How accurate is Spencer? Separating Princess Diana fact from fiction

·2-min read

This week sees the release of Spencer, a new biopic focusing on the late Princess Diana.

The film stars Kristen Stewart as the Princess of Wales, and is set over a three-day Christmas period towards the end of her marriage to Prince Charles.

While critics have lavished praise on the film – with many tipping Stewart for Oscar contention next year – some voices have criticised Spencer for taking liberties with the facts.

Last month, a number of Diana’s friends told The Telegraph that they believed the late royal would have been “horrified” by her representation in Spencer, and disputed several of the events depicted in the film.

However, Spencer’s director Pablo Larraín has said that he never intended the film to be entirely accurate, instead setting out to create a “fable” rooted in reality but taking artistic licence with its story.

You can read The Independent’s interview with the filmmaker here.

Here’s a brief rundown of the things Spencer got right and wrong. Some spoilers may follow...

Charles and Diana’s separation

Though an exact date is never fixed to the events of Spencer, it is assumed that the film takes place around Christmas day in 1991, shortly before Charles and Diana officially announced they were separating.

In the film, it is Diana who walks out on Charles, but in reality Diana claimed that Charles was the one who ultimately decided to end the marriage.

Kristen Stewart (centre) behind the scenes of ‘Spencer’ (Frederic Batier)
Kristen Stewart (centre) behind the scenes of ‘Spencer’ (Frederic Batier)

Diana’s childhood home

Several key story points in Spencer revolve around the proximity of Diana’s childhood home to Sandringham House, where she is staying with the royal family to celebrate Christmas.

In real life, Diana did grow up on land near the Queen’s holiday palace, however, the property was not believed to be abandoned at that point, as it is shown in the film, having been converted to a hospital after Diana’s family vacated.

Diana’s mental health struggles

Various biographers have described Diana’s intense unhappiness during visits to Sandringham house, and she was publicly open about her struggle with bulimia.

One particularly distressing scene in Spencer sees Diana injure herself deliberately with a pair of wire cutters. However, Ingrid Seward, the editor of Majesty magazine, who knew and wrote about Diana, has said that this wouldn’t have happened during the Christmas period of 1991.

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in ‘Spencer’ (NEON Studios/Topic Studios)
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in ‘Spencer’ (NEON Studios/Topic Studios)

“That Christmas she was there with Fergie, she was pretty miserable and she wasn’t speaking to Charles, but she wasn’t cutting herself at that stage,” she told The Telegraph. “They’ve piled every bad thing into one weekend, which is taking poetic licence a little far.”

The ghost of Anne Boleyn

There is no evidence to suggest that Diana really witnessed the ghost of Henry VIII’s second wife, and science suggests that such a ghost did not exist in real life.

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