Did Dodi really propose to Diana? Sorting fact from fiction in season six of The CrownNovember 25, 2023
By Rob Harris
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in The Crown.Credit: Netflix
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After three queens and six seasons, The Crown is drawing to a close, with the final instalment of Peter Morgan’s frequently soapy, always polarising drama to hit Netflix in two instalments.
The creator is the first to admit his writing is a right royal mix of fact and fantasy and Morgan has again taken some creative liberties in season six and the streaming service has repeatedly stressed that the series is a fictional dramatisation.
Elizabeth Debicki as Diana with Prince William (Rufus Kampa) and Prince Harry (Fflyn Edwards) in the final season of The Crown.Credit: Netflix
The first three episodes of the series centre on Diana, Princess of Wales’s final summer, shadowing her as she reluctantly dispatches her sons William and Harry to Balmoral before decamping to the Al-Fayed yacht in the South of France, and, ultimately, making her way to the Ritz in Paris and into the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.
Meanwhile, episode four – titled “Aftermath” – homes in on the public’s reaction to her death, and the way in which it transformed the Windsors’ position in British society forever, closing with William and Harry sombrely escorting Diana’s coffin down The Mall.
“When I write … there are the things that I want to be the case and there are the things that are the case,” Morgan once said. “There is a constant push-pull … I’ve learnt, to my cost, that when you’re really only focused on research, the drama suffers. You have to come at it as a dramatist.
“You have to come at that almost from an emotional perspective and sort of imagine what people are feeling and thinking at this particular time rather than ‘where were they on which particular day’ and ‘what words did they use when addressing the following people in public’.”
But none of this has stopped television critics, historians or indeed members of the royals and their friends from criticising how the series depicts the family and those swept into its orbit.
To help inquisitive fans see the full picture, we’ve read biographies, scoured newspaper clippings and watched grainy television interviews. Just how much of season six is fact and how much is fiction?
Did Charles’s family snub Camilla’s 50th birthday? (except Princess Margaret)
The scene: As The Crown makes clear, the party (held in mid-July 1997) was essentially a test run to see if the British public would accept Charles (Dominic West) dating Camilla (played by Olivia Williams).
Camilla (played by Olivia Williams) and Charles (Dominic West).Credit: Netflix
Charles is shown as being desperate for his mother to accept his lover and to recognise her officially by attending the 50th birthday celebrations, but the Queen (Imelda Staunton) declines to attend, citing a long-standing engagement at a Rolls-Royce factory in Derbyshire, while commenting of Parker Bowles that she had broken up “two perfectly good marriages”.
It is suggested that, although the rest of the Royal family boycotted the party, Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville) attended, and later telephoned her sister to ask her to be more sympathetic towards Camilla for the sake of Charles’s happiness.
In The Crown’s telling, Charles makes a sentimental toast to Camilla that includes Captain Wentworth’s famous letter from Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
The truth: According to reporting at the time, 80 guests were invited to Charles’ Highgrove estate, gathering for canapés, a five-course meal, cake, and dancing. Even though the event was private, papers ran aerial photos of the party tent, while The Mirror noted that Camilla arrived in the passenger seat of a Vauxhall Omega estate car that was “driven slowly past photographers”.
There is no record of Margaret being present at the event – although she did know Camilla, and had been at her wedding to Andrew Parker Bowles. The Queen was unwilling to endorse her eldest son’s relationship with Camilla at that stage, and Charles was years away from actively seeking his mother’s approval.
Charles did not speak nor was there a birthday cake. Camilla’s son, Tom Parker Bowles, was the sole speaker, saying, “Happy birthday, Mummy,” and thanking Charles for hosting the party.
Was Diana’s landmine campaign derailed by the news of her new romance?
The scene: Elizabeth Debicki’s Diana is shown consoling victims and walking through a minefield wearing a flak jacket and face visor. Her trip coincided with the publication of Mario Brenna’s photographs in August 1997, which proved a big distraction. The Crown depicts a press conference being overwhelmed by questions about her relationship with Dodi Al-Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), overshadowing her landmark tour.
The truth: Diana’s famous landmine walk happened in January 1997 in Angola. Though it’s true she visited Bosnia for the same issue during her last summer, The Crown takes creative liberties and combines the two trips into one.
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana visiting minefields in Bosnia with a badge of a New Zealand-based charity called ReliefAid.Credit: Netflix
The Crown’s creators changed one key detail in Diana’s outfit: replacing the Halo Trust branded protective vest with a badge of a New Zealand-based charity called ReliefAid. Staff at the Halo Trust, which clears deadly landmines left in conflict zones, are reportedly baffled by the snub.
There was no press conference as depicted in the show however it was reported at the time by The Observer that there was an “air of farce” around her effort to deliver some prosthetic feet to an injured man.
Did Diana choose a ring for herself from a jeweller in Monte Carlo after being chased there by photographers?
The scene: In the third episode, Dis-Moi Oui, Diana and Dodi stop for ice cream in Monte Carlo one evening where they’re spotted by onlookers. The pair end ups running away and taking refuge in a jewellery store. Diana is on the verge of tears, and Dodi lightens the moment by asking if there is anything she likes in the shop. Despite explaining that she doesn’t “need anything,” Dodi reiterates that he is asking what she likes, prompting Diana to motion towards an impressive diamond ring before the two are spirited out a back door.
