Now that a whole new generation has been introduced to the House of Windsor through The Crown, it’s understandable if there are a slew of questions over the veracity of the addictive binge-worthy Netflix drama. More than any other season of the Peter Morgan prestige drama so far, this latest slate of episodes has ignited heated debates online over the tumultuous relationship between Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Brits, in particular, are royally miffed over the portrayal of Charles and Diana’s messy, toxic, infidelity-riddled marriage. It’s even gotten to the point where U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden issued a statement on Nov. 28 requesting that Netflix officially classify the drama series as fiction. “It’s a beautifully produced work of fiction. So as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that,” he told the Daily Mail. “Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”
But we’d argue that, although many liberties were taken with regards to what was privately said and done behind closed doors, a lot of the crux of the drama in question is based in truth. With a new generation now thoroughly obsessed with the high-key drama between Charles and Diana, we thought it’d be a great time to separate the fact from the fiction on the current season of The Crown.
Was Diana actually allowed to choose her own engagement ring?
Fact. The future Princess of Wales was indeed presented with a tray of rings to choose from shortly after her engagement in 1981. As she later told biographer Andrew Morton: “Along come these sapphires. I mean nuggets! I suppose I chose it. We all chipped in. The Queen paid for it.” And, according to multiple reports, Charles and the queen were both on hand to witness her decision. (No pressure, eh?)
Diana ultimately selected the now-iconic 12-karat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-karat white gold that can now be seen on the hand of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. (Prince William proposed with his mum’s ring as a “way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement.”) The ring, from Garrard’s jewellery collection, cost $37,000 (USD).
Did Diana really have an eating disorder?
Fact. Diana herself publicly confirmed that she struggled with “rampant bulimia” during a 1995 interview with BBC1’s Panorama. “It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger,” she said. “They decided that was the problem: Diana was unstable. The cause was the situation where my husband and I had to keep everything together because we didn’t want to disappoint the public, and yet obviously there was a lot of anxiety going on within our four walls.” (You can read the full transcript of the bombshell interview here.) The fallout from Diana’s raw, honest interview shook the foundations of the House of Windsor. I think it’s safe to say it’ll play a pivotal role in the fifth season of The Crown.
Was Diana really allowed to roller skate in Buckingham Palace?
Fact – kind of. While it hasn’t technically been confirmed that a then-young and impressionable Diana donned a pair of roller skates while listening to Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” as was portrayed on The Crown, multiple sources have confirmed over the years that she was a devout pop music fan who also happened to adore roller-skating. So while we might never know whether she actually glided down the halls of Buckingham Palace on wheels, we do know that she liked to indulge in her roller-skating hobby in the gardens of her Kensington Palace residence. We love a royal rule-breaker! (Oh, hi Meghan Markle!)
Did an avalanche almost kill Charles?
Fact. In the ninth episode of the latest season of The Crown, a new generation of “royal watchers” were given a brief glimpse of a devastating avalanche in the Swiss Alps that nearly swept away the Prince of Wales, leaving many to wonder if the disaster was fact or fiction. It was indeed true: The tragedy occurred while Charles was on a ski trip with friends in March 1988 – a period in which his marriage to Diana was on the rocks. Charles’ childhood friend Major Hugh Lindsay died after being caught in the avalanche. While Charles himself escaped relatively unscathed, a helicopter rescue pilot was quoted by The Times as saying Charles had been “within feet of death when the avalanche struck.”
Did Diana really surprise Charles with a dance at the Royal Opera House?
Fact. An avid ballet dancer, Diana took it upon herself to surprise Charles during intermission at the Royal Opera House one night in December 1985. Charles, who was sitting in the Windsors’ private balcony, suddenly saw his wife dancing to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” on stage with ballet star Wayne Sleep. Despite the ecstatic response from the audience, by all accounts Charles was less than pleased by this playful three-minute break from royal protocol which included high kicks, jazz and ballet components. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.