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'The Princess' on HBO: Was Princess Diana the People's Princess or Queen of Paparazzi?

New HBO documentary will shed light on unseen parts of Princess Diana's often tumultous life
'Princess Diana' in a still from ‘The Princess’ (HBO)
'Princess Diana' in a still from ‘The Princess’ (HBO)

Documentaries have their own way of story-telling based on an individual's life. HBO returns with another documentary movie 'The Princess' after releasing 'The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)'. Just like 'The Murder of Fred Hampton', 'The Princess' will be based on archival footage and is being helmed by Ed Perkins. 

The official synopsis reads: "The Princess' is a visceral submersion into Diana’s life in the constant and often intrusive glare of the media spotlight. The film unfolds as if it were in the present, allowing viewers to experience the overwhelming adoration, but also intense scrutiny of Diana’s every move and the constant judgement of her character. Through archival material, the film is also a reflection of society at the time, revealing the public’s own preoccupations, fears, aspirations, and desires. The film debut coincides with the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death."


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Who was Diana Spencer?

Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, was a member of the British royal family. She was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales and mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. The former princess left an indelible mark on the public sphere, thanks to her activism and glamor. Her personal life, however, was marred with controversies due to the unprecedented public scrutiny. She was celebrated in the media for her unconventional approach to charity work and her famous fashion choices.

What was the Princess of Wale's first TV appearance?

On November 20, 1995, the BBC aired Diana’s first solo press interview with BBC’s Martin Bashir. It was done secretly and without the Buckingham Palace finding out. However, she was first seen on TV in 1981, during an interview after being engaged to Prince Charles. This was the first time Charles and Diana spoke to the press together.

British royal Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997), wearing an outfit designed by Catherine Walker, with pearl earrings and a pearl necklace, 19th April 1985. (Photo by Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Diana, Princess of Wales, wears an outfit designed by Catherine Walker, with pearl earrings and a pearl necklace, on  April 19, 1985 (Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

What did she do as the Princess of Wales?

Diana initially focussed on children and the elderly but she later became known for her involvement in two particular campaigns, that involving the social attitudes towards and the acceptance of AIDS patients, and a campaign, promoted through the International Red Cross, for the removal of landmines. She also raised awareness and advocated for ways to help people suffering from cancer and mental illness.

How was her marriage with Prince Charles?

Just like a fairy tale, Diana married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, when she was just 20. During her many public appearances, she was said to be warm and friendly, which earned her the title 'People's Princess'. She had two sons during her marriage, first Prince William and then Harry, who was born two years later.

British Royal Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997), wearing a blue jacket over a black dress, with Eton housemaster Dr Andrew Gailey, Prince Harry, Prince William, and Prince Charles outside Manor House on Prince William's first day at Eton College in Eton, Berkshire, England, 6th September 1995. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Diana, Princess of Wales, with Eton housemaster Dr Andrew Gailey, Prince Harry, Prince William, and Prince Charles outside Manor House at Eton College in Eton, England, on September 6, 1995 (Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Why did Princess Diana and Prince Charles separate?

By 1987, the cracks had started forming in their marriage and the couple's cold attitude towards each another was being reported in the press. In 1989, things came to head at the birthday party for Annabel Elliot, who was the sister of the now Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles. Diana confronted Camilla about her extramarital affair with Charles. This came to light in May 1992 with the publication of Andrew Morton's book, 'Diana: Her True Story.'

During the interview with BBC, Diana discussed her own and her husband's extramarital affairs. Referring to Charles's relationship with Camilla, she said: "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." According to BBC, although Bashir had deceitfully obtained the interview, they had had no bearing on Diana's decision to be interviewed or what she said.

How did her outfit at the Kensington Gardens symbolise revenge?

According to The Sun: "The royal, then 33, had deliberately chosen to wear the frock on the same night that her estranged husband, Prince Charles, admitted to adultery during their marriage in a TV interview where he confessed to cheating with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, who is now the Duchess of Cornwall." During an official function at Kensington Gardens, Diana chose to wear a racy Christina Stambolian's dress featured a plunging neckline and thigh-high split.

Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) arriving at the Serpentine Gallery, London, in a gown by Christina Stambolian, June 1994. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Getty Images)
Diana, Princess of Wales, arriving at the Serpentine Gallery in London on June 1994 (Jayne Fincher/Getty Images)

How was her personal life after the divorce?

After her 1996 divorce, Diana retained the double apartment on the north side of Kensington Palace that she had shared with Charles since their first year of marriage. The apartment remained her home until her death the following year. She also moved her offices to Kensington Palace but was permitted "to use the state apartments at St James's Palace."

According to The Sun,: "Before her divorce was finalised in 1996, Princess Diana began dating Pakistani heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan, and according to Diana's biographer, the late Princess even considered leaving the UK to live with her lover in Pakistan." 

How did Princess Diana die?

On August 31, 1997, Diana died in a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris while the driver was fleeing the paparazzi. The crash also resulted in the deaths of her companions: the driver, and the security manager of the Hotel Ritz Paris.


You can watch the documentary movie of Princess Diana, 'The Princess' here: