Sundance 2022: 5 Chilling Takeaways From The Princess

Kent Gavin / Courtesy HBO

Almost 25 years after her death, Princess Diana’s life story is being revisited once again. Directed by Ed Perkins, The Princess – which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival – uses old interviews and news footage to recount pivotal moments in Diana’s public life, including her highly publicised divorce from Prince Charles and her fatal 1997 car accident in Paris. The documentary is structured without any explanations or talking heads, letting viewers see Diana’s life play out on screen just like the world did at the time. In using this “immersive approach,” Perkins aims to reframe Diana’s story and “offer something new to the conversation we are still having about Diana all these years later.”

“Diana herself was a complex and paradoxical figure.”

“I wanted to aim at something more immersive and unmediated, constructed solely from contemporaneous archive from the time – the very imagery that people ‘knew’ Diana through. No interviews. No hindsight reflection. My hope was that in doing so we might get to something more profound, with greater emotional clarity and honesty about those events and the strange power they had, and still have, on so many people,” Perkins said in a statement. “I also wanted to revisit the national dialogue and debate around Diana at the time – something I think we have all too easily forgotten. Diana herself was a complex and paradoxical figure. It was, in my opinion, one of the things people found so fascinating and magnetic about her.”

Aug. 31 will mark the 25th anniversary of Diana’s death. With The Princess, Perkins hopes people will experience Diana’s story through a fresh lens and see it both for what it was then and what it is now. Keep reading for the five biggest, most chilling takeaways from the documentary.

  1. Diana and Charles stayed at the home of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and her former husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, prior to their wedding. Ahead of their July 1981 nuptials, Diana and Charles joined Camilla and Andrew at their Wiltshire home on two separate occasions. A few years later, it was reported that Charles and Camilla were having an affair.
  2. Charles became increasingly jealous of the public attention Diana received after their wedding. One reporter cited that Charles realised he was taking “second place” to Diana. “He knows it’s the princess people have come to see,” the reporter said in a voiceover featuring a clip of Diana and Charles greeting the public. Charles even cracked a joke about needing two wives during one of their royal engagements. “I’ve come to the conclusion that really it would have been far easier to have two wives to have covered both sides of the street,” he said. “I could’ve walked down the middle directing the operation.”
  3. Charles went to play polo less than one hour after he and Diana returned from the hospital with Prince Harry following his birth. “He has always carried on, ever since he got married, as if he were a bachelor,” one reporter said. “He’s made absolutely no concession, and he never did, almost no concession at all to being a married man with the responsibilities of a wife and now two children.” Meanwhile, Diana felt that her role was to support Charles by encouraging him and being his wife and mother to his children.
  4. Diana was called a “monster” for wanting to lead a more private life. Similar to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, Diana announced her withdrawal from public life during a charity luncheon in December 1993. “When I started my public life 12 years ago, I understood that the media might be interested in what I did. I realised then that their attention would inevitably focus on both our private and public lives. But I was not aware of how overwhelming that attention would become, nor the extent to which it would affect both my public duties and my personal life,” Diana said in her speech. “When I’ve completed my diary of official engagements, I will be reducing the extent of the public life I’ve led so far.” Many criticised her decision to step back, with one reporter saying it would have “untold damage to the royal family and the institution of the monarchy.”
  5. The public almost turned on Queen Elizabeth II for taking so long to address Diana’s death. When news broke that Diana had died in a car accident in August 1997, the queen received major backlash for waiting five days to publicly address Diana’s death. She was also criticised for not returning quickly enough to London and failing to appear at tributes near Buckingham Palace. One woman said, “Our queen should be here in London with her people. This is her nation, and they should know how all her people feel about Diana.”
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