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Did Princess Diana really confront the paparazzi in Saint-Tropez?

‘The Crown’ season six depicts Princess Diana promising paparazzi a ‘big surprise’ if they leave her children alone on holiday

Meredith Clark
New York
Friday 24 November 2023 19:47 GMT
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Related: The Crown: Diana confronts paparazzi for ‘freaking’ William out

The first four episodes of The Crown season six have finally hit Netflix, as the final season depicts the last moments of the late Princess of Wales before her untimely death.

Netflix dropped the first four episodes of the historical drama’s final season on 16 November, while the last six episodes will air on 14 December. The last season of The Crown is set between the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, and includes Princess Diana’s highly-publicised trip to Saint-Tropez, France.

Much of Princess Diana’s final days could be chacterised by constantly enduring invasive photographers. She was no longer considered a royal, with her divorce from the then-Prince of Wales being finalised in August 1996. However, her newfound life as a public figure perhaps gained more attention from the press - specifically her relationship with movie producer and Harrods heir, Dodi Fayed.

In episode one of The Crown season six, Diana (played by Elizabeth Debicki) takes a family holiday with her two sons - Prince William (played by Rufus Kampa) and Prince Harry (played by Fflyn Edwards) - where they stay on the yacht belonging to Fayed’s billionaire father, Mohamed Al Fayed.

In real life, the Princess of Wales did indeed stay with William, then 15, and Harry, then 11, on Fayed’s yacht in July 1997. They arrived on 11 July and altered between staying on the vessel, then named the Jonikal, and Fayed’s villa ashore, called Castle St Therese. But with Diana also came an abundance of photographers tracking her every move while in Saint-Tropez.

One scene in the first episode depicts Diana confronting paparazzi, who are stationed on boats floating near the Jonikal. She pulls up beside them on a speedboat, looking sun-kissed in a black and white printed one-piece swimsuit and her signature black sunglasses.

“Hello, boys,” Diana addresses the paparazzi, before being asked if she is “enjoying” her holiday. “Yes, we’re having a lovely time, apart from one little thing, you lot,” she replies. “How long are we going to have the pleasure of your company? The attention is starting to freak out the boys.”

She then strikes a deal with the photographers, promising them a “big surprise” if they leave her children alone.

While The Crown has been criticised in the past for “sensationalism” in its depiction of the royal family, Diana’s interaction with the paparazzi in Saint-Tropez reportedly did happen in real life. On 14 July, reporters and photographers were moored in Saint-Tropez near the Fayed’s yacht, when Diana surprised the group of photographers by addressing them from her motorboat in her iconic leopard-print bathing suit.

She spoke of being “abused and followed” wherever she went, according to The Times, and also said that William was “really freaked out” by the paparazzi. In a Vanity Fair feature story, published one year after the devastating Paris car crash that killed Diana, journalist Sally Bedell Smith writes that Diana hinted to the reporters that she was thinking of living abroad. “You will have a big surprise coming soon, the next thing I do,” she told them, according to Vanity Fair.

Unlike The Crown’s portrayal, the interaction didn’t take place on Camilla Parker-Bowles’ 50th birthday. Rather, Camilla’s birthday was three days later on 17 July, when Prince Charles threw a birthday party for Camilla at his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire.

However, Diana’s Saint-Tropez escape was so frequently photographed that The Crown depicts an angry Charles the following day, waging a “war” because Diana’s holiday received more press coverage than Camilla’s birthday party.

The first four episodes of The Crown season six are available to stream on Netflix in the US and UK.

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