No offence to the Queen, but this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.
In it’s fourth series The Crown is about to become – as everything she had any involvement in – The Princess Diana Show. At last.
Diana was, and somehow still is, the most interesting member of the royal family. She pulled funny faces at dreary public functions, wore amazing clothes and struggled with life in an incredibly relatable way.
On any occasion, in any company, she was always the one you were looking at – the Ginger Spice of the Royal family. She had star quality, showbiz razzmatazz, magic. Her life was like a fairytale, then a soap opera, then a Hollywood movie.
It’s almost a crime that it’s taken this long for us to see a proper portrayal of it – and no that Naomi Watts abomination doesn’t count, although obviously I watched it. Twice.
Even when she first shyly emerged on to the public scene aged 19, Diana had the kind of charisma that cannot be learnt or manufactured.
It was little wonder she would go on to be the most photographed woman in the world – we simply couldn’t get enough of her. She was complicated, flawed, human. Whether reading rumours about her messy love life, or poring over pictures of her latest fabulous outfit, we, the public were gripped.
Diana was the original celebrity of the modern age, redefining what it meant to be royal, to be a woman, a mother and an icon. People who had never had any interest in the monarchy before were suddenly paying close attention – Diana’s appeal was limitless.
Although a Lady from an clearly privileged background, she felt like One Of Us. Her story is as fascinating now as it was when it played out in front of our eyes, with all the elements that make good telly – love, betrayal, drama, scandal, exotic backdrops and, er, tiaras. Playing Diana in The Crown is no small feat, as actress Emma Corrin, who takes on the role, is all too aware.
“There was an immense pressure because she was so adored and because there is this sense from everyone almost of ownership, like they knew her,” she explains.
Indeed, this strength of the general public’s feelings for Diana were what lead then Prime Minister Tony Blair, to dub her ‘The People’s Princess’ after her tragic death in 1997.
In The Crown, Emma will be seen wearing all the famous outfits – the engagement announcement blue suit and pussybow blouse, the infamous diaphanous skirt which exposed the silhouette of Diana’s legs – but there’s one that tops them all.
“We were filming the scene when you first see her in the wedding dress – I think it was Lancaster House in London – and I had a team of about 10 people helping me put it on because it’s massive,” Emma remembers. “I walked out, and everyone went completely silent. More than anything else I wear in the series… it’s Diana.”
It’s hard to think of any other public figure who could provoke such a strong reaction so long after the fact.
Charles and Diana’s wedding, on July 29, 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral, was seen on television by 750 million people, in 74 countries. The pressure of all those eyes, still watching, as the marriage disintegrated over the following decade was immense.
The couple separated in 1992 before divorcing in 1996, a year before Diana’s untimely death in Paris.
All the key moments in Diana’s royal life will be played out in The Crown, from being an adoring mother to dancing with John Travolta in The White House, via her battle with eating disorders, and shaking hands with an AIDS patient, later described by legendary royal reporter Judy Wade as “the most important thing a royal’s done in 200 years.”
What remains to be seen when we tune in is how much of Diana’s private life we will be treated to.
Renowned for having a mischievous sense of humour and being extremely fun company, Diana moved in stylish circles, travelled extensively, and had friends that were celebrities.
Close showbiz pal Elton John, who she met in 1981, described her in his autobiography as “fabulous company”, “the best dinner party guest” and “a real gossip” which has hardly done her legacy as the royal most people would have loved to hang out with any harm.
He remembers the night he and his partner David Furnish threw a dinner party with a guest list that included A-listers George Michael, Richard, Curtis, Emma Freud, Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone.
According to Elton, “Straight away, Richard Gere and Diana seemed overtaken with each other.” They were both free agents – so there was no problem, right? Wrong. There was a problem, and its name was Sly.
Elton continued: “The sight of Diana and Richard Gere’s newly blossoming friendship was not going down very well with Sylvester Stallone at all. I think he might have turned up to the party with the express intention of picking Diana up.”
When Elton and the other guests moved into the dining room, Richard and Sylvester disappeared.
Elton recalls, “David discovered Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere in the corridor, squaring up to each other, apparently about to settle their differences over Diana by having a fistfight.”
Luckily the situation was diffused, and no punches were thrown.
Elton pronounces the evening as just another example of “The Diana Effect”, and this is perhaps the perfect description. This captivating woman cast a spell on almost everyone who laid eyes on her, and remains compelling even decades after her death.
There will never be another Diana. It would have been fascinating to see her today, where she would have been, what she would have been up to.
But if The Crown can allow us to relive Diana’s most unforgettable moments, to spend a little time with her again, then who wouldn’t jump at the chance? Race you to the sofa.