Behind The Scenes: Creating The Crown Season 4 | Netflix / YouTube
Since finishing Netflix’s latest season of The Crown, I’ve slept, cooked meals, gone to work, taken showers – generally lived my normal life. And all through that time I’ve thought of little other than Diana, Princess of Wales.
Princess Diana, previously Lady Diana Spencer, has the strange ability to lock herself inside one’s head. It doesn’t matter that she rose to prominence almost 40 years ago now (with her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981), nor that two full decades have passed since her death. The memory of the woman is as raw and as moving as it ever was.
Of course, this latest season of The Crown, with a note-perfect embodiment by actress Emma Corrin, has set off a renewed frenzy of public interest, but the public obsession has always been there. She lives in the permanent collective consciousness: LadyDiRevengeLooks, for instance, is a popular Instagram account launched in 2018, dedicated solely to Diana’s post-divorce wardrobe.
Then, in 2019, Hailey Bieber recreated Diana’s iconic athleisure looks for Vogue Paris. While all of her looks are iconic, her 90s athleisure has especially gained relevance, prompting someone to speculate on Twitter that if the Princess were alive, Beyoncé would send her the Ivy Park collection.
And, of course, every year a new Book About Diana (practically a genre unto itself) hits shelves, claiming to include ‘new secrets from insiders’.
Save, perhaps, for Marilyn Monroe, there’s no other woman so lodged in the public psyche. So, what is it about Diana that we so latch on to?
It’s not just her untimely death: Diana was the most famous woman in the world while she was alive, so it’s not as though the car crash catapulted her into a new level of iconography – she already firmly occupied that space. I think it’s the tragedy of her life (compounded, later, by the tragedy of her death) that so captures us.
On a larger, much more glamorous scale, Diana’s story reflects the tragedies of our own lives. While we might not have married an adulterous Prince, many of us will know what it’s like to be unhappy in a relationship. And while we may not be trapped in the royal family, many of us know what it’s like to feel stuck in a situation: no way forward, no way out. And while we may not be the most photographed woman in the world, a good many of us will struggle with our body image – some to the point of developing an eating disorder.
But then, she represents our moral ambition, too. While we may not have walked on landmines, or shaken hands with AIDS victims, or visited orphanages across the world, we know what it’s like to believe in something. We may not have rebelled from the stuffy traditions of the royal family, but many of us will know what it’s like to rebel against something old-fashioned.
Diana was an embodiment of love – she desperately loved her children, and she also loved her public. “I’d like to be the queen of people’s hearts,” she famously said. With public interest reaching another high, it’s safe to say she achieved her wish.
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