The impact of retelling that Panorama interview in The Crown

The closer the future seasons of The Crown get to current times, the more awkward it’s expected to be. While most of its audience was very distant from the first years of Queen Elizabeth II as a ruler, therefore either found what was shown as “true”, it was distant enough not to cause too much headache.

For most of us, impacted by the beauty and charm of Diana Spencer, it came as sort of a surprise the love story between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, focused on Season 3, which actually brought sympathy for a couple that used to be mentioned and “the bad guys” in Diana’s narrative, the one the audience trusts and takes as gospel. It was a matter of (short) time until the roles would go back to that version, that came out in Season 4. The ugliest part, though, is still to come. Yes, we mean that Panorama interview.

Andrew Morton‘s biography of Diana, which was published in 1992, caused a lot of alarm for the Royal Family. In candid tales about her suffering in a loveless marriage, Diana – who was already extremely popular – settled the public on her side. Until 1995, she insisted on not having taken part in the project (later revealed to be a lie) so it was a witch hunt as to who leaked what to whom. In a very public PR war between Diana and Charles, both seemed to be trying hard to discredit the other all the time, with stories giving different visions of their misfortune. In her defense, it was Charles who came out first about Camilla’s affair (after the tapes were leaked to the press) in an interview with the BBC. At this point, miserable and almost hopeless, Diana also decided to speak publicly, and she meant to harm her husband. Mission accomplished.

That Panorama interview changed History, for better and worse. It was also crucial in Naomi Watts’s movie about the princess and it must be in the next season of The Crown. The question is… which Diana will they show?

It’s been proved now that she was manipulated into participating in the show, with false documents and reports that even her son was being used against her. That anxiety, with desperation and overwhelming feelings, also led her to speak even more than she needed to. Diana meant and achieved hurting Charles’ reputation forever, but her freedom was bought with loneliness and distrust in most of the people surrounding her. Friends such as Sarah Ferguson were cut off. She was extremely alone and weary the last couple of years of her life. The Panorama interview was – at the time – the first time actually we heard her speaking about her misfortunes, only later did she admit collaborating with Morton, and even later was that we heard her own voice describing it all. It was unheard of.

While her friends supported Diana in finding happiness and freedom, her own brother condemned the interview, as well as her sons. She spoke the truth and she meant to do it, but she did it out of a criminal lie. It hurts that we all know it and died unaware of it.

The words ‘paranoid’ and ‘suspicious’ are often mentioned when her friends and relatives speak of Diana’s later years and that interview showed us pretty much that. So, it’s impossible that the next season of The Crown, which is to start shooting in a few weeks, will not include “the” interview. It’s Diana’s state of mind now that Peter Morgan will have to decide to show. Is it the Diana we thought to be brave or is it Diana being once again trolled and pushed into the butchers? It’s the major challenge for the series now as it goes to its past phase.


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