'The Crown': How strained was Diana's marriage to Charles?


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  7 months ago  •  18 comments

By:   Daniel Arkin

'The Crown': How strained was Diana's marriage to Charles?
Netflix's "The Crown" turns viewers into amateur historians. The series takes liberties with history, but NBC News can help you separate fact from fiction.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Netflix's royal family drama "The Crown," now in its fourth season, turns viewers into amateur historians. The acclaimed series takes ample liberties with the historical record — but NBC News is here to help you separate fact from fiction. Be warned, though: spoilers ahead.

The fourth season of "The Crown" is focused largely on the troubled relationship between Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor) and Lady Diana (Emma Corrin), who married in 1981 and formally divorced in 1996 — just a year before her death in a car crash in Paris. "The Crown" depicts the pair's explosive arguments and extramarital affairs, painting a decidedly grim portrait of a union that many members of the public initially perceived as a fairy-tale romance. Diana's private struggles, in particular, are depicted in agonizing detail.

But how accurate is the show's take on the world-famous couple?

'Three of us in this marriage'

"The Crown" strongly hints that Prince Charles was romantically involved with Camilla Parker Bowles (Emerald Fennell), his ex-girlfriend (and future second wife) — even in the first five years of his tumultuous and doomed marriage to Diana.

But in an interview with NBC News, a historian who has written several biographies of members of the British royal family disputed that suggestion.

"He gave Camilla up before he married Diana," said Sally Bedell Smith, author of "Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life" as well as a biography of Queen Elizabeth II.

Smith pointed to a 1994 television interview Charles gave to British journalist Jonathan Dimbleby in which the Prince of Wales admitted to infidelity only after his first marriage had "irretrievably broken down, us both having tried." (The show suggests the marriage slowly curdled into a toxic detente, with Charles becoming increasingly venomous.)

Charles purportedly resumed his relationship with Parker Bowles in 1986, five years into his marriage to Diana, according to an authorized, exhaustive biography written by Dimbleby.

However, no matter the exact timing of the affair, it appears Charles continued to rely on Parker Bowles as a close confidant even in the early days of his union with Diana, causing tension in his marriage. "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," Diana famously told the BBC in 1995.


The Prince and Princess of Wales return to Buckingham Palace by carriage after their wedding on July 29, 1981.Getty Images file

"The Crown" also suggests that the brooding, ruminative Charles and the shy but charismatic Diana — separated by a 12-year age difference — were poorly suited from the start, a mismatch exacerbated by what the show presents as his cruel indifference and the intrusions of the tabloid press.

What's more, the season premiere implies that Charles proposed to Diana partly on account of pressure from members of his family — especially his great-uncle, Louis Mountbatten (Charles Dance), who was later assassinated by members of the Irish Republican Army in 1979.

Clive Irving, author of "The Last Queen: Elizabeth II's Seventy Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor," said there was some truth to the show's take on the reasons for the marriage, although the context for the nuptials was likely overstated for dramatic effect.

Smith, for her part, agreed with the show's assessment that Charles and Diana were not well-matched: "They were a misalliance. They were only together a dozen times before they were engaged."

Diana's struggles

"The Crown" explores Diana's difficult personal trials during the years of her marriage to Charles, alluding to mental health challenges and depicting her experience with bulimia. The show's portrayal of Diana's private pain appears to be based on various bestselling books and well-known interviews.

Diana's personal ordeals were detailed in the 1992 bestseller "Diana: Her True Story," by Andrew Morton — a journalist who later disclosed that Diana had been his principal source of information about her unhappy marriage, according to a New York Times article published a month after her death.

In her 1995 interview with the BBC, Diana spoke candidly about experiencing postpartum depression after the birth of her sons, William and Harry, and said she had bulimia "for a number of years."

Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales at Bridge of Dee in Balmoral, Scotland on their honeymoon in August 1981.Alamy

"I was unwell with postnatal depression, which no one ever discusses, postnatal depression, you have to read about it afterwards, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time," Diana said, according to an interview transcript. "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."

The show's portrait of Diana is not entirely bleak, however. The fourth season shows how Diana became "The People's Princess," an inspiration to women around the world with her grace and refined style — as well as a gifted ambassador for the monarchy during foreign trips.

