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Season 5 of the sensational Netflix series partly follows Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) into the next stage of her life, during which she starts to take control of her narrative. In the first few episodes, we see journalist Andrew Morton (Andrew Steele), who Diana calls "one of the friendly ones," approach her dear friend, Dr. James Colthurst (Oliver Chris), as a means to get access to the late Spencer. He agrees and thus begins the exchange of secret interviews that later inform the 1992 tell-all, Diana: Her True Story.
The biography unveiled shocking details about the Princess of Wales's personal life, including her struggles with mental health, her crumbling marriage to the now-King Charles III and her difficult life within the royal family. Like the series, Princess Diana's explosive biography caused major fallout — Charles and Diana separated later that year and divorced in 1996, the year before her death. Here's everything we know about the true story behind Princess Diana's book tapes:
Did Princess Diana actually record secret tapes?
It's true! Andrew and Diana denied her involvement at the time of publishing, but he later revealed that she had been the primary source. Though, the biographer told Entertainment Tonight that the series condensed the "laborious" happenings behind the tapes.
The two had a sort of espionage that Andrew depicted: "What would happen is that James Colthurst, the intermediary, would go to Kensington Palace with a list of questions that I prepared, and he would mic Diana up. Then, she would answer the questions and then they go have lunch. Then, it was my job to type it all up and ask follow-ups."
As The Crown alluded, Andrew told Daily Mail that Diana vividly detailed her life on the tapes. "Turning on a battered tape recorder, I listened with mounting astonishment to the unmistakable voice of Princess Diana. She was pouring out a tale of woe in a rapid stream of consciousness," he said to the outlet.
Who is James Colthurst?
Though we see Diana's doctor friend in limited appearances on The Crown — one episode, to be exact — he had a far more prominent role in her court. The pair initially met in Val Claret, France, when Diana hurt her ankle, and remained close for years, according to Town and Country.
"Good fun, bright and mischievous, it was hard not to hit it off with Diana straight away, and so began the friendship she and I maintained for the rest of her short, eventful life," he wrote in a Telegraph essay on what would have been her 60th birthday.
Diana entrusted James with her most intimate secrets, including the task of smuggling her taped answers to Andrew. The doctor told 60 Minutes that their meetings required far more precautions than seen on the show, using phone "scramblers" to record their conversations. "I had one and Diana had the other one, she'd put it over the phone, like this. That's encrypted between the two. It's really primitive technology for nowadays, but at the time ... it worked very well."
Did Prince Philip really try to talk Diana out of it?
It's rumored that Prince Philip felt sympathy and even took a liking toward Diana, as acted out through their interactions in season 4. That dynamic shifts in season 5 when Philip confronts Diana and warns her against speaking out. According to USA Today, however, the encounter actually never happened, at least, not in the same way.
Whispers around the palace made it clear that many knew about the book months before its publication, rumoring that Diana had something to do with it. USA Today reported that Diana held steadfast in her denial to Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and private secretary Robert Fellowes in a meeting at Windsor Castle. In that discussion, the monarch and patriarch urged Diana and Charles to stay together and learn to work through their difficulties, according to the outlet.
How much did The Crown get right?
Other than that, the show held a keen eye for accuracy. Andrew told Today that he served as a consultant on the show — the series went as far as to re-create the wallpaper on his daughter's bedroom (that he used as an office, at the time) and the font on the chapters he sent to Diana.
The author told Today that the most uncanny of all was watching Elizabeth Debicki play Diana. “Her mannerisms and speech patterns were identical to the late princess," he said on the show. "For me, having worked so closely with her, it was like seeing a ghost."
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