Netflix’s The Crown has gripped audiences around the world with its depiction of the British royal family since it began in 2016. But season four has generated even more excitement with fans, as the show finally introduced Princess Diana. Her portrayal in the series compelled her brother to speak out in a heartfelt interview after the episodes dropped.
So who took on the unenviable task of playing one of the most beloved women of the late 20th century? Well, her name might not have sounded too familiar when she was cast, but that’s certainly changed now. Yes, Emma Corrin was handed the role of Diana in The Crown’s fourth season.
Prior to being cast, Corrin only had a few credits to her name. She made her on-screen debut in the 2017 short film Cesare, before appearing in two television shows in 2019. At that point, the actress featured in an episode of British TV drama Grantchester, while enjoying a slightly larger role in the Batman spin-off Pennyworth.
Corrin then followed that up with her first big screen appearance in 2020’s Miss World comedy-drama Misbehaviour. Yet it’s fair to say that the role of Diana in The Crown could be the one that catapults her to stardom. And let’s be honest — in appearance alone, the actress certainly looks the part of the late princess.
From the outfits to the hairstyle, Corrin has a striking likeness with Diana throughout the fourth season. Olivia Colman shared that opinion too, as she appeared in a behind-the-scenes video for the program. But Colman, whose two-season stint as Queen Elizabeth II concluded with this outing, didn’t just focus on Corrin’s uncanny look.
Colman said, “[Corrin] really became [Diana], it was spooky to sit in front of her. It was like looking at the real thing. It was such a beautiful performance.” Due to the unique structure of The Crown, though, fans won’t be able to see more of Corrin’s portrayal beyond this season.
Yes, just like the other major characters in the show, Diana will be aged up in season five. Corrin’s performance covered the princess’ younger years when she first got together with Prince Charles. Meanwhile, the actress’ successor Elizabeth Debicki will depict her latter years in the remaining two seasons. Quite a hard act to follow.
With that in mind, Corrin told GQ magazine, “I’m sad about [leaving the show so soon]. But I’ve moved on.” She went on to offer more insight into her thoughts regarding her role during the behind-the-scenes video. And the young actress certainly sympathized with Diana’s position.
“The thing that dawned on me was how young Diana was when it all happened,” Corrin said. “She got married at 19, not only getting married but getting married into the royal family. And then I think she had William a year later.” At the same time, the rising star also wanted to make something clear to fans of the show.
“We’re not mimicking,” Corrin continued. “That’s not what we’re doing, this is our own and [creator and writer] Peter [Morgan’s] version of what happens. It’s his story, it’s fictitious.” But while her performance as Diana earned some excellent reviews in the press, the princess’s overall role in the program has generated plenty of controversy.
For instance, there’s one member of the late princess’s family who isn’t too happy about her portrayal in The Crown. Yes, we’re referring to Diana’s sibling Earl Charles Spencer. And as we indicated earlier, he came out with some strong, heartfelt words on the matter after the episodes were released on Netflix.
Spencer plies his trade as an author and historian, with his latest book The White Ship was published in September 2020. He’s also responsible for watching over his clan’s estate in Northamptonshire, England, which is better known as Althorp House. Remarkably, 19 generations of Spencers have lived there since its construction in 1508.
Towards the end of 2020, though, Spencer began to become a little more prominent in the media — but it wasn’t due to The Crown. Well, not at first anyway. You see, the fall of that year marked a significant anniversary in his family’s life. And it’s fair to say that it opened up some very raw wounds.
Back in November 1995, Diana sat down for a televised interview on the BBC One program Panorama. Martin Bashir helmed the chat, as the princess opened up about her life with the royals. Surprisingly, she touched upon subjects such as her health and her strained relationship with Charles in front of the cameras.
Diana didn’t hold back, admitting that she cheated on Charles while they were together. Alongside that, the princess had a strong view of his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles as well, which led to a shocking line. “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” she told Bashir.
It was an astonishing moment — and seen by millions of viewers at home hooked on the drama. After that, Diana’s life became a whirlwind over the next two years. She finalized her separation from Charles some nine months later. Tragically, the princess was to die in an automobile wreck in France at the end of the summer of 1997.
Since then, the Panorama interview has built up a reputation as one of the most infamous moments in British TV history. But as the 25th anniversary approached in 2020, Spencer came forward with some shocking accusations against Bashir and the BBC. We hope you’re sitting down for this next part.
According to Spencer, Bashir falsified financial records that indicated that a couple of royal attendants were sharing intel on Diana with the security services. The earl admitted that those documents were the catalyst behind his decision to initiate talks between his sibling and the journalist. Here’s where it gets really interesting, though.
After the program aired on BBC One, the corporation launched an inquiry into the events that led Diana to Bashir. Ultimately, they released a statement in April 1996. It read, “The BBC has been able, independently, to verify that these documents were put to no use which had any bearing, direct or indirect, on the Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales.”
Tony Hall, who would go on to become Director-General of the BBC, was one of the people in charge of that investigation. Hall left his position in August 2020, with Tim Davie taking his place. But just a few weeks into his role, the Daily Mail newspaper reported that Davie contacted Spencer about the financial documents.
