Spencer’s explosive film shows Princess Diana’s self-harm, bulimia and mental breakdown – but what’s true?
KRISTEN Stewart’s drama Princess Diana is arguably the most explosive royal film ever made.
The film titled Spencer will rock House Windsor with a series of shocking scenes, some of which are fictional and some based on truth.
Diana, who died in a car accident in Paris in 1997 aged just 36, is described as being in the midst of a psychological breakdown as she desperately tries to escape the grip of her in-laws suffocating.
In the film, which will be released on Friday, November 5, viewers will see the beloved late princess self-harming with wire cutters, deliberately throwing up her food and discussing pleasuring herself.
The film by Chilean director Pablo Larrain, who also directed a Jackie Kennedy biopic, also stars Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins.
Larrain described its production as a “fable of a real tragedy” rather than a biopic.
Diana’s biographer Ingrid Seward said Princes William and Harry would be “very angry and hurt” by the way their late mother is portrayed in the film.
But much of it is based on historical reports. Here we separate fact from fantasy.
Diana “feared for her life”
Spencer is set for three days at the Sandringham Estate in December 1991 as Diana and Prince Charles’ marriage comes to an end.
It is correct that the couple’s relationship was at breaking point during this time and they announced their separation less than a year later.
Diana asks “are they going to kill me?” because she arrived late for the festive rendezvous, after the Queen.
It is true that it is traditional for the sovereign to arrive last at any royal event.
Princes William and Harry will be very angry and hurt
Was Diana afraid of being killed? The comment appears to be made in jest in the film, but it was reported that she expressed fears of being pushed back.
She once reportedly remarked, “One day I’m going to get in a helicopter, and it’s going to blow up. MI6 is going to take me out.”
Weighed on arrival
Upon arrival, Spall’s character – Equerry Major Alistair Gregory – insists that Diana is weighed on a scale.
Although it appears to be a nod to the princess’ documented eating disorder, it’s actually a bizarre royal Christmas tradition.
It was started by King Edward VII who feared that guests would not enjoy the festivities enough by eating plenty of food.
Thus, they were weighed at the beginning and at the end of the stay to see if they had gained enough kilos.
Self-harm and OCD
In the film, Diana makes herself sick after eating sumptuous food and cakes.
A scene that shows her swallowing a pearl necklace gifted by Charles before later regurgitating them is clearly a fantasy.
It is well known, however, that Diana actually suffered from bulimia and the royal family were concerned about her weight loss.
After sticking her head in the toilet, Charles’ wife rubs her hands in what appears to be an act of obsessive compulsive disorder.
While biographers including Penny Junor reported that Diana suffered from depression and severe mood swings, no OCD diagnosis was made.
Likewise, Larrain charges the turbo to dramatic effect when he features the fragile princess who self-harms.
In secret recordings by her biographer Andrew Morton, Diana apparently confessed to cutting herself while at Balmoral.
But the director takes this to a horrifying new level by showing Diana attacking his arm with wire cutters.
Royal biographer and expert Penny Junor said the film was “unnecessarily gratuitous”, adding: “Let’s leave Diana with some respect and dignity. I know William was there when she was unhappy, but it seems to me that the film is factually incorrect.”
Obsession of Anne Boleyn
Diana continues to see visions of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and even turns into an executed queen at one point.
The film is historically accurate when it says the Spencer family are distantly related to the Boleyns – but Diana’s obsession with her is likely a work of fiction.
Diana says of Boleyn in the film: “She married the King of England and he cut off her head because he met another woman and wanted her to be queen instead.”
This appears to be a reference to Camilla Parker Bowles, Charles’ mistress who became his second wife.
There is no historical record of conversations between members of the royal household at Christmas 1991, so they were largely imagined by screenwriters.
Intentions laid bare
A particularly shocking moment in the film is when Diana says to her dressing table, “Now leave me, I want to masturbate.”
Twilight star Stewart pretty much maintains the late princess’ modesty.
The actress is never shown fully nude, but we do see her in a state of undress a few times.
Spall’s creepy character would later tell him, “One of them saw you getting dressed and undressed with the curtains open.”
Although this is clearly a fictional scene, the masturbation reference could have been loosely inspired by Diana’s affair with actor James Gilbey, nicknamed “Squidgygate” after he called her Squidgy during of a leaked phone call in late 1989.
He reportedly told the princess he would imagine holding her near him at night, and on another occasion discussed masturbation.
Over the three days, the Princess is increasingly drawn to the dilapidated Spencer family home in Sandringham.
It is true that she was born Diana Spencer at Park House on the Norfolk Estate and spent time there as a child.
But the property was donated by the Queen to the Leonard Cheshire charity in 1983, long before the events of this film, and has not been left unused.
Additionally, the castle used to portray Sandringham in Spencer bears no resemblance to the royal household.
I’ll cut my dress to pieces with a kitchen knife
Stewart as Diana
Filmed in a schloss – similar to a castle – in Germany, it has a spectacular square moat, which the British house does not have.
We also see Diana’s frustration with rituals, including rules about what to wear and when.
At one point, she threatens, “I’m going to cut my dress into pieces with a kitchen knife.
It’s true that the royal family would have to change their outfit for every Christmas event during the day, and Diana didn’t like that.
Royal expert Richard Kay said: “It was one of the inflexible rituals that Princess Diana and the Duchess of York found difficult to adapt to.”
The Caring Princess
Spencer accurately shows that Diana is warm towards servants.
In the film, she confides in Darren, played by Mission Impossible actor Sean Harris, a few times.
Former royal chef Darren McGrady has told how the late princess often visited the kitchen to chat with staff after meals.
He said: “I was always there, so sometimes she’d come in and vent about things she wasn’t happy about. Other times I’d see her burst into tears and it was like, ‘What is I say ‘do?’ Other times she’s told a dirty, risque joke and you’re thinking, “I can’t believe Princess Diana said that!”
Disapproved of hunting
The drama delves into Diana’s revulsion for blood sports.
Charles wants his sons to like hunting, but she is against it.
According to royal biographer Robert Jobson, the Princess “violently disapproved of the ‘manly’ activities which Charles encouraged his sons to enjoy”.
It may be Spencer’s hard truths that will hurt the Royals more than his outrageous fantasy scenes.
There’s no doubt that Diana was troubled at this point in her life and it wasn’t a particularly happy Christmas.