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Let’s end the deification of Diana: New movie needs to show the good, the bad and the ugly of the Princess of Wales

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Let’s end the deification of Diana: New movie needs to show the good, the bad and the ugly of the Princess of Wales
Already it seems the forthcoming biopic “Spencer” is going to paint Princess Diana in a very favourable light. Why can’t we have a more realistic portrayal that tells the truth and doesn’t distort history?

The newly announced Princess of Wales biopic will be called “Spencer”. Director Pablo Larraín chose Diana’s maiden name for its title because, as he explained: “It’s about her finding herself, about her understanding that possibly the most important thing is to be well, and to be with herself and by herself.

And Hollywood star Kristen Stewart has signed up to play the role of Diana, the woman who, at one time, was arguably the most famous person on the planet.

Immediately, however, one fears the film is rewriting history. For a start, the director’s reasoning for the title is curious to say the least. Diana, a woman who desperately wanted to be alone? Her string of affairs, while a married woman, suggests otherwise.

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These apparently began in 1985, with her bodyguard, Barry Mannakee, who, like the princess, was also married. Then there was army captain James Hewitt. Next was former car salesman James Gilbey, followed by suave art dealer Oliver Hoare. Other dalliances were strongly rumoured with billionaire Theodore Forstmann, and even John F Kennedy’s son, John Jr.

There was also England rugby captain Will Carling, rock star Bryan Adams and heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, claimed to be ‘love of her life’.

Loved male company

After her divorce, she got together with Dodi Fayed and they tragically died together in 1997, in that infamous Paris car crash.

It’s common knowledge that Prince Charles had a mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, during their marriage. She is, of course, now his wife. Putting that aside, it’s clear Diana was keen on male company. There’s nothing particularly outrageous about that.

However, Larraín has revealed how he appears to be steering things. “We decided to get into a story about identity, and around how a woman decides somehow not to be the queen. She’s a woman who, in the journey of the movie, decides and realizes that she wants to be the woman she was before she met Charles,” he has commented.

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Diana was 20 when she married the Prince of Wales. She grew up at Sandringham, the Queen’s estate in Norfolk. Her family have always been close to the royals and her grandmothers were ladies-in-waiting to the Queen Mother.

Her education included a selection of private schools and a term at a Swiss finishing school. So, it’s hard to comprehend which Diana the movie is planning to portray. She knew only a life of wealth and privilege.

Diana was basically the same as every other royal – out of touch with reality and how the world works. They’ve never had to struggle to pay their mortgage or work a dead-end job they hated to make ends meet.

Relationship with children

Eager to build Diana into a complex soul, Larraín said: “The key is how she discovers, during the process of the movie, that what she really needs to do is be who she wants to be. Diana was many things, but chief among them, she was a great mother. This is the story of a woman who understands the most important thing for a woman in her life is her own children.”

Again, his words ring hollow, as the only people able to properly assess her parenting abilities are her sons. Yet Prince William struggles to hide his discontent with the media and speaks about personal matters as if he’s reading an execution order. His brother, Prince Harry, loves to court public attention for his projects, but likes it less if it means he has to face any criticism – one reason why he’s quit Britain and lives in Beverly Hills.

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If the movie has even a hint of portraying Diana in a negative light, you can expect both of them to be more aggressive than a Rottweiler. Yes, it was distressing to see two young lads lose their mother as they did. But along with their flunkies, they’ve been allowed to create the myth of St. Diana, which the filmmakers seem to have accepted.

Piers Morgan labelled the princess “manipulative” for her dealings with the media, and told how Diana would call him to pass on stories about herself to be used in the tabloids.

Then there was the iconic Taj Mahal picture, which she’s said to have orchestrated to present an image of being alone and abandoned.

A calculating woman

None of this devalues the good work Diana did, particularly her efforts to raise awareness about land mines and stop the cold-shouldering of AIDS sufferers. But the biopic appears to be fitting a narrative of her as an innocent waif who was pushed from pillar to post by the heartless royals, while she kept her dignity and acted selflessly for the good of others.

And that simply isn’t the case.

She was a calculating woman who knew all too well how the world worked. Even the casting of Stewart supports the ‘blame the media’ bandwagon that persists around Diana’s death, as she’s frequently spoken about the intrusion into her life since finding fame in the Twilight movie series – even once comparing it to being raped. Who would ever have thought appearing in big-budget blockbusters would result in fame?

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But it’s the last of Larraín’s comments that really cuts to the chase. He says: “We believe that this is a movie that could create interest around the planet.” Exactly. He’s supposed to be on a noble crusade to show the world the ‘real Diana’. But, in fact, he’s banking on her profile and the remembrance of her being so strong that moviegoers will flock to see it and he’ll be handsomely rewarded financially in return.

Why not open up Pandora’s Box and let us see Diana – the good, bad and indifferent? A rose-tinted, bleeding-heart narrative is the last thing anyone needs.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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