The Crown vs Reality: Unraveling the royal family's reaction to Princess Diana's death

    Dive into the riveting comparison between The Crown's portrayal and the true events surrounding the Royal Family's response to Princess Diana's untimely demise.

    Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana (Source: People)

    Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana (Source: People)

    Over 25 years ago, the tragic car crash in Paris claimed the life of Princess Diana at the age of 36. The public response was overwhelming, with thousands converging on London's streets to pay homage, leaving heartfelt messages and flowers outside Kensington Palace. Emotional scenes of open sobbing were witnessed among the mourners.

    However, according to reports, the British royal family displayed less outward emotion. In the fourth episode of The Crown's sixth season, Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) and Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce) appear reluctant to issue a statement offering solace to the grieving nation. 

    Cast of The Crown (Source: People)

    Dominic West, portraying Prince Charles (now King Charles), reproaches the Queen for what he perceives as a lack of public grief and compassion, asserting, "We can't be a private family when we want to be and a public one when it suits us."

    Coolness in Royal Reaction

    Robert Lacey, a consultant for The Crown and the author of the 2020 book Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, emphasized to TIME around the 25th anniversary of Diana's death in 2022 that there is undeniable evidence of a certain aloofness in the royal family's response to the untimely passing of the Princess.

    "If you're pinpointing the moment when the British monarchy faced its most significant challenge and found itself in stark disagreement with public sentiment, it undoubtedly revolves around the aftermath of Diana's death and the perception that the Queen and the royal family were indifferent," he commented.

    Diana and Dodi Still from The Crown S6 (Source: Digital Spy )

    Contrasting Narratives

    The third episode of Season 6 captures the journey of Dodi and Diana to Paris, showcasing Dodi's proposal to Diana. Tragically, the fatal car crash that claimed their lives follows soon after. In contrast, the 1998 book "Death of a Princess: The Investigation" by TIME's Tommy Sancton and Scott McLeod suggests that Dodi may not have had the opportunity to complete a formal proposal. The ring was discovered in an unopened box in his Paris apartment.

    In the fourth episode, Charles is portrayed waking up William (Rufus Kampa and Ed McVey) and Harry (Fflyn Edwards and Luther Ford) at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. He gently shares the heartbreaking news of their mother's death and encourages the boys to show bravery. While the depiction shows Charles displaying tenderness, in reality, Prince Harry has revealed that his father conveyed a certain stiffness when delivering the news of Diana's death.

    The Crown (2016) (Source: Netflix)

    In his 2023 memoir "Spare," Prince Harry recalled, "Pa didn't hug me," highlighting that a pat on the knee was the extent of the comfort he received. Prince Harry shared that he didn't shed tears at that moment or during his mother's funeral procession.

    In Season 6's fourth episode, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip grapple with their reluctance to issue a public statement about Diana's death. Philip contends that Diana is no longer part of the royal family. However, the episode concludes with a gripping reinterpretation of the queen's authentic initial public statement following Diana's death. Notably, she expressed, "No one who knew Diana will ever forget her."

    The show dives into Charles gently telling his sons about Diana and the Queen and Philip's hesitations, giving us a dramatic take on those turbulent times. Thinking about the mix of truth and storytelling, Princess Diana's lasting impact remains incredibly captivating.