One of the most anticipated series of the year has finally dropped. The Crown season six, the show’s final instalment, aims to portray some of the most controversial moments in the Royal Family's history, which all took place within living memory for most viewers: from Diana’s tragic death to Camilla's 50th birthday party.
The show’s creator, Peter Morgan, has often stressed that The Crown is a dramatisation (for which sometimes read: fictionalisation) of real-life events, but that won’t stop us from dissecting part one to figure out if Dodi and Diana’s relationship really did unfold that way, or if the aftermath of her death (which is barely shown onscreen) is true to life.
Here’s our breakdown of the key events, as shown in The Crown, and how well they match up to what happened in real life.
Diana’s meeting with Tony Blair
Diana’s visit to Tony Blair at the Prime Minister’s home of Chequers is one of the more surprising moments early in the series. Together with William, Diana meets the Blairs, plays football with the family and then the Princess has a quiet chat with Tony Blair about wanting to reshape her life out of the Royal Family, taking an official role doing good work on behalf of the government.
When Blair recounts this to the Queen, later, however, she's having none of it. “As a divorced woman and no longer HRH, Diana is officially learning the difference between being ‘in’ the royal family, and ‘out’”, she says. Very Harry and Meghan.
There was a lunch – but apparently, Cherie Blair was the person who invited Diana over, rather than Tony. Blair writes about it in his biography, though his recollection appears to be flawed, as he says the conversation was about her relationship with Dodi, which hadn’t started by the time of her visit. But given that Blair’s former press secretary Alistair Campbell is listed as an advisor on the series, we can be pretty sure the general gist of the conversation here is accurate.
Charles’ birthday party for Camilla
It forms one of the main plot points of season six: Charles throws a massive birthday party for Camilla at Highgrove and is desperate for the Queen to attend - in fact, he goes so far as to visit her in Buckingham Palace to ask her in person.
As it turns out, the only person who attends is Princess Margaret (who tells her sister off on the phone for not attending), and Charles makes a gushing speech telling the crowd that Camilla was the only women he ever loved.
Turns out, most of this isn’t true. Though Charles certainly held a party for Camilla, press weren’t invited and it was never thought that the Queen would appear. Neither did Princess Margaret, as it turns out - and though the campaign to rehabilitate Camilla’s image was very much in full swing, Charles was a long way away from asking his mother’s approval. He didn’t even make a speech - the only person who spoke was Tom Parker-Bowles, Camilla’s son, who thanked Charles for throwing the party.
One thing that does ring true, though, is Camilla’s laid-back attitude to the whole affair. Let it happen in its own time, she tells Charles. And did she wear black? Yes, perhaps intentionally, so as not to draw attention to herself.
Diana went to the South of France at the invitation of Mohamed Al-Fayed
Yes, Mohamed Al-Fayed did actually invite Diana to his villa in the south of France: St Tropez. Al-Fayed had been in touch with Diana for years; they are first believed to have met at a polo match in 1986, where Prince Charles was playing.
Mohamed owned Harrods, where Diana loved to shop; in June 1997, they bumped into each other at a production of the Nutcracker where Diana told him she had nowhere to take her sons for a summer holiday. Mohamed immediately suggested she visit him.
Dodi Fayed was actually engaged before he met Diana
The Crown depicts Dodi shopping for fabrics with his soon-to-be bride, American model Kelly Fisher, when he is commanded by his father to come to St. Tropez with the aim of wooing Diana.
Shockingly, this is pretty much true: Dodi was engaged to Fisher, whom he met in 1996 (we first meet Fisher, played by Erin Richards, as Dodi’s girlfriend in season five). He had bought a house in Malibu for her, where the pair were intending to move after their wedding, and they were in Paris three weeks before the big day when Dodi got the fateful phone call.
Mohamed saw his son as the “ideal candidate” for a romance with the princess (he calls Fisher “Madame Bikini, the gold digger”). Dodi arrived in the south on July 14, three days after Diana and her boys - remarkably, this wasn’t really reported by the media at the time.
Diana posed for the paparazzi in a swimsuit to take attention away from Camilla’s 50th birthday
It’s no secret that Diana was hounded by the press in the months leading up to her death - the day after she arrived in St. Tropez, they were already circling around Mohamed Al-Fayed’s villa. Snaps of her during her holiday were taken, but The Crown also shows her going over to talk to the British paparazzi during her stay in the South of France.
It also depicts her as obsessed by “Operation PB” - aka the fight to rehabilitate Camilla’s image in the wake of Diana and Charles’ divorce, and Diana refers to her as “that woman”. This was true; Diana felt slighted by the effort Charles was putting into making his new partner appear respectable.
Four days before the party, she took a boat out to meet three tabloid reporters from the UK press in a leopard-print bathing suit. "You are going to get a big surprise with the next thing I do," she told them - and proceeded to pose for multiple photos in the run-up to the party, effectively stealing the limelight away from Camilla.
Charles shouted at his staff for Diana making the headlines
The night after Camilla’s 50th party, Charles takes his staff to task after poring over the next day’s paper headlines. He is appalled to see coverage dominated by images of Diana in a swimsui, and takes it out on his aides. “I want positive coverage of Mrs Parker Bowles to be glaringly, screamingly obvious,” he shouts. “Have I made myself clear?”
