The first episodes of The Crown season 6 depict Princess Diana in the months leading up to her fatal car crash
While The Crown has depicted the personal and political turmoils of the royal family throughout decades of history, part 1 of the final season largely focuses on one member in particular: Princess Diana.
The magnitude of Diana’s loss is difficult to understand all these decades later, particularly as the nature of celebrity has changed. At the time, Diana was on the brink of stepping into her own life for the first time since she had joined the royal family, something that was evident when she was interviewed by Vanity Fair that June. Her friend Rosa Monckton told the magazine, “She's living her life as she wants to live it. And she's free of the restrictions that she had before. Certainly, in the way she looks, you can see that.”
Season 5’s Elizabeth Debicki returns to portray Diana in the aftermath of her divorce from Prince Charles (Dominic West). The new season follows the princess as she tries to navigate her place in both the public eye and the royal family amid her ex's rekindled relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams). Meanwhile, Diana is also in a burgeoning romance of her own with Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), the son of her friend and Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw).
Though part 1 of the season ultimately ends in tragedy, it also features some of the happier moments of the princess’s life during her last months, including her humanitarian work and her close relationship with her sons, Prince William (Rufus Kampa) and Prince Harry (Fflyn Edwards).
From her trailblazing walk through an active landmine to her final days in Paris, here’s what happens to Princess Diana in season 6 of The Crown — along with the actual events that took place in 1997.
Princess Diana navigates her life beyond the royal family — including a potential ambassador role
During the first episode, “Persona Non Grata,” Prime Minister Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel) and his wife are visited by Diana and her older son, Prince William. Blair then recounts the visit to Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton), telling the monarch that her former daughter-in-law hopes to become an ambassador of some kind to the United Kingdom or to hold an official position in the government.
The prime minister also praises Diana’s philanthropic efforts, particularly her recent work with victims of landmines and AIDS patients, saying pointedly, “When Diana talks, the world listens.”
However, Queen Elizabeth insists that Diana cannot be “in and out” of the royal family.
In reality, Princess Diana had accepted a position as a special ambassador for Britain not long before she died. One month after her death, Blair spoke to BBC interviewer David Frost about the role he and the princess had discussed.
“She had a tremendous ability, as we saw over the landmines issue … to enter into an area that could have been one of controversy and suddenly just clarify for people what was clearly the right thing to do,” he said, per The Los Angeles Times.
“I felt there were all sorts of ways that could have been harnessed and used for the good of people,” he added.
Princess Diana vacations in St. Tropez with Prince William and Prince Harry in July 1997
Episode 1 also sees Princess Diana pack up her sons to vacation in St. Tropez at the same time their father is preparing to celebrate the 50th birthday of his then-girlfriend, Camilla Parker-Bowles. The trio are guests of Mohamed Al-Fayed, and Diana is introduced to Mohamed’s son, Dodi, while on board the family’s yacht.
Paparazzi follow the yacht closely — so much so that Diana asks them to back off so her children can enjoy the trip. While on board, Mohamed strongly encourages his son to pursue a relationship with Diana, despite the fact that he is engaged to another woman and set to marry her within weeks.
The trip with the Al-Fayed family really happened, and Diana was famously photographed in a leopard-print swimsuit on July 17 — Camilla’s 50th birthday. Per Newsweek, the photos ran in the Daily Mirror on July 18, the day of Charles’ party for his girlfriend, with the headline: “Dear Camilla, This will keep you off the front page. Happy Birthday & Breast Wishes love Diana.”
Paparazzi capture Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed kissing onboard the Jonikal yacht
Diana left the yacht to return her children to their father, but within days, she traveled alone back to Dodi to spend more time on board the Jonkial. In the episode “Two Photographs,” Diana is also planning a trip to Bosnia, where she walks through a landmine field to raise awareness. At the covert instruction of Mohamed, who told photographers about the couple’s trip, she and Dodi are photographed kissing on board the yacht without either of them knowing.
In the series, the photos of their kiss are published while Diana is in Bosnia. While speaking at a press conference about her walk, the princess is peppered with endless questions about her relationship with Dodi, overshadowing her landmark tour.
In reality, Diana’s famous landmine walk happened in January 1997 in Angola. Though it’s true that she visited Bosnia for the same issue during her last summer, The Crown takes creative liberties and combines the two trips into one.
