Actresses Who Have Played Princess Diana On Screen
The mother of Prince William and Prince Harry—on one hand the People’s Princess and on the other a thorn in the Crown’s side from the moment she and Prince Charles said “I do,” depending on whom you ask—will have been gone 25 years on Aug. 31. She’s one of the most dissected public figures of all time, her relationship with the royal family, the press and the citizenry that alternately adored and excoriated her seemingly examined from every angle.
But the HBO documentary The Princess, composed entirely of archival footage and commentary from the 1980s and ’90s, throws it back to the era in question as her life was unfolding: No reenactments, no narration or contemporary analysis of a bygone time. Much of the ambient noise is provided by the sound of camera shutters clicking away.
The end result is not an attempt to see the “real” Diana behind the scenes, but rather an unsparing look at how her real life was turned into a 24/7 spectacle. And it’s unclear, 42 years after the British press first got wind of the heir to the throne’s most promising love interest yet, whether anything has changed.
“Our hope is that this approach allows us to hopefully turn the camera back onto all of ourselves and ask us some difficult questions about our relationship to Diana,” director Ed Perkins explained to TODAY. “But also more broadly, our relationship to the monarchy, our celebrity relationship.”
Whether she played give-and-take with the media or not, Diana never asked to not be able to go anywhere without being followed, her predicament calling to mind what The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears showed of Britney’s suffocating world in the ’00s.
And you can’t not notice the similarities between the scrutiny of Harry’s mum and the treatment of his now-wife Meghan Markle, who like her late mother-in-law was once heralded as a hugely needed breath of fresh air for the monarchy, only to eventually be accused of trying to burn it down.
But while Britney’s embarking on her next, albeit long-delayed, chapter to live life how she sees fit, and Harry and Meghan left the U.K. to forge their own path, Diana never got her chance to start over. Which makes everything in The Princess more poignant—and, quite often—infuriating. Because you know how it ends.
Here are the documentary’s most haunting moments:
The Princess premieres Saturday, Aug. 13, at 8 p.m. on HBO and will be streaming on HBO Max.
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