The creative team behind Netflix’s hit royal drama The Crown have opened up about how the show will depict the tragic death of Princess Diana in its final season, following backlash last year after production shots circulated online.
Executive producers and the production designer of the series, which dramatizes the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II and her family, spoke at the Edinburgh TV Festival in Scotland on Thursday, in an event titled: “Secrets behind The Crown.”
The show’s sixth and final season will debut later this year, ending after 60 episodes that have earned both praise and backlash since the first season aired in 2016.
Executive producer Suzanne Mackie told festival attendees, per The Sun, that the creative team had been “meticulous in our research,” to inform their depiction of Diana’s final days, but conceded that “the audience will judge it in the end.”
One of the key controversies that has plagued the show is the depiction of the life, loves and loss of Princess Diana, who was first introduced to viewers in season four, played by actress Emma Corrin.
A number of prominent voices objected to the on-screen depiction of the princess’ relationship with Prince Charles (now King Charles III) as well as her battle with the eating disorder, bulimia nervosa. Among these were the then-British culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, who called for a disclaimer to be added to each episode explicitly labeling the show a work of fiction.
For the fifth season of the show, the role of Diana was picked up by Australian actress, Elizabeth Debicki, whose performance was nominated for recognition at the upcoming Primetime Emmy awards. Still, a number of high-profile voices came out against the show, including former prime minister Sir John Major and Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench.
The sixth season will cover events from the summer of 1997, in the weeks leading up to Diana’s death, to the spring of 2005, with the marriage of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles (now Queen Camilla).
On exactly how The Crown will tackle the volatile subject of Diana’s death—which occurred after the car she was traveling in through Paris with boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, collided at speed with the structural pillar of an underground tunnel—Mackie stressed that it would be done “delicately.”
“There was no question that we would be, firstly, meticulous in our research and read and listen, and of course secondly and most importantly is to be sensitive,” she said.
“There was very, very careful, long, long conversations about how we do it, and the audience will judge it in the end. But I think it’s been delicately, thoughtfully recreated.”
On Debicki’s challenge of portraying the princess at the climax of her fame and demise, the executive producer said: “My goodness, she’s an extraordinary actress and she was so, so thoughtful and considerate and loved Diana so there was a huge amount of respect from us all—I hope that’s evident when you see it.”
In October 2022, leaked shots from the filming of scenes in Paris with a black car speeding in an area near to the tunnel where Diana’s crash occurred prompted backlash from the princess’ friends.
Astrologer Debbie Frank, who was close to Diana in her final years, told the Daily Mail at the time: “It’s obviously terrible for Diana’s children to have to see that again. It’s insensitive…I guess the makers of The Crown feel they are entitled to show a re-enactment of scenes leading up to her death and that it has dramatic impact. But relatives would think otherwise.”
On the subject of what exactly will be shown on screen, representatives for Netflix previously told Newsweek that events leading up to the accident and the aftermath will be shown, but not the crash itself.
No release date for the final season has yet been given, but viewers can expect it to hit screens before the end of the year. As well as the controversial depiction of Diana’s final days, the show will also introduce a key new storyline for its final installment, that of the romance of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The couple met while studying at university in Scotland just four years after Diana’s death in 2001, and began their relationship soon after. Newcomers to the show’s stellar cast, which includes Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth, actor Ed McVey will take on the role of William, while actress Meg Bellamy will star as Kate.
Officially Buckingham Palace has not commented on The Crown or the number of controversies surrounding the show, however, several royals including Princess Anne, Queen Camilla and Prince Harry have intimated that they have tuned in.
Speaking about the show in 2021, Harry, who signed a partnership deal with Netflix a year earlier, told Late Night host James Cordon: “They don’t pretend to be news. It’s fiction…But it’s loosely based on the truth.
“It gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that. I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family, or my wife, or myself.”
James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek’s royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith
and read his stories on Newsweek’s .
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