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana and Khalid Abdalla as Dodi al-Fayed.Credit: Netflix
The truth: Jeweller Alberto Repossi confirmed after the couple’s death they had come into the Monaco store only for “about four or five minutes” because “they already knew which ring they wanted” – a ring with the inscription “Dis-moi oui,” which means “Tell me yes” in French. He said it was unexpected and about 10 days before the accident that killed them.
There are many versions of the story, with the price of the ring ranging from $14,000 to $200,000. Repossi said it was not immediately available, with Dodi calling a few days later asking him to resize the ring for the end of August.
In the show, Dodi picked it up from Repossi’s Paris store. Diana’s friends, however, have insisted that it could not have been of her choosing because it was too “garish” for her taste. The Daily Mail reporter Richard Kay, one of her confidants, described it as “vulgar”.
There is no evidence that photographers chased them through the streets, forcing them to take refuge in the store as depicted in The Crown, or that Diana commented, “That’s quite nice,” while looking at the ring.
Did Dodi propose to Diana on the night they died?
The scene: The show offers a new take on whether Dodi popped the question at their suite in the Ritz on the night of August 30. When he asks Diana for her hand, she recoils, exclaiming: “No, no, no, I can’t bear it, this is madness … I can’t make your father love you more by me becoming your wife.” She then advises him to level with his father, “break free from him and live far away”.
The truth: The tabloid speculation was rampant in the press following their deaths that they were engaged, but it is widely accepted that the couple were not. Even if Dodi had wished to present the Princess of Wales with a lavish engagement ring, there was no indication at the inquest that he ever gave the ring to Diana.
The Metropolitan Police’s investigation into their death, Operation Paget, revealed separate conversations the day before her death with her friend Lady Annabel Goldsmith and her daughter Jemima Khan, where Diana used identical language when they asked how serious she was about Dodi: “I need another marriage like a bad rash on my face.”
“The weight of evidence is that the Princess of Wales was not intending to get engaged or married to Dodi Fayed,” the Paget report found.
Was Henri Paul drunk behind the wheel of the car?
The scene: The episode only vaguely references the fact that Diana and Dodi’s driver, Henri Paul, was drinking before the crash. As Paul leaves the bar, the camera focuses momentarily on a halfway-drunk glass of alcohol. Though the accident is sensitively depicted in the series and not shown, Dodi was killed instantly at the site of the crash, along with Paul. Diana initially survived the accident, though her injuries were extensive.
The truth: The fleeting reference to alcohol being involved undervalues the severity of the situation. According to the Operation Paget Inquiry Report, Paul’s first toxicology report showed that the driver’s blood alcohol level was about 3.5 times the legal limit in France. His blood also contained fluoxetine, a medication that can increase sedation when mixed with alcohol. Additionally, none of the passengers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
Prince Harry wrote in his memoir, Spare, that blaming Paul alone was “simplistic and absurd.” He wrote that even if Paul had been drunk, “he wouldn’t have had any problem driving through such a short tunnel,” and laid blame on the paparazzi following the car and the people who hired them.
Did Prince William go missing for 14 hours at Balmoral after Diana’s death?
The scene: Soon after Diana’s death, Prince William (Rufus Kampa) is depicted as missing for 14 hours. Family members and staff speed away from the castle in Land Rovers to form a search party. With their dogs, they fan out across the hills shouting “William!” They abandon the effort and return to Balmoral in a downpour. He eventually arrives at the castle, soaked through.
Prince William (Rufus Kampa) is depicted as missing for 14 hours after his mother’s death.Credit: Netflix
The truth: The scene is fictitious, which will do little to reconcile William with the makers of The Crown. He has firmly refused to watch the show, unlike his younger brother, who has happily admitted doing so.
The current Prince of Wales did say in one interview in 2021, reflecting on his mother’s death, that “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 Times reported while the Queen kept a close eye on the boys, William did on one occasion take a long walk in the hills. But he did not go missing for 14 hours, or cause any alarm.
Was Diana’s funeral the cause of controversy in the Royal Family?
The scene: In episode four, Charles upbraids his mother for being out of touch with the grieving “mood” of the country, and he presses her to authorise a public funeral, a “state occasion in all but name”, advocated by the prime minister, Tony Blair.
The truth: It was widely reported at the time that Queen Elizabeth II initially resisted a public funeral for Diana, only to be persuaded by Prince Charles. Buckingham Palace strongly denied the reports, acknowledging there were “some minor differences over points of detail” that were “amicably resolved.”
It was the Spencer family who initially asked for a private funeral, but after taking guidance from her advisers, the Queen grasped the need for a royal ceremonial funeral at Westminster Abbey.
“In the aftermath of the tragic death of the Princess of Wales, there has been a wave of speculation and inaccurate stories about the events leading up to, and after, the funeral. These stories need to be corrected,” the palace said at the time.
When will Part 2 of The Crown Season 6 drop?
Part two is due for release on December 14.
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