As Netflix’s acclaimed royal drama moves closer to the present day, the line between fact and fiction feels ever more blurred.
While Peter Morgan’s show has always presented a dramatised take on real-life events, many have argued that viewers struggle to tell the difference between the real royal family and the events on the show. When season five arrived last year, there were calls for the show to include a “fictional explainer” – something Netflix did not do.
With the show heading into the late Nineties and early Noughties in its final season, which arrived on Netflix on Thursday (16 November), events are being depicted on screen that many of the public will remember well.
The first part of season six takes place in the summer of 1997, and sees Prince Charles (Dominic West) building on his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams), while Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) sparks up a romance with film producer Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla). The show also features the pair’s death in a car crash in Paris.
As the new season arrives, and fans wonder what in The Crown is based in reality, here’s everything you need to know.
Diana’s role with Tony Blair’s government
Episode one sees Diana visiting Tony (Bertie Carvel) and Cherie Blair (Lydia Leonard) with William after asking for a meeting with him. Recalling their discussion to the Queen, Blair says that Diana feels she “still has a lot to offer the country as a public servant”. He says that she had asked if there was a way to work with the government on “a more formal basis” and that any “official role” would be appreciated.
Following Diana’s death, Downing Street confirmed that Diana had visited Blair at Chequers with her son a few weeks before, where they discussed a special role for her as an overseas “ambassador” for Britain. Diana told a journalist at the time that the prime minister had recognised her skills and asked her to undertake “missions” abroad for Britain.
Queen Elizabeth’s reluctance to accept Camilla
As The Crown season six begins, Charles is frustrated at the public for demonising Camilla long after his split from Diana. Asks the Queen if she’d received the invitation to Camilla’s 50th birthday, to which she says she has, but cannot attend as she’s in Derbyshire. When Charles points out that plans “can always be changed”, she replies: “Why would we want to change it?” She doesn’t attend, but later tells Prince Philip that she doesn’t want for Camilla to be considered “wicked, because she’s not” or to be unkind to her.
It took a while for Queen Elizabeth and Camilla to grow close. According to historian Robert Lacey, she was reluctant to accept Charles’s request to be more accommodating to Camilla. Unlike in The Crown, she is said to have once referred to Camilla as “that wicked woman” to Charles’s face. However, she grew to become closer to Camilla. Despite announcing in 2005 that Camilla would become the Princess Consort rather than Queen Consort, it was announced that Camilla would be queen seven months before Elizabeth’s death.
Dodi Fayed’s engagement to an American model
When viewers first meet Dodi in The Crown, he’s in Paris with a woman with short, blonde hair. However, it’s not Diana, but an American woman who he says he’s picking out fabric for a Malibu home with and says he’s marrying in three weeks. His father Mohamed is unimpressed, calling him to Saint Tropez to meet a “special guest” and leave his “gold-digger” fiance – who he also calls “Madame Bikini” – behind. The model later confronts Dodi, asking if he was with Diana when he leaves her to go see his father. Diana also alludes to a “lawsuit” between Dodi and his ex.
This storyline comes to close to the truth as told by model Kelly Fisher, who claimed to have been engaged to Dodi when he met Diana. Fisher had previously modelled for brands such as Victoria’s Secret and magazines including Elle and Marie Claire. As in The Crown, Fisher – who met Fayed in July 1996 – was on another Fayed yacht when Dodi and Diana were first photographed. She staged a press conference where she announced that she was filing a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Dodi, after he allegedly asked her to stop modelling as much and prioritise the relationship. Through tears, she claimed that he had proposed to her (something his family denied) and promised to buy her a house in Malibu. However, she dropped the lawsuit following Dodi’s death.
Diana’s close relationship with paparazzi on France yacht trip
When Dodi and Diana first spend time together on his father’s yacht in France, the paparazzi are never far away. However, when William refuses to go outside until the photographers leave them alone, she takes a boat out to visit them. Wearing a swimming costume, she asks them: “We’re having a lovely time, apart from one little thing: you lot.” “Don’t be like that, you love us really,” they reply. Diana asks them to leave her alone as they’re “freaking out” her sons, before telling one photographer – who she knows by name – that if they go away, “you’re going to get a big surprise with the next thing I do”. She then poses for them in her swimsuit, but complains in a later episode that they can “never relax” with the press “constantly” around.
Former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, who wrote the controversial 2007 book Diana Chronicles, claimed that Diana would often tip off the press and “ couldn’t resist giving them the images they wanted”, including on the boat. Photographer Daniel Pirrie, who ended up selling the photo of the kiss, claimed that Diana herself invited him to photograph her on holiday with Dodi in France that summer. “She told me she’d be on the yacht somewhere in the Mediterranean,” he told The Daily Mail in 2013. “She let me know she was going to be on a tender going out to the yacht. I think overall, she was happy with all the pictures taken that summer… I knew that Diana had wanted [the kiss photo] to be taken.”
Mohamed al Fayed’s role in securing kiss photo
Throughout season six, Mohamed al Fayed (Salim Daw) is shown as heavily invested in his son Dodi’s relationship with Diana, even ringing up the maid to ask if they have been “intimate”. In Arabic, he then asks his secretary if they can find him an Arabic photographer – “not just any idiot with a long lens”, but “the best photographer on the Meditarranean”.
It’s not known whether Mohamed was so instrumental in securing the photo of Dodi and Diana kissing for the first time. However, following the Harrods owner’s death this year, biographer Tom Bower recalled in The Times how Al-Fayed “gleefully” showed him the photographs of Dodi and Diana and allegedly “revealed how he had rapidly bought a yacht suitable for his son’s seduction of her”.
Dodi’s proposal to Diana on the night they died
After bursting into tears going for dinner at the Ritz, move upstairs, he proposes to her with a ring she had previously pointed out when they sheltered from crowds in a Monte Carlo jewellery shop. She tells him to get up off his knee “I know the whole world is wondering if we’re going to get married, but that’s not a reason to actually do it.” However, they share a drink and bittersweet conversation about how they need to live their lives going forward - advice
In real life, Dodi did not propose to Diana on that fateful evening in Paris. However, at the inquest into the death in 2007, the jury were shown CCTV footage of him purchasing an engagement ring worth £11,600 in a jewellers across the square from the Ritz on the afternoon of the crash. It was later believed to have been delivered to their room before they went to Dodi’s flat, where a ring bearing the words “Dis-moi Oui” (“Tell me Yes”) – also the name of episode three – was later recovered, alongside a receipt for a “bague de fiançaille” (engagement ring). Speaking at the inquest, his father Mohamed claimed that the pair had met the jeweller in Monte Carlo during the holiday on the yacht, and that he believed Dodi planned to propose that night.
Prince William goes missing in Balmoral after Diana’s death
After learning of Diana’s death from his father at the royal residence of Balmoral in Scotland, William (Rufus Kampa) is left heartbroken with grief and angry at his family’s response to it. At one point, Charles is informed that the prince is not in his room and that “no one can find him”, prompting Charles and Prince Harry to look for him and a subsequent hunt across the grounds for the young royal. He is not located, but later walks back to the house on his own accord, drenched in rain. “14 hours, that poor boy was gone,” the Queen later says.
It’s true that William and Harry initially stayed in Balmoral with their grandmother following the death of Diana. While it’s not known whether he went missing, during a visit to Scotland in 2021, William recalled how that experience was one of the “saddest” moments of his life. “I was in Balmoral when I was told that my mother had died. Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning,” he recalled. “And in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors. As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep.”
The Crown season six part one is on Netflix now, with part two arriving on 14 December.
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