This scene probably never happened. Though Charles is reported to have a bit of a temper - something former aides have talked about - a media battle between him and Diana is very unlikely to have happened. It's true that Charles was keen to rehabilitate Camilla’s image, but a tit-for-tat fight for the headlines is apparently not his style.
Kelly Fisher was kept on a separate yacht to Dodi and Diana
Kelly Fisher did actually come to St Tropez, too - not that Diana was likely aware. Arriving on July 16, the Crown depicts her being ushered to one of Mohamed’s smaller yachts - where she was kept while Dodi and his father entertained Diana at the holiday home and on the larger yachts.
Later, the real-life Fisher said she felt that they “basically kept me hidden”: Dodi came to visit her at night, and spent the days with Diana.
Mohamed Al-Fayed tipped off a paparazzo to photograph Diana and Dodi
As far as The Crown is concerned, Mohamed was the mastermind behind Diana and Dodi’s romance. In addition to ordering Dodi to come to the South of France to meet Diana, he also supposedly tipped off the press when the pair stole away for a six-day cruise around Monte Carlo on July 31.
After Mohamed supposedly confirms that the relationship was consummated, scenes show him paying paparazzo Mario Brenna to sneak on board his yacht, Jonikal, to take some illicit snaps of the pair canoodling. Of course, these then get splashed all over the papers next day.
As with so many things in The Crown, this one isn’t entirely clear. It’s impossible to know if Mohamed secretly telephoned Brenna, who has certainly never talked about it - but he was likely tipped off by somebody. The images, which made the front page of the Sunday Mirror, allegedly earned him and his partner more than $2m.
Diana accuses her father of being “neglectful”
One of Dodi and Diana’s early heart to hearts involves them complaining about the way their respective fathers have treated them. Dodi, of course, is under Mohamed’s thumb, dropping everything to come to St Tropez to woo the princess. Diana, for her part, accuses her father, Earl Spencer, of “complete and utter neglect“, adding that she did “anything to make him notice me, be proud of me.”
Did this actually happen? There is no record of this conversation. Indeed, by all accounts, Diana had a rather warm relationship with her father and reportedly saw herself as his favourite.
When he died in 1992, Diana's brother Charles paid tribute to his “gentle” nature and “approachability”; but it wasn’t all plain sailing. In 2017, Channel 4 released tapes that Diana had filmed with her voice coach, Peter Settelen between September 1992 and December 1993, in which she talked about growing up and said that her parents “never said they loved me.”
She also recalled the moment she and her siblings found other their father had married again (he divorced their mother in 1969) from the newspapers. “Sarah rang me up and said, "Have you seen the newspapers?’”
“We were so angry, but Sarah said, ‘Right, Dutch’ - my nickname was Dutch - ‘You go in and sort him out.’” Diana apparently slapped her father across the face, telling him that was “from all of us.”
Dodi was well-known for being a lavish gift-giver - another advantage of having a billionaire parent - and when Diana returns home from her holiday in St Tropez, she finds her apartment filled with roses and an expensive watch, alongside a note that reads ‘Paris next week?’
This did happen: when Diana returned from holiday on July 21, she found that Dodi had gifted her a £6,500 Cartier watch.
Dodi and Diana visited a psychic in Derbyshire
One morning, the Queen tells Philip (disapprovingly, of course) how Diana and Dodi “flew 160 miles in a Harrods helicopter to visit a psychic in Derbyshire, terrorising some tiny village in the process”. Did they? Well, yes - Diana had a favourite psychic, called Rita Rogers.
Rogers, who is still alive today, reportedly worked as a medium for many famous clients, of which Diana was one. The pair were introduced in 1994, and in addition to visiting, Diana also phoned Rogers frequently.
"She rang at least once a week to see how I was, as well as for readings," Rogers has told the Derbyshire Times, telling another interviewer that "when she came to visit, she used to throw her arms around me.”
Before Diana met Dodi, she had apparently been told by Rogers that "she would meet a man of foreign descent with the initial 'D' on water – and that the man would be connected with the film industry.” According to Rogers, “not long after, she rang me one day and said, 'Rita, guess where I am? I'm on a boat with a man I've just met called Dodi Fayed.’”
Dodi was so impressed by this that he wanted to go and meet Rogers himself - which led to them visiting the Derbyshire village of Grassmoor, where she lived, in August 1997.
Charles’ revenge photoshoot in Balmoral
It’s the ultimate snub: as Diana cavorts with Dodi Fayed in the Mediterranean (and elsewhere), Charles attempts to get his own back by staging a photoshoot with William and Harry in the grounds of Balmoral (which both the boys hate), portraying himself as a responsible father while she is supposedly off gallivanting.
The show depicts the shoot as being orchestrated by Mark Bolland, the Prince of Wales’ PR whizz, with a “trustworthy” photographer being hired from nearby Ballater to take the snaps. In reality, this isn’t true: it was a planned photoshoot where several royal photographers were allowed to take pictures of the family, in exchange for leaving them in privacy the rest of the time.
