It’s not a documentary! Princess Diana’s story line on season 5 of The Crown wasn’t entirely accurate — especially when it came to her Panorama interview, a royal expert exclusively reveals to Us Weekly.
“Look, it’s drama. It’s fiction that’s somewhat based on fact,” royal expert Nick Bullen tells Us of the Netflix series’ latest installment, which premiered in November.
The True Royalty TV editor in chief explains that the Martin Bashir interview, which originally took place with Diana in 1995, wasn’t depicted as truthful as possible on The Crown.
“Virtually all of it was — certainly — sort of widened the mark,” Bullen says of the two-episode arc. “I think they didn’t even go far enough in looking at how Bashir got the interview. I mean, they sort of touched on it, you know, it was incredibly fraudulent what went on there.”
Diana made headlines in 1995 after sitting down with Bashir for Panorama’s tell-all interview. During the conversation, the princess spoke candidly about her relationship with King Charles III following their 1992 separation. (The duo finalized their divorce in 1996, one year before Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.) Bashir died in 2009.
In November 2020, Diana’s oldest son, Prince William, spoke out in support of BBC’s investigation onto Bashir’s questionable tactics while interviewing the late royal. BBC issued a public apology to Charles, 74, and his two sons, William, 40, and Prince Harry, as well as Diana, in July after finding that Bashir “deceived” Diana throughout the Panorama discussion.
While the Netflix series touched upon Diana’s desire to get back into Queen Elizabeth II’s good graces after the disastrous interview, Bullen reveals to Us that the late Princess of Wales was much more remorseful than she appeared on camera.
“I think in the initial days after [the interview] she really felt she’d got her voice out there,” he says. “She also believed what Bashir had told her about the security services listening to her and what was going on. I think as more clarity set in it became more and more apparent it was a huge mistake.”
The royal aficionado notes that Diana ultimately “realized she shouldn’t do it” and “absolutely” felt remorse for her choice.
“To be fair, what The Crown did get right was the fact that Charles Spencer, her brother, had started to have misgivings about Bashir before the interview and had tried to persuade Diana this perhaps wasn’t the right way to go about it,” Bullen continues. “As we all saw in the show, Bashir was recreating bank statements, trying to claim that people were being paid by the security services. And if someone shows you that, you probably do believe it, even if you are not already paranoid about what’s going on. I think she did regret it.”
The journalist also criticized The Crown for the season 5 episodes that “damage the monarchy,” including story lines about Charles during the ‘90s.
“When Charles does the handover of Hong Kong, it appears that he takes [Queen Consort Camilla] for a holiday on the Royal Yacht Britannia. Simply not true,” Bullen claims. “The idea that Diana was meeting Mohamed Al-Fayed at the Windsor Horse Show. Not true. The idea that Princess Margaret and the queen are having standup round about Peter Townsend — not true.”
He concludes: “What The Crown is very clever at is it does take sort of enough fact to be able to spin up a version of the truth. I think people have gotta watch it with an eye to this is drama that is based on real life events. But that’s the danger … is how far the real life events go.”
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi