sitting in his car and Diana standing next to him. However, it turns out, the conversation really happened later, when Diana was staying with Charles at a country residence. The pair were sitting on a bale of hay. After trying to comfort him, “he leapt on me, practically,” Diana said. “It was strange. I thought, ‘This isn’t very cool,’ but I had nothing to go by, because I’d never had a boyfriend.” It sounds like the prince was a lot less princely in real life!
The Balmoral Test for Diana Spencer in The Crown probably never happened
In The Crown, Diana Spencer is invited to Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish home, Balmoral. Here, she is tested by the family to determine whether she would make a suitable bride for Prince Charles. Her tests include wearing the right outdoorsy footwear, talking a long walk with Charles’ father Prince Philip, and entertaining the family at dinner.
However, according to experts, this type of organized testing probably never happened. Per The Telegraph, even though there is an “unspoken code of conduct” at the house, it’s unlikely the family would have set traps for guests to fall into. As The Times reported, Diana’s visit to Balmoral actually took place a year later than it was portrayed in the show. When she visited, the Queen wasn’t even there!
According to Andrew Morton’s biography Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words, Diana actually stayed at a nearby cottage with friends. She spent her time at Balmoral taking part in outdoor activities with Prince Charles, and not his father (via Elle). That being said, here’s what The Crown got right about the Balmoral test.
Prince Charles' proposal in The Crown was a little different in real life
Prince Charles’ proposal to Diana Spencer in The Crown is remarkably unromantic, and takes place in the nursery. “I wanted to ask you something,” Charles says, before unceremoniously popping the question without so much as getting down on one knee. “Yes, please,” Diana replies. It’s more like a business proposal than a romantic one.
While the proposal did in fact take place in the nursery at Windsor Castle, according to Mirror, Charles did manage to get down on one knee. Apparently, Diana “nervously laughed” when Charles sunk down.
Even though The Crown creators left those details out of the show, the general tone of the proposal seems to be on point. As royal biographer Christopher Wilson said in the documentary Charles & Di: The Truth Behind Their Wedding, “He didn’t pick her up in his arms and embrace or do any of the things we might do when we propose marriage to the one that we love. He rang his mum” (via Elle).
Diana Spencer's grandmother was actually against her marriage to Prince Charles in real life
In The Crown, Diana Spencer’s grandmother and chaperone, Lady Ruth Fermoy, seems to be firmly behind the union between Prince Charles and Diana. In fact, she even encourages Diana to make the match (via Express). However, as Andrew Morton revealed in Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words, Fermoy had actually been against the marriage.
It turns out, Fermoy knew the royal family pretty well, as she worked as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother. Apparently, she told Diana, “You must understand that their sense of humor and lifestyle are very different.” She even advised, “I don’t think it will suit you.”
It’s interesting that The Crown chose to leave out these cautionary words from Fermoy in their version of the story. Instead, they choose to show Diana’s family pushing her into the marriage just as Charles’ family pushed him.
The Crown left out Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding for a reason
There’s one shocking omission in The Crown that’s left many fans puzzled: the writers decided to leave out the wedding between Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In real life, the wedding was a gigantic event, with 600,000 people filling the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple. In fact, at the time, it was the most popular TV program to be broadcast ever, with roughly 750 viewers million tuning in (via BBC News). Naturally, most fans of The Crown assumed that this momentous occasion would be shown.
However, the wedding was left out completely. Instead, we see Diana in her wedding outfit standing in the hall, preparing to walk down the aisle before the credits roll (via Glamour). As Emma Corrin explained to The Hollywood Reporter, “We never recreate things just for the sake of recreating them.” She explained that the wedding itself adds nothing to the characters’ stories. Plus, as Corrin put it, “You can YouTube it and you could be watching it in 10 seconds, so I don’t think there’d be any point in us re-creating it.”
Princess Diana's attempt at self-harm shortly after the wedding was left out of The Crown
Princess Diana revealed to her biographer, Andrew Morton, that she suffered with depression shortly after her wedding to Prince Charles while the pair were honeymooning at Balmoral. In The Crown, we don’t see much of this period of the couple’s relationship. It turns out, the writers left out a pretty shocking detail about the princess. As Diana told Morton, “I was trying to cut my wrists with razor blades.” She also revealed that she even traveled to London to seek treatment “because I was in such a bad way” (via E! News).
While The Crown does depict Diana’s struggle with bulimia, the writers decided to leave out scenes showing her attempts at self-harm while on her honeymoon. We’ll probably never know why this detail was omitted from the show, but we imagine it’s because it may have been a little too upsetting for viewers. Plus, as Emma Corrin told Radio Times, the show’s portrayal of bulimia was already incredibly vivid.
The Crown didn't tell the whole truth about Princess Diana's bulimia
As Emma Corrin pointed out to Radio Times, the writers of The Crown were committed to portraying Princess Diana’s bulimia in a truthful and well-researched way. And while the show did cover Diana’s eating disorder, there were a few facts that got left out. Namely, the fact that no one knew, as in the show, it’s indicated that most of the royal family are aware.
According to Bedell Smith, a royal biographer, none of the royal family would have known about Diana’s condition. “Neither the Queen more Prince Philip nor the Queen Mother knew about Diana’s bulimia, nor, in all likelihood, did other members of the royal family,” she told USA Today. She went on to explain that Diana had actually had an eating disorder since attending boarding school as a teenager.
While Charles and the servants may have discovered the princess’ secret eating disorder, the rest of the royal family certainly would not have known.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website or contact NEDA’s Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
Princess Charles took Princess Diana to a psychotherapist in real life
Shortly after their wedding, Princess Diana struggled so seriously with her mental health that Prince Charles noticed and sought help. In The Crown, this is almost entirely skipped over.
In addition to her attempts at self-harm, Diana apparently became increasingly volatile. As Bedell Smith explained to USA Today, “Charles was so alarmed by Diana’s rages, signs of depression and overall volatility that he took her to London to see psychotherapist, Dr. Alan McGlashan.” Apparently, this was the beginning of an ongoing relationship between the couple and the therapist. Diana saw him eight times, but Charles continued to visit the doctor until 1995.
According to the Daily Mail, Dr. McGlashan was called in after Diana “distanced herself” from royal medics. In a letter written by Dr. McGlashan, he revealed that previous doctors had been “plainly scared” by the situation; however, according to Dr. McGlashan, Diana was “a normal girl whose troubles were emotional, not pathological.”
The confrontation between Princess Diana and Camilla Parker-Bowles was way more intense in real life
In The Crown, Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ ex, Camilla Parker-Bowles, only share one scene together: before the wedding. It’s a sedate, polite luncheon scene, in which Camilla seems to stake her territory, implying that she knows Charles far better than Diana ever will. “You really know nothing, do you?” she says. It’s a pretty awkward encounter to say the least.
It turns out, Diana and Camilla did have a meeting. As Diana told biographer Andrew Morton in her recorded interview, the real meeting happened by chance in 1989 (via E! News). “I said, ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that.'” Apparently, Camilla replied, “You’ve got everything you ever wanted. All the men in the world fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children, what more do you want?” Diana held her ground, saying, “I want my husband,” adding, “I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.” Wow, it sounds like Diana was a lot more bold in real life!
Princess Diana's postpartum depression after Prince William was born was left out of The Crown
Princess Diana’s first son, Prince William, was born in 1982. In The Crown, we see Diana in 1983 during the Australia Tour. While she is clearly unhappy in her marriage, the show omits her struggle with postpartum depression.
During her infamous Panorama interview in 1995, Diana told Martin Bashir, “It had been quite a difficult pregnancy — I hadn’t been very well throughout it.” She then explained how she subsequently suffered from postnatal depression. “You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself.”
This was Diana’s first real experience with depression. As she explained, what she ultimately needed was “space and time to adapt to all the different roles that had come my way.” After all, she had become a princess, a wife, and a mother in the space of a year.
The Crown skipped the year Prince Harry was born
One of the most glaring omissions from season 4 of The Crown was the year 1984 — the year that Prince Harry was born. As Diana revealed in her interviews with Andrew Morton, her second pregnancy was actually fairly eventful. Namely, Diana revealed that Prince Charles had “desperately” hoped for a girl as they already had a boy. She also recalled that when Harry was born, he said, “Oh god, it’s a boy… and he’s even got red hair” (via E! News). Ouch.
Apparently, in the lead up to Harry’s birth, the Charles and Diana went through a relatively happy period in their marriage. “Charles and I were very, very close to each other the six weeks before Harry was born, the closest we’ve ever, ever been and ever will be,” Diana shared.
However, after Harry was born, things took a turn for the worse. “Suddenly, as Harry was born, it just went bang, our marriage,” Dianna confessed. “The whole thing went down the drain.” It sounds like Harry’s birth was an incredibly important moment in the couple’s story, so it’s interesting that it was left out of the show!
The Crown skipped Princess Diana's affair with her bodyguard
One of Princess Diana’s first affairs was with her own bodyguard, Barry Mannakee. Although Princess Anne mentions the affair in passing to her mother the Queen, viewers never get to see the affair take place in The Crown. However, in tapes recorded with her voice coach, Diana admitted that Mannakee had been the “greatest love of her life.” She even said she would have been “quite happy to give all this up and to just go off and live with him. And he kept saying he thought it was a good idea too.” Sadly, Mannakee died in a motorbike accident in 1987 (via The Oprah Magazine).
Bedell Smith, speaking to USA Today, also mentioned Diana’s great love affair with Mannakee. She clarified that the affair actually came before Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles started seeing each other, as well as before Diana began seeing James Hewitt. It’s a shame that we never got to see Diana in love and enjoying a happy relationship on the show.
Princess Diana actually brought James Hewitt to Kensington Palace while Prince Charles was there
While The Crown did introduce viewers to James Hewitt, Princess Diana’s riding instructor and one of her most famous lovers, their scenes together were pretty brief. While we saw Hewitt visiting Diana at Highgrove (one of the royal homes), it turns out he also visited her at Kensington Palace, as he told Anna Pasternak, author of Princess In Love (via Daily Mail). Hewitt was frequently “bundled into car boots” to be driven to the palace. He added that he was relieved to discover that Prince Charles and Diana had separate bedrooms. Apparently, Diana’s room was filled with “30 childhood cuddly toys.”
In fact, Hewitt revealed that he was actually a crucial figure in Diana’s life. He explained that he helped her through her bulimia and had supported her through her depression and mood swings. As Diana put it in her 1995 interview with BBC’s Panorama, she said, “Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down” (via Harper’s Bazaar).
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