HBO’s ‘The Princess’ documentary looks heartbreaking & interesting

Back in January, Ed Perkins debuted his documentary at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. I remember reading about it then and hoping that a streamer picked it up. HBO ended up buying it, and it will premiere on August 13. The documentary is called The Princess, and it’s entirely about Princess Diana’s life on camera, from her pre-engagement days as Lady Diana Spencer to the divorced Princess of Wales, up to her last days in Paris. This is not an investigative documentary and Perkins didn’t conduct interviews or anything like that. What he does is simply use archival footage, including commentary and news pieces at that time, and puts together Diana’s story. Here’s the trailer:

“There are people in there… trapped…” Ugh. This is going to be a gut-punch. I remember the critics at Sundance praising Perkins for his use of the archival footage, including stuff which rarely gets used or re-used. It IS timely. Not only will this come out just a couple of weeks before the anniversary of Diana’s death, but HBO is getting in ahead of Netflix’s fifth season of The Crown, which will be very Diana-intensive.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

33 Responses to “HBO’s ‘The Princess’ documentary looks heartbreaking & interesting”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. anna says:

    also presumably more ppl will pick up on the fact that they met when she was 16. and then hopefully appreciate more parallels to the fact that meghan is also treated in the same way – more than herself but as a symbol, as a punching bag

  2. C-Shell says:

    Jeez, I teared up just watching the trailer! Gut punch, indeed. This looks like it should win all the editing awards. Even though we’ve seen much or most of this from time to time, seeing it all laid out this way will be a revelation. I think I’m ready 😬

  3. Becks1 says:

    Jesus, this line – “when you put a modern person in an ancient institution, they will be destroyed.” The Duchess of Sussex can relate.

    This looks so powerful, its going to be a great prelude to the Crown (I’m sure Netflix appreciates it, lol) AND, the bigger issue for the Firm? its going to remind people of what happened to Diana and what is still happening to Meghan.

  4. Tessa says:

    William cannot censor this

  5. Midnight@theOasis says:

    That documentary looks awesome. Will definitely watch it. Interesting that the closing line of the trailer was about people being trapped. Words Prince Harry said about his father and brother.

  6. SAS says:

    Wow! Will definitely be seeking this out.

    I suspect it will be more an indictment of the media than the (royal) system but 100% the BRF will come off badly given the emotions it stirs of the time. Not to mention their almost 100% hit rate on having the worst, panic-driven, PR responses/deflection.

    I think it will give Will a bit of a popularity boost though, again due to the emotional resonance of remembering what they went through. And he really does resemble her. He’ll probably mess it up with a shitty take but remains to be seen.

    I think the parallels with Harry and Megan will be unavoidable. Their current activism reflecting Diana’s constant meaningful work just contributes to the similarities. I really think/hope the BM are going to have to pull their punches for a while because of it. I hope this is going to be HUGE.

    • Tessa says:

      Harry is more like Diana William is not and looks more like a Windsor now

    • Both Sides Now says:

      @ SAS, as for a popularity boost for Willy will be short lived IF he gains some or not. People will be remembering his recent comments relating to his Mum being paranoid, and other such revolting labels. It will certainly not give Charles a boost as his answers to their initial reaction to each other was polar opposite’s.

      I will be glad though that people will see the similarities of Diana’s treatment and Meghan’s. It will certainly paint a picture as the documentary will create a visual narrative for those who haven’t made the connection yet.

      I am excited about this as it’s a wonderful reunion of sorts to see Diana and how wonderful of a person she was and how hard she worked to not only create her own path but how brilliantly she did so.

      @ Tessa, absolutely!! I don’t see much of Diana in Willy in fact. Though I do in Harry, especially his smile.

  7. Dominique says:

    Unpopular opinion, but OMG, can’t people give it a rest? i feel like even after her death, she is still being used by the media. The angle of the stories are more sympathetic but it’s always to make money off her.
    This new documentary isnt even bringing new info, just a rehash, and for what? It feels like every year there is another one of those, so it’s hardly to inform the new generation, given that there are already SO many documentaries about her.
    Hard pass, feels exploitative

    • Amy Bee says:

      Considering the British establishment is doing everything they can to silence Diana and to rewrite history, I welcome more documentaries about Diana.

      • Becks1 says:

        Great point @AmyBee.

        I would also add that as we are seeing history repeat with Harry and Meghan in so many ways, its important to remember that history so people understand this is how the Firm operates.

        I saw so many comments after the last season of the Crown that were basically, “omg that’s what they did to Meghan!!!!” People can see the parallels easily and its a problem for the royals. This is why learning and understanding history is so important, and what happened to diana is an important part of history.

    • SAS says:

      I understand your view and I am somewhat bracing for the raft of Diana content that will be coming after The Crown.

      It is an easy cash grab I agree, but I don’t really consider it exploitative. I personally think it’s important for the stories of women who’ve been mistreated by the media/ society/ systems etc to continue to be explored over time. Because the *way* the story is told changes over time as our understanding of trauma/mental health/bullying/impact of media/social media/[awareness of things yet to be known] etc changes.

      A lot of women’s legacies would look very different if we never re-examined them outside of their own period in time.

    • Dalek8 says:

      It’s the 25th anniversary of her death so no people will not let it rest. It’s a commemoration and to remind people what happen to her was a tragedy and what lead to it.
      There is a fascination about her just like there is a fascination for Great people of a time and place in this world.
      So, many people just like you won’t bother and it’s ok but at the same time saying it’s rehashing when there is a movement right now to prepare Charles’s ascension to the Crown is trying to erase her existence from popular culture but also public archive because her existence is still to this day a threat to him and his son, it’s an actual good thing that we have AGAIN a documentary out there to remind people what happen to her.
      It is exploitative but at the same time, she is a public figure, just like we have a thousands rehash about many other monarchs and celebrities.

    • Chaine says:

      I don’t think they will ever give it a rest? She is a monumental and tragic historical figure, on the level of Joan of Arc or Anne Boleyn. People will still be writing about her and making movies about her and mythologizing her 1000 years from now (that is, assuming the world doesn’t end via pandemic or war or accelerated climate change).

    • Jaded says:

      Diana made history. She broke the mold of the subservient royal wife who doormats for her cheating husband, turns a blind eye to his philandering and does exactly what the firm tells her to do. She survived being put down, gaslit and lied to, and managed to become what she always desired to be – the people’s princess – and created a wonderful career in public service and philanthropy. For all that she was chased to her death by the paparazzi. She deserves to be remembered and honored.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Would you say the same about the new movie about Marilyn Monroe? This particular documentary about Diana doesn’t seem exploitative but rather a serious examination of the the role of the monarchy & the role of the press in sustaining/supporting/creating a particular narrative & the detrimental effects it has when people lose sight that there’s a real person being affected by it all.

      • Saucy&Sassy says:

        BeanieBean, I think it’s even more powerful because it uses all of the camera footage and commentary at that time. It will give everyone a very real sense of what happened and how it happened.

        Let’s hope that when W&K come to the US there’s all kinds of pushback about W labelling his Mom paranoid. He’s done some truly horrific things in his 40 years, but that one might be the worst since he’s now gaslighting her along with his Dad. Why is it not “exploiting” Princess Di when Wont goes after her?

  8. E.A says:

    I feel really uncomfortable with all of this, let the woman rest in peace, let her children remember her in their own way. Yes Harry and William are privilege but dear God I wouldn’t want their lives.

    • Nedsdag says:

      @E.A. No! The more the merrier. Charles can try to do everything to push Camilla, but truth be told Diana will always be the “third person” in their marriage. Although he didn’t drive the Mercedes in the 13th pillar, I still say Charles is as much to blame for Diana’s demise as Diana herself. As her brother said at the end of his eulogy, Diana “will never be extinguished from our minds.”

      • Tessa says:

        Even with those documentaries and interviews, there is an attempt still by Charles spinners to gaslight Diana and the weirdest thing is his fans blame her for accepting the proposal not for him proposing. Charles also reinvented what went on with Camilla. He had many relationships and Charles confessed to Dimbleby that he did not want to marry Camilla when he first met her. Not the stuff of Great Love stories. It is good that Diana is not airbrushed out.

  9. Amy Bee says:

    Only those who don’t want the truth to be know or to rewrite history will be opposed to this documentary.

    • GR says:

      @amy bee – that’s untrue
      I feel so sad for Diana – she was mercilessly used by the royals and the media, and I’m glad when people are reminded of that.
      But it must feel very painful for her family and friends that they still see her everywhere they turn.

      • Tessa says:

        I think it would be more painful for her family and friends IMO when the spin by Charles team is projected. How can they stand for instance seeing how Diana is trashed by writers like Junor and Bedell Smith and Seward. If Diana’s side of the story was never out there at all, the spin would be believed possibly.

  10. Tessa says:

    There has been spin from Charles sympathizers with negative stories about diana it is important to have these Diana documentaries to offset this

  11. Babz says:

    August 13 will be the 23rd anniversary of losing my mom. I think I may have to wait a bit before watching this. Your heart can only take so much.

    • Jessica says:

      I’m very sorry for your loss and all the memories this may dredge up for you. 🤍

  12. Well Wisher says:

    Since most of the images were available, it would be interesting to see the role of the camera when used just as a recording tool.
    I have mixed feelings about this, not in a finger pointing way, just being older now and asking more of myself. Please, this is not against anyone, but doesn’t everyone deserve an interior life?

    • Saucy&Sassy says:

      Well Wisher, yes, most definitely they do. It’s unfortunate that Princess Di was not afforded that courtesy. I think it’s important that people know the true story–there’s enough misinformation out there. PC and PW don’t get to rewrite history about Diana. She deserves way better than that.

  13. AmelieOriginal says:

    Oh I will def watch this! It probably won’t have any new info if it’s just archival footage but it’s probably stuff I may have never seen. I was only 9 when Diana died, there is plenty of footage of her out there I have never seen.

    Speaking of, I had no idea Diana and Charles did a “tell all” interview together in 1985. Thank you for including those vintage clips in which Charles goes on and on about how he doesn’t know what an Ouija board is (responding to media reports he used them to communicate with spirits, what a dumb rumor lol). It was so random and hilarious.

  14. Robin Samuels says:

    Twenty-five years ago, misogyny, gaslighting, and bullying were not popular terms for the Princess of Wales. Today, we can view the duplicate footage and apply what we see differently. It is crucial to revisit historical figures and events from time to time through film and lectures. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
    Ingrid Seward chased nineteen-year-old Diana in the street, microphone in hand, asking invasive questions about her suspected relationship with Prince Charles. The same Ingrid who was there like a pitbull throughout the marriage helped throw gasoline on the fire after Diana’s death. The same Ingrid Seward said on American television that maybe they didn’t like Meghan because she wasn’t an English Rose. Diana was an English Rose, and they didn’t want her either.
    Thank you, Kaiser, for the change of topic. I look forward to watching the documentary.

  15. L4Frimaire says:

    This looks intense. Was tense just watching the trailer. There will undoubtedly be parallels between what’s happening now with Meghan. Some of the clips sound exactly what we hear about Meghan. Meghan never had the intensity of admiration and hold on the public that Diana had, she wasn’t there long enough and different times and context, but this documentary will definitely have resonance.