Everything Spencer Gets Wrong About Princess Diana
Princess Diana has proven to be a compelling figure to the public for decades now — since her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981, and even more so after her tragic death in a car crash in 1997 at age 36. Just last year, Netflix’s popular drama series, “The Crown,” introduced the character of Diana into the mix, with actress Emma Corrin receiving much acclaim for her portrayal as the late beloved princess. Elizabeth Debecki will take over the role for the show’s fifth season.
In the meantime, royal fans have another Diana portrayal to absorb — director Pablo Larraín’s biographical film, “Spencer,” with Kristen Stewart taking on the leading role of Diana. Written by Stephen Knight, “Spencer” follows Diana as she struggles through the three-day Christmas weekend with the Royal Family. The film has received positive reviews so far, with a Tomatometer score of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Naturally, the film has garnered conversations about its historical accuracy in regards to the real Diana’s life. At the beginning of the film, the story is presented as a “fable based on a true tragedy.” So, what exactly does “Spencer” get wrong about Princess Diana?
Diana allegedly did throw herself down stairs — but at a different time
In one scene of “Spencer,” Diana sneaks away to visit her childhood home, which has been all boarded up. And in one heartbreaking moment, Diana stands at the top of a staircase and contemplates throwing herself down, in what would likely result in her death. She imagines it, but ultimately doesn’t go through with it, and leaves her family home.
This is allegedly based on a real incident — although one that happened at a totally different time. In 2017, The Independent reported that Diana recorded an account of an incident in which she threw herself down a set of stairs, while pregnant, and sent the tapes to journalist Andrew Morton for his book about her, “Diana: Her True Story.” According to the Daily Mail, Diana says on the tapes, “When I was four months pregnant with William I threw myself downstairs, trying to get my husband’s attention, for him to listen to me. I had told Charles I felt so desperate and I was crying my eyes out. He said I was crying wolf. ‘I’m not going to listen,’ he said. ‘You’re always doing this to me. I’m going riding now.’ So I threw myself down the stairs. The Queen comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking — she was so frightened.”
Diana's childhood home isn't abandoned
It’s mentioned almost immediately in the film that the location for the Royal Family’s Christmas is extremely close to the house that Diana grew up in — she even finds a scarecrow that she made as a kid. Naturally, she finds herself wanting to visit the place she grew up in. After first being stopped by guards when she attempts to leave the premises to visit her childhood home, Diana eventually makes it there on another attempt. There, she has flashbacks to her childhood before the pivotal instance in which she contemplates throwing herself down the stairs.
As it turns out, Diana’s childhood home really is near the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where the film takes place. However, it isn’t exactly boarded up — in fact, it’s currently being fully utilized in a way that may surprise people. According to The Independent, the property was actually converted into a fully functioning hospital after Diana’s family moved out of the home.
Charles may have not gave Diana and Camilla the same gift
Just about everybody knows that Charles had an affair with his former girlfriend — and now-wife — Camilla Parker Bowles while married to Diana. And in “Spencer,” that affair is a point of contention for the estranged spouses. Diana reveals early on that she knows that Charles gifted Camilla the same pearl necklace that he gifted her — the same one Diana wears for the bulk of the film. In one scene, outside of church, Diana stares at Camilla (Emma Darwall-Smith), but the two never speak and Camilla doesn’t physically appear within the film again. Still, her presence is very much felt throughout a good chunk of the film, both by Diana and the audience.
While Charles’ affair is a confirmed fact, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence indicating that he ever gifted Diana and Camilla the same necklace. Vulture confirmed that while the gesture makes for compelling tension within the narrative, it isn’t actually based on any fact.
Maggie may or may not have been made up for the film
In “Spencer,” Diana finds herself at odds with her husband and is very much presented as an outsider to his family. However, she isn’t without her allies — Diana confides in the palace’s staff. Further, she is especially close with her dresser, Maggie (Sally Hawkins). As Diana’s closest confidante, Maggie is easily one of the most likeable characters of the film — especially in a sea of cold Royal Family members.
However, is Maggie based on a real person from Diana’s life? Essentially, the answer is unclear. In an interview with Vulture, screenwriter Stephen Knight gave a pretty vague answer, stating, “I have to tread very carefully when talking about specifics because I got the information from people who were there on the understanding that there was no specific identification of anyone. I will also say that those things that seem the most obvious are true.”
With this in mind, Maggie may be an amalgamation of confidantes Diana had, or she may be based on one person with liberties taken — but, at the very least, there doesn’t seem to have been a dresser named Maggie.