When I first learned that Kristen Stewart was playing the late Princess of Wales in Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer,” I wasn’t disappointed, nor was I excited. I was curious to see how Stewart, she who managed to move away from the “Twilight” phenomenon and build a respectable acting career for herself, would fare playing one of history’s most popular women. Many have tried, few have succeeded.
When the film premiered in November 2021, “Spencer” screenwriter Steven Knight insisted he hadn’t watch any movies about the late Princess of Wales, nor had he been following “The Crown.” He’s just a Brit following British things.
“I didn’t watch [Diana]. I haven’t watched any of the films. I never even watched The Crown. I’m not even someone who’s followed the whole Diana thing,” Knight told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m just interested in England, and here is something that happened in England among English people that was quite exceptional.”
That’s not possible. Knight is a 62-year-old screenwriter. From Birmingham, England. Unless he took to a Scottish isle in the North Sea for the better part of the ’80s and ’90s, came back in 2003 and asked a few pop culture enthusiasts what happened while he was away, Knight has followed “the whole Diana thing” just a bit. But, he also created “Peaky Blinders” so I can’t criticize him too much, because that show is so brilliant and Tommy Shelby is a dish. So, onward.
The movie takes place during Christmas 1991 at Sandringham. At this point in their marriage, Diana has decided she wants to divorce Charles because she’s tired of his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles (Parliament would announce Charles and Diana’s separation in December 1992). Knight told THR he spoke to people who were at Sandringham that weekend and researched the traditions that take place during the royal family’s Christmas celebrations, some of which are well-known.
“What I wanted to do was to not tell the story that everyone knows, but to try and do something else, which is try and understand one individual who was a human being thrown into an exceptional situation and how she did or didn’t deal with it,” Knight added.
“A Fable From a True Tragedy”
While Stewart did quite a good job portraying “Shy Di,” I take umbrage with the fact that this film mixes heightened reality with a true story. This a recipe for disaster, because the longer you watch the movie, the harder it becomes to separate fact from fiction. You need an expert sitting next to you (or by the phone) confirming whether or not each scene is true (and even then, that expert might have to fact-check).
So, here are a few errors I did find within the movie, and if you do want to watch it, “Spencer” is currently playing on Hulu.
- Sandringham is tiny. T-I-N-Y, in comparison to Nordkirchen Castle in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany, where the movie was shot. Everyone in the royal family packs in when they stay (well, not these days, since Will and Kate have their own home on the grounds, so they’ve made room for the others). As I was viewing the castle I thought, “Where the he** did they hold Christmas that year? At a rich German cousin’s house?”
- The Queen (and the Duke of Edinburgh, before he retired) always takes the train from King’s Cross Station in London in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. For a lot of people (present company included) it’s a sign that Christmas has officially begun.
- I’m going to ignore the scene with Diana driving in a Porsche, top-down, in December because it’s freezing cold. And the cafe she pops into isn’t decorated for Christmas? Brits LIVE for the Christmas season.
- Who was in charge of casting Prince Philip? The actor had no lines, so one could have at least cast someone taller than the Queen who walks two steps behind with his hands behind his back. All the casting department had to do was hold a photo of Philip up and see who looked like him.
- The replica of Diana’s blue sapphire engagement ring was not good. Those were tiny pavé diamonds, guys. You could have borrowed my $12 replica. One need only ask.
- Stewart (as Diana) spoked about Queen Victoria staying her room. This is false. Edward VII, Victoria’s son, purchased Sandringham, so it would have been impossible for Victoria to have stayed there.
- Why was Camilla Parker-Bowles at Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene Church? Was this a bout of Diana’s hysteria in the film? Camilla was with her own family in 1991 on Christmas Day.
- Park House — where Diana was born — was not left in a condemned state, as the movie depicts. Yes, Diana was born there; she then moved to Althorp when her father inherited the earldom in 1975. in 1983, Her Majesty offered Park House to Leonard Cheshire Disability and they opened a hotel for disabled people and their guests in 1987. Therefore it would’ve been impossible for Diana to have walked around the empty home.
- For the record, there is a weigh-in, started by Edward VII, Christmas presents are open on Christmas Eve (a German tradition) and a black tie dinner is held as well that night.
- I can’t imagine that Diana’s curtains were sewn shut. That seems a little out there for someone to do, even for Charles. Charles never wanted to make a fuss when it came to Diana and his fights, so I don’t think he ever wanted to draw attention to whatever went on between them.
What did you think of the movie? Did you think parts of it were exaggerated? What parts did you think were real?