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Immersive Princess Diana Documentary Includes Intriguing Revelations

Photo Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library/ Getty Images/ cropped
Photo Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library/ Getty Images/ cropped

Despite the number of movies, shows, and books about the life and death of Princess Diana, director Ed Perkins has managed to approach the subject from a new angle. His film, which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Festival, takes an immersive approach to the subject.

Unlike other films which feature talking head experts who discuss Princess Diana’s life, Perkins tells the story as if the viewer were watching events unfold for themselves, by using old interviews and news footage. The Princess also provides many revelations about Diana’s life, including these highlights.

Married after 13 dates

Although the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana was a true fairy tale event, it couldn’t change the fact that the couple barely knew each other beforehand. They had only gone on 13 dates before Charles proposed. Outside of that, most of the getting-to-know-each-other was done over the phone. They did know each other vaguely, however, as Charles had previously dated Diana’s older sister.

Colored photo of Prince Charles in a suit standing beside Princess Diana in a high neck white shirt with green jacket.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer opening the Mountbatten Exhibition at Broadlands, the home of Lord Louis Mountbatten. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

Many believe that their marriage was simply a matter of convenience, rather than one of romance, as Charles needed to be married and produce an heir for the throne. The woman who he truly wanted to marry, and would eventually carry out an affair with throughout his marriage, was already with another man.

The public loved Diana, and that made Charles jealous

The clips that Perkins included in his documentary put a heavy emphasis on the relationship between Diana and Charles in the years after their marriage. In particular, they emphasized how it seemed that Charles was jealous of Diana and her relationship with the public. They loved her and were always so excited to see her.

Colored photo of Princess Diana in a red coat accepting flowers from a crowd.
Princess Diana during a visit to a community centre in Brixton, October 1983. (Photo Credit: Princess Diana Archive/ Getty Images)

One segment from the documentary is a reporter talking over a clip of Diana and Charles greeting the public, where he states that Charles “knows it’s the princess people have come to see,” and that he took “second place” to Diana.

A ‘monster’ for wanting privacy

With the public’s love of Diana came the paparazzi’s obsession with her. After years of enduring heavy scrutiny at the hands of the media, she decided to step back from public life in 1993. She announced her decision in a speech at a charity event, saying to the press: “I hope you can find it in your hearts to understand and to give me the time and space that has been lacking in recent years.”

Colored photo of Princess Diana standing behind a microphone speaking to a crowd.
Princess Diana makes a speech announcing her resignation from public duties during a charity lunch at the Hilton Hotel, London, December 3, 1993. (Photo Credit: Jayne Fincher/ Getty Images)

The response to this request, however, was far from desired. She received a lot of criticism for her decision, and some even went so far as to call her a monster for making the decision to focus on her life and family away from the public eye.

Polo takes priority

The Princess also highlights the view of the press that in many ways, Prince Charles still acted as if he wasn’t married – including after the birth of his second son, Prince Harry. Less than an hour after the couple had returned home after being discharged from the hospital, Charles decided to go play polo.

Colored photo of Prince Charles in motion on a brown horse during a polo match.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, playing polo, June 7, 1984. (Photo Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library/ Getty Images)

According to one reporter, Charles “made absolutely no concession, and he never did, almost no concession at all to being a married man with the responsibilities of a wife and now two children.”

Not everyone loved Diana

Even though Diana is now revered and has captured public imagination internationally since her death, this wasn’t always the case. She was actually a divisive figure who some loved, and others had nothing but criticism for. Much of the disapproval came from talk shows and tabloid newspapers.

Colored photo of Diana sitting down in a black suit jacket during an interview.
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. (Photo Credit: Pool Photograph/ Corbis/ Getty Images)

They would make statements blaming her for Charles having an affair with Camilla because she hadn’t kept him interested in her, or say that she enjoyed being watched by the paparazzi so she must have “a sick mind.” This ridicule of the Princess can be seen in particular with how heavily she was criticized for the photos of her and boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed on a yacht a mere few weeks before her death.

Diana’s boyfriend was engaged to another woman

This relationship with Dodi was another element that Perkins included in his documentary, particularly that he was engaged to another woman when he first started dating Diana. The two dated for around a month before they were both killed in Paris in August 1997. Initially, Dodi was engaged to an American model, Kelly Fisher, but left her for Diana.

Colored photo of Kelly Fisher crying while Gloria Allred holds out her hand to show a large ring.
Kelly Fisher (left) and her attorney Gloria Allred show off the large sapphire and diamond engagement ring given to her by former fiancee Dodi al-Fayed. (Photo credit: KIM KULISH/ AFP/ Getty Images)

He broke things off with her over the phone, only after pictures of him with Diana appeared in the press. Their wedding had been scheduled for August 9, 1997, only two days after he ended things with her, and well into his relationship with Diana. In response, Kelly began the process of filing a breach of contract suit against Dodi, but after his death she decided not to peruse things any further.

The public almost turned against Queen Elizabeth II after Diana died

The Princess ends with the death of Diana while also highlighting the public opinion of Queen Elizabeth II, who took five days to publicly address Diana’s death. For this, she was heavily criticized as she failed to “capture the mood of the nation” and understand their sadness over the Princess’ death.

Colored photo of the Royal family looking at flowers for Princess Diana at the gates of Balmoral Castle.
After attending a private service at Crathie Church, the Royal family stop to look at floral tributes left for Princess Diana, at the gates of Balmoral Castle, September 5, 1997. (Photo Credit: Robert Patterson/ Mirrorpix/ Getty Images)

Her failure to address the death was made even worse by her continued occupation of the Balmoral residence in Scotland, rather than returning to London where much of the public mourning was occurring. She also made it appear as though her grandsons should carry on with their lives in a business as usual way, after finding out about their mothers’ death.

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While the Queen’s actions have in later years been defended by her family members, who say she was motivated by looking after her grandsons, the public opinion was quite the opposite.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.