According to the Daily Mail, Davie informed Spencer that the documents were in fact forged by Bashir. Apparently, the journalist called upon the services of a graphic designer at the BBC to create them. Now fully informed, Diana’s brother wanted the corporation to take another look at what happened during that period.
On top of all this, Spencer suggested that Bashir lied about some other details as well — all in an attempt to get Diana for the interview. So, in November 2020 Davie confirmed that the BBC would indeed be opening up a new inquiry. The corporation’s website carried his words at the time of the announcement.
Davie revealed, “The BBC is determined to get to the truth about these events and that is why we have commissioned an independent investigation. Lord Dyson is an eminent and highly-respected figure who will lead a thorough process.” As for Spencer, he made it clear what he was hoping to get out of this during an interview of his own.
While speaking to British television host Lorraine Kelly on her show, Spencer said, “In my view, the BBC have very serious questions to answer on this. I was shocked and appalled. Ultimately, if I can get an apology out of the BBC for everything that they did around this, then I will feel semi-vindicated.”
So it’s fair to say that Spencer had a lot on his plate when The Crown’s fourth season arrived on Netflix. But that didn’t stop Diana’s brother from touching on the show when he was asked about it. In fact, the production staff had reached out to him previously as the episodes were being put together.
Spencer explained more while he was a guest on the program Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh. The Earl recalled, “The Crown asked if they could film at Althorp and I said obviously not.” That is quite a question. But Spencer’s thoughts on the popular Netflix show really came to light as the chat went on.
“The worry for me is that people see a program like that and they forget that it’s fiction,” Spencer continued. “They assume, especially foreigners, I find Americans tell me they have watched The Crown as if they’ve taken a history lesson. Well, they haven’t. There’s a lot of conjecture and a lot of invention, isn’t there?”
Spencer then added, “You can hang it on fact but the bits in between are not fact.” Considering his role as a historian, you can certainly understand his views on the matter. So keeping that in mind, you’re probably wondering what he thought of Diana’s part in the show. Was he concerned?
Well, as we suggested earlier, Spencer had an understandably emotional response when talking about his famous sister. Given the fictitious aspects of The Crown’s narrative, he developed a real urge to defend Diana. The Earl said, “I feel it is my duty to stand up for her when I can.”
Spencer noted, “[Diana] left me, for instance, as guardian of her sons. So I feel there was a trust passed on. And we grew up together, you know if you grow up with somebody they are still that person, it doesn’t matter what happens to them later. So yeah, I feel very passionately that I have a role to honor her memory.”
That’s a very commendable stance. Then again, we can’t help but ask — has Spencer watched Emma Corrin’s depiction of Diana? Does he have an opinion on how she played the royal? To answer that question, the princess’ brother came clean during his conversation with Kelly on her TV show Lorraine.
Spencer admitted, “I’m not a big Crown watcher to be honest. I think I caught a couple of episodes in the past. I haven’t caught any of the current series, although my wife has watched it. And I did catch a news clip here of the actress portraying Diana, so I do know a little bit.”
From there, Spencer then reiterated his earlier thoughts — albeit with a suggestion for the show’s producers. Yes, he urged Netflix to make some clarifications to the audience before they started to watch the episodes. Would that help matters? The Earl certainly believed so — and wasn’t reticent when it came to making his case.
Spencer told Kelly, “I think my general point about The Crown is that I write history, [and] I brand what I write as non-fiction. If somebody reads something I’ve written, then they know that’s what they’re getting. I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if at the beginning of each episode, it stated that this isn’t true.”
“But [the message could also say] that it’s based around some real events,” Spencer continued. “Because then everyone could understand that this is drama for drama’s sake. I worry that people do think this is sort of gospel, and that’s unfair.” To illustrate his point, Diana’s brother flagged up an example from the program.
While Spencer hasn’t seen much of The Crown, he discovered that his grandmother was also featured in the fourth season. And he didn’t like the manner in which she’d been depicted, noting that she came across as “unpleasant.” In the historian’s opinion, this was a major misrepresentation of her real-life persona.
Clearly irritated by his grandmother’s portrayal, Spencer went on to make a pretty forceful point. He concluded, “My grandmother may be long-gone sadly, but she still has a daughter alive. She still has 10 grandchildren alive. Is it fair for people to be destroyed in that way? I don’t think so really.”
Meanwhile, you might be curious if any other members of the royal family have an opinion on the show. After all, as the show’s timeline edges closer to recent events, it affects more people who are still around. Well, it’s believed that one high-profile figure from Buckingham Palace wasn’t too happy with the fourth season.
We’re referring to Prince William, who apparently didn’t appreciate the way that Diana and Charles’ relationship was depicted. One of his pals spoke to The Mail on Sunday newspaper, claiming, “[William doesn’t like that] his parents are being exploited and presented in a false, simplistic way to make money.” And William is not the only one who’s unhappy.
On top of this, one palace-insider close to Charles hit out at the portrayal of the Price of Wales’ character too — along with Camilla Parker-Bowles. They told the paper, “This is trolling with a Hollywood budget.” That’s a pretty damning statement. So we get the feeling that the royals would welcome a disclaimer of sorts as The Crown continues.