Writing my book was a bit of a blur, to be honest, but one thing I remember very clearly is how I felt while working on the Princess Diana section. I would emerge from my HRH research at turns inspired and crushed, lamenting the details of the late princess’s life to my husband: how young Diana was when Prince Charles proposed (just 19) and how young she still was when she died (only 36); her broken childhood and her commitment to motherhood; her hopes for her marriage and how her husband's infidelity tormented her; the ways in which she delighted in fashion and how her clothes were used against her. Going deep into Diana’s story was riveting and heartbreaking, as well as extremely important context for following the British Royal Family today.
So I completely understand the small deluge of dramatized Diana productions hitting screens now, two dozen years after her death. Each with its own take, they tell the complicated story of the People's Princess to a new generation who didn’t watch her life unfold in real time. Last fall, The Crown reached the inevitable point in the story when Diana takes hold of the narrative with its fourth season last fall. Emma Corrin's gripping portrayal — that voice! — earned her a Golden Globe. The rock/pop stage production Diana, The Musical is on Netflix now and is set to open on Broadway next month. Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, is already receiving rave reviews weeks before it hits theaters. Variety called it “magnificent,” and the Telegraph gave it five stars, deeming it “resplendently mad, sad and beautiful.”
Add one more to the list with this Sunday's premiere of Diana on CNN. The cable news network has created a six-part series that tells Diana's story in detail and at length — and I’m excited to share that I was a part of it. Earlier this year, I filmed with a crew in San Francisco, talking about my research on the princess and sharing my thoughts on how she forever changed the royal family. I’ve had a chance to screen a portion of the first episode (in which I appear briefly) but I am impressed by the approach as well as the range of voices included. More than anything, I’m grateful for a factual account of Diana’s life to balance the dramatized stories (as entertaining as those are!).
“There are few people who I can say millions of people want to spend six hours of their life watching,” Jon Adler, vice president of program development for CNN Original Series, told me by phone this week. “I wanted to do a show that focused on one person but a person who you could really look at a lot of themes through."
The series is aimed at CNN’s core demographic, which is an older cable news viewer, but Adler sees the potential to draw in a younger audience, too. That's because the broader question the series asks — “How do we, as a society, treat a woman as she becomes famous?” — applies even more today. “Diana isn’t Meghan Markle but we’re doing the same thing to Meghan Markle,” Adler said. “We never say that in the show and that's on purpose. I’m not trying to say that out loud. I’m letting it be there for the viewers to think about.”
But mostly: Which of the new Diana productions are you most interested in? Please hit "Join the Discussion" below and let me know, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
SMT Royal News Roundup
On Tuesday, Kate visited University College of London to learn more about its “Children of the 2020s” research project. The duchess wore a repeat Zara plaid dress for the occasion, which I dubbed a “whisper shout” of an ensemble. (ICYMI, you can find my SMT here.) After the glitzy gown Bond moment, this relatable rewear underscored that Kate was very much back to business. (Hello!)
The Queen had a busy week. She opened Scottish Parliament, welcomed the Royal Regiment of the Canadian Artillery to Windsor Castle, and returned to Buckingham Palace to launch the Queen's Baton Relay alongside her youngest son, Prince Edward. For the last outing, Her Maj looked quite striking in an orange coat and hat, if I do say so. (Town & Country)
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, made a video call this week to mark Menopause Awareness Month. “We are fabulous in our forties,” she said. “And we are even more fabulous in our fifties, sixties and seventies, and we need to celebrate that and keep opportunities going for women.” (Instagram)
Catch me on Royally Us talking about Diana and the CNN series. You can't really tell here but I wore my Virgin Atlantic sweatshirt for the occasion. (YouTube)
Last night, Kristen Stewart stepped out on the red carpet for the U.K. premiere of Spencer as part of the British Film Institute London Film Festival. Stewart, who is getting Oscar buzz for her star turn, has been doing press interviews and it’s fascinating to hear her talk about Diana. (People)
“Any picture or interview I've ever seen of her, there's an explosive, ground-shaking quality to her that I always feel like you never really know what's going to happen,” Stewart told the LA Times. “She just has this feral cat feel. So I wanted to convey that. There's no way to plan chaos. You just have to fall into it.”
And to the Daily Mail, Stewart shares a regret: “I’m not a mum yet,” she said. “It's the one part of playing her that I felt disloyal about.
ICYMI on Instagram:
Have a wonderful weekend, friends. I'll see you back in your inboxes on Tuesday.