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The Crown: As Diana, Elizabeth Debicki is 'a thing of wonder'

  • 15 December 2023
  The Crown, that extraordinary TV series about the British Royal Family, is drawing to a close, with the final six episodes encompassing the death of the Queen released in the prelude to Christmas on 16 December. In the meantime, the producers (led by Stephen Daldry and script writer Peter Morgan), have shrewdly done a quartet of episodes about Diana, with Australia's Elizabeth Debicki giving a dazzling performance as ‘the People's Princess’.

When Princess Diana tragically died in that Paris car accident, the Royal Standard was flown at half-mast; this was unprecedented because of the credence that the monarchy cannot die: ‘The Queen is dead. Long live the King.’ The monarchy may not be dead, but Diana certainly turned it on its head. This ‘butter wouldn't melt in her mouth’ girl from a posh but not regal family, this fairytale virgin with the blonde hair and bashful manner, of whom someone nastily once said would be challenged by the duties of an usherette: Lady Diana Spencer.

A famous and decadent British novelist, much given to drugs and black satire, once said ‘Diana Spencer used to open doors for me’, and he didn't mean it as a compliment — he meant it literally. And yet she would bring the monarchy to its knees. Why? Because Prince Charles would dither about the woman he was actually in love with, Camilla, who is now, with the blessing of Elizabeth II, Queen of England. 

Charles seems to have known from early on that Camilla was whom he wanted, but he was under pressure to concede to an ‘idyllic’ coupling and seems pretty palpably to have reckoned on having his cultivated true love on the side anyway. The epic tabloid story is all there in Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles, published in 2007, nearly a decade after Diana's death. Over the years we have no doubt absorbed more about this drama than we realise. The Prince of Wales was hardly to know that phone tapping would render immortal his private remarks about wishing he was his paramour's tampon — made all the more piteous and funny in the context of what Diana did to the House of Windsor. 

And, of course, it’s all made more visible by the fact that Camilla and Charles were always nature’s royalty. He was a Prince of Wales who had been allowed to stray and who was in the habit of getting his own way (much