The episode concludes when Dodi gives Diana a present along with a note that reads: “Paris next week?”
Dodi Fayed buys Princess Diana a diamond ring
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 up running away and taking refuge in a jewelry 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.
The following day, Diana tells Dodi that she plans to get on a British Airways flight to see her sons. He offers his family’s jet with the provision that they stop in Paris first — though she doesn’t know it, Dodi plans to visit a jewelry store that has the very ring Diana admired in the shop. Diana agrees, thus delaying her return to London by one night, a decision that ultimately proves to have disastrous consequences.
According to Diana’s former driver Colin Tebbut, at least part of this account is fabricated. He told the Daily Mail in 2021 that Diana delayed returning to England due to criticism she received from some politicians following her work related to landmines.
However, what is true is that Dodi purchased a $14,000 ring while in Monte Carlo, and he seemed to be planning a special night for Diana in Paris. His butler, Rene Delorm, said that Dodi asked him to have “the champagne on ice when they returned to the apartment” that evening, as Lord Justice Scott Baker said in the official inquest into the couple's death,
At the time of Diana and Dodi’s death, Daily Mail reporter Richard Kay said the Princess of Wales was “as happy as I have ever known her” and that she might have considered marrying Dodi. He later recanted that statement.
Princess Diana flies to Paris with Dodi Fayed on Aug. 30, 1997
In The Crown, the pair fly to Paris the next day. Diana is frustrated by both the paparazzi that chase them through the city and by Dodi’s father, who insists she and Dodi stop by his home in Paris first. Diana, who is hoping to make a planned phone call with her sons, is visibly bothered by Mohamed’s overriding of their plans to go to Dodi’s home.
Diana is able to connect with her sons for a brief phone call in which they both make it clear they aren’t Dodi’s biggest fans. Prince William asks Diana if she and Dodi are getting married, something she flatly denies.
While the exact details of what did or didn’t happen on Diana’s final day have not been shared to the detail they are reenacted in the series, Prince William and Prince Harry admitted in a 2017 documentary that their last phone call with their mother was rushed. In Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, William said, “If I’d known now what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have been so blasé about it. But that phone call sticks in my mind quite heavily.”
Harry added, “Looking back on it now, it’s incredibly hard. I’ll have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life. How differently that conversation could have panned out if I’d had even the slightest inkling her life was going to be taken that night.”
Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed die in a car crash
While The Crown does not show the exact moment that the accident takes place, the car chase that preceded the wreck is shown. In episode 3, Diana and Dodi decide to eat dinner at The Ritz instead of their planned meal at Chez Benoit. Dodi proposes in their room and Diana turns him down, and the two make plans to travel together back to his apartment in the city.
The truth is that there is no hard evidence Dodi ever proposed to Diana. In The Crown, Diana tells Dodi that she plans to spend more time with her children. Sadly, she didn’t get the opportunity.
Though it wasn't depicted in the series, Dodi was killed instantly at the site of the crash, along with the driver of the car, Henri Paul. Diana initially survived the accident, though her injuries were extensive. She was transported to a hospital, and despite doctors attempting to restart her heart for hours, they ultimately were unable to save her life. She was pronounced dead around 4 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1997.
The royal family mourns the death of Princess Diana at her funeral
Much has been made of the royal family’s response to Princess Diana’s death, especially in the days that immediately followed. In “Aftermath,” the fourth and final episode for part 1 of season 6, Prince Charles is immediately distraught upon hearing news of Diana’s death and insists they use a family plane to bring her body home from Paris. This was mirrored in real life when Charles was joined on the trip by Princess Diana’s sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes.
While the nation mourned, the family remained holed up in Scotland at Balmoral. This is depicted in The Crown similarly. At the same time, the public was absolutely devastated by Diana’s loss. Thousands of people lined up outside Buckingham Palace each day, patiently waiting for a turn to leave flowers or gifts in her honor.
In both the show and real life, the royals returned to Britain after several days and greeted the public. Prince William and Prince Harry walked behind their mother’s coffin, with a letter addressed to “Mummy” sitting on top. They were joined by Prince Philip, Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, and Prince Charles, who wore a blue suit that was Diana’s favorite instead of a black one — a detail that The Crown left out.
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