In one of the most moving scenes of the season, Diana warmly embraces a little boy with AIDS while touring a hospital in Harlem — a real event that happened during a three-day visit to New York City in 1989, when she was 27.


jrDiscussion - desc
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  Buzz of the Orient    7 months ago

Princess Diana was also in Toronto, during which she visited a school for disabled children that the local chapter of the international charity which I was president of at the time supported.  One of the things we had done was provide the school with a special van for wheelchairs, besides providing funds.  And so I was invited to be present at the school for her visit.  She was being introduced to the staff, and then she looked at me, walked over to me and we shook hands  She asked me what my duties were at the school and I told her I wasn't with the school, but was the president of a charity that supports the school, telling her the name.  She said, "Yes, I noticed your coach outside."  (The vans were painted with the charity's logo and name, and she was familiar with them because the chapter of our international charity in London donates many of such vans to England's children's facilities.)  We spoke for about a minute and then she moved on to someone else.  I could kill the photographer who was there for not taking a photo of me shaking hands with her, but I am on the right side of this photo, wearing a white badge, looking at her.  I have to say that she was more beautiful in real life than her photos show.  Having actually met her, I felt a huge loss, almost like losing a family member, when we heard of her tragic death.


Elton John sings Candle in the Wind rewritten for Princess Diana


Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    7 months ago

That is way awesome, Buzz! I would have given anything to meet that great lady

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Trout Giggles @1.1    7 months ago

Was there ever a person in your life that you shook hands with and then didn't ever want to wash your hand after that?

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.1.1    7 months ago

My first superintendent in the Air Force. He was really a great guy

Professor Principal
2  sandy-2021492    7 months ago

I've only seen the first episode so far, so I'm not really sure how the show depicts their marriage.  But it seems they were very mismatched.  He was too old for her, and she was too demonstrative for him.  I think theirs is another example of how royal duties interfere with personal happiness, like Princess Margaret and her thwarted engagement and subsequent disastrous marriage.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3  Trout Giggles    7 months ago

I watched the first and second seasons then got bored. So now I will watch the 4th season.

I always thought Diana was too good for Charles. 

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
3.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Trout Giggles @3    7 months ago

She was.  I recently read that the Queen is about to step down in favour of Charles.  He's not one bit likable and I'm sure the Brits blame him for what Diana did.  I wish he would allow the monarchy to pass directly to William.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1    7 months ago

As the Queen, she can do that can't she?

Senior Guide
3.1.2  Dig  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1    7 months ago
I recently read that the Queen is about to step down in favour of Charles.

Oh wow. I hadn't heard that.

He's not one bit likable

But he's more likable now in his old age, isn't he? It's not like I follow the Royals much, but he doesn't seem to be quite as stiff and awkward as he used to be. Maybe that's just me.

I wish he would allow the monarchy to pass directly to William.

I think quite a few Brits feel that way, too. Everyone seems to like William and Kate.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
3.1.3  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Trout Giggles @3.1.1    7 months ago

There is a set line of succession and she can't change that, she can't declare who she wants the next monarch to be.  Charles is next in line. 

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1.4  Trout Giggles  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1.3    7 months ago

Good to know

Senior Guide
3.2  Dig  replied to  Trout Giggles @3    7 months ago
I watched the first and second seasons then got bored.

I watched the first two seasons back when they first aired. I didn't get bored, but I kind of forgot about it afterward because of the long wait between seasons. I got distracted with other shows. Same with Victoria. I have some catching up to do.

Professor Principal
3.2.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Dig @3.2    7 months ago
Same with Victoria.

I gave up on Victoria after the first season.  I couldn't stand the guy who played Prince Albert.  He mumbled at his shoes too much.

Paula Bartholomew
PhD Guide
4  Paula Bartholomew    7 months ago

I don't have Netflix but watch tons of you tube videos on the subject.  I am such an anglophile that I can't get enough.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4    7 months ago

I like British TV. There's an article somewhere else about "Call the Midwife" but I made a promise I would stay away from it. It's really a good show

Senior Guide
4.1.1  Dig  replied to  Trout Giggles @4.1    7 months ago

Have either of you ever watched Shetland? It takes place in, well, Shetland, and sometimes I just love a Scottish accent.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4.1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Dig @4.1.1    7 months ago

No, but I think I've seen it on Amazon

PhD Principal
5  Kathleen    7 months ago

My husband and I have watched the first 3 seasons. We thought it was really good. Not sure how true everything was compared to real life. I do like both the actresses that play the queen. What a cold fish she is, but he has great responsibility. It was dumped on her at such a young age and still doing it says she was strong. Her uncle and father hated it and they were both stressed out about it. We are getting ready to watch it after we finish The Sopranos.

Diana was a sweetheart and she did not belong there.  I am sure it was a difficult life to be around that bunch. 


Who is online

35 visitors