Dodi proposed to Diana the night of the crash
Dodi didn’t have time to propose to Diana on the night of their death - though he had bought a ring. In the afternoon of August 30, just after the couple had arrived in Paris, Dodi went to a jewelers and bought a £11,600 Repossi diamond engagement ring.
Mohammed Al-Fayed, would later say that this was not a surprise purchase: he said the couple had been looking at rings in Monte Carlo, and that a ring had been sized in Italy and then delivered to Paris. CCTV from that day, however, shows Dodi in the jewellers looking at various diamond rings, suggesting that one had not already been chosen.
On the other hand, facts that have been confirmed, however, include its "Dis-moi Oui" (tell me yes) inscription, the date of the purchase on the receipt (August 30), and the description of the ring on the receipt, which was "bague de fiançaille" (engagement ring).
Al-Fayed has said that his son planned to propose to Diana that fateful night. But, perhaps due to the chaos of the evening, in which the couple went back and forth from apartment to hotel to restaurants as they were hounded by the press, Dodi did not go ahead with the proposal.
When the couple left the hotel for the last time, heading to Dodi’s apartment on Rue Arsène Houssaye - a 16-minute drive from The Ritz - Dodi did not have the ring with him – it was reportedly recovered from his apartment.
Charles went to collect Diana’s body in person
It makes sense that The Crown would want to depict Prince Charles as a devoted ex-husband, redeeming himself by pushing his parents to send a Royal Air Force plane to pick up Princess Diana’s body from Paris. But this wasn’t exactly what happened.
Despite Queen Elizabeth being slow to speak out about Diana’s accident, and the palace failing to lower the flag to half-mast over Buckingham Palace following her death, it was in fact the Queen, not Charles, who organised the plane that brought Diana home. Diana’s older sisters, Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale were passengers alongside Prince Charles.
It’s true that we don’t know details of the tense conversations that went on behind the walls of Buckingham Palace. But Charles did not, as is depicted in the new series, spend time alone with Diana’s body at the Paris hospital, nor was he overheard crying - at least, not by anyone who shared their testimony with the press. Instead, Prince Charles and Diana’s sisters spent around ten minutes together with Diana. They arrived with French president Jacques Chirac, and the group thanked staff for their efforts to save Diana’s life.
Despite all the criticism levelled against her, the Queen showed a quiet devotion to Diana: the ceremonial aspects of Diana’s funeral correlated to her status as a Princess, despite her having divorced Charles in August 1996. The Queen’s royal standard - the flag representing her reign - was draped over Diana’s coffin, and it was a party of soldiers from the Queen's Colour Squadron who transferred the coffin from the plane to the hearse. During the funeral, as Diana’s coffin passed by the Queen, the monarch bowed her head.
Charles wanted a big funeral for Diana because of public opinion
The Crown emphasises Charles’ efforts to make sure that Diana is suitably commemorated with a large funeral with sufficient ceremony. But in reality, it was a collective effort. Diana’s family, the Spencers, had wanted the Princess to have a private funeral as this would have been more in keeping with Diana’s search in her own life for peace and tranquillity.
But it quickly became clear to the Queen, and to the Spencers, that this wouldn’t have worked given the Princess’s overwhelming international fame. The Queen’s private secretary, Robert Fellowes, was married to Diana’s older sister, Lady Jane Fellowes, and he helped steer some of the conversations around the difficult subject.
According to palace insiders, a team of the Queen’s advisors worked round the clock to arrange an unique Westminster Abbey funeral for Diana, and they had a plan ready to go by the morning of September 1, just hours after the crash. The funeral blended traditional elements, such as a horse-drawn gun carriage for Diana’s coffin, with more modern segments, such as a performance from Elton John of an adapted version of his song, Candle in the Wind. The advisors also invited members of the public to sit in the church.
It was during the funeral that Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, gave his now infamous eulogy.
“I don't think she ever understood why her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down,” he said. “It is baffling.”
"My own and only explanation is that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum. It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this - a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.”
Prince William’s 14-hour walkabout
Of course it’s not true that Prince William went missing for 14 hours at Balmoral, as is depicted in The Crown’s latest series: even before his mother died, the Prince and heir to the throne never went anywhere without a pair of beady eyes fixed on him. It may be true that the 15-year-old went for some solitary walks around the extensive 50,000 acres grounds of the royal’s Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle, following Diana’s death. But he was never gone long enough to worry anyone at home.
In fact, the Queen spent a lot of time with both Harry and William at Balmoral in the days following the accident, a move that would come to cause her harm. People couldn’t understand why the monarch hadn’t travelled to London where mourners gathered outside of Buckingham Palace, leaving flowers and notes to the late Princess.
But Elizabeth apparently leant into her duties as a grandmother, guiding the young boys through the initial days after the loss of their mother. As an adult William spoke about the Queen’s counsel on the subject: “Having lost my mother at a very young age, it has been particularly important for me that I had somebody like the Queen to look up to and who has been there and has understood some of the more complex issues when you lose a loved one,” he said in 2016.
The Crown Season Six, Part One is streaming now on Netflix