Entertainment Celebrity Royal New documentaries trace the life of Diana from preschool assistant to royal princess

New documentaries trace the life of Diana from preschool assistant to royal princess

Princess Diana
Diana's 60th birthday "feels like the perfect time to re-examine her life and legacy". Photo: EPA
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It was always on the cards another collection of documentaries on the life of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, would make its way to our television screens as another milestone emerged.

And so it has come to pass.

Diana, who would have turned 60 on July 1 this year, is the subject of not one, but two projects commissioned by UK broadcaster ITV.

These two tantalising projects add to the vast library of works already out there on our streaming services via documentaries, mini-series (think The Crown) to books and movies commissioned since Diana’s tragic death in a Paris tunnel in 1997. And they’re always conveniently released on anniversary death milestones or as birthday tributes.

As the Observer pointed out: “Diana’s life wasn’t a fairy tale by any means. She suffered from bulimia and depression, struggled with a husband who was in love with another woman, was constantly hounded by the paparazzi and felt like a complete outsider in Kensington Palace, even though she was publicly embraced by the royal family.

“As such, her dramatic life story has become the focus of many, many documentaries and films.”

A quick Netflix and Disney+ search will bring up at least a dozen documentaries, not to mention HBO series including Diana: Our Mother: Her life and legacy, Diana: In her own words, Diana: Seven days that shook the world, and the most controversial of the past five years, Channel 4’s Diana: In her own words.

But the first of the latest entries chronicling Diana’s life and times is the one-off film Diana, which “aims to tell the definitive story of the most famous woman in the world”, according to UK production house 72 films, whose other work includes The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty.

The second, Diana’s Decades, is a three-part series from fellow UK producers Spun Gold, with each 60-minute episode examining a different stage of Diana’s life.

We’re promised never-heard-before testimony and rarely seen archive footage in the Diana doco, with photos and letters from those close to her leading the producers to insist viewers are in for even more “compelling viewing”.

David Glover, executive producer for 72 Films, said the 90-minute film will trace her journey from nursery assistant to a member of the royal family.

“There is something a bit magical about Princess Diana, and despite the difficulties in her personal life she managed to use her connection with people to do huge amounts of good,” Mr Glover said.

“Her 60th birthday feels like the perfect time to re-examine her life and legacy and explore just how she went from a relatively unknown teenager to the most mourned person who ever lived.”

survival of the Royal family
The most photographed woman in the world in 1986: Princess Diana. Photo: AAP

Diana’s Decades will follow her early royal life, her high-profile work for AIDS charities, her brushes with Hollywood and music superstars in the 1980s, and her journey to becoming the “People’s Princess” and emblem of a new public emotional candour as the face of Britain changed under New Labour in the 1990s.

Managing director of Spun Gold TV, Daniela Neumann, pointed out to Variety how the princess continues to “lead news bulletins and conversations around the world” nearly 25 years after her death.

Diana’s Decades takes a fresh approach to recounting her life and legacy by looking at how she was shaped by the changing world around her and, as a result, transformed not just the monarchy but also society more widely as her legacy.”

diana wedding
Diana arrives at St. Paul’s Cathedral on her wedding day, revealing to the world the wedding dress which had been so carefully guarded during its design. Photo: Getty

From Sandringham in England, Lady Diana Spencer, 19, (as she was known from 1975), married the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, in 1981. They had two sons, William (now 38) and Harry (now 36) and divorced in 1996 with Diana later admitting in a controversial BBC documentary “there were three people in this marriage”.

She was one of the most famous women in the world.

Diana was killed aged 36 on August 31, 1997, when her black Mercedes-Benz limousine crashed in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel as it sped away from the Ritz Hotel while being chased by paparazzi on motorbikes.

Not that TND has a crystal ball or wants to issue spoiler alerts – and there are no early hints as to who is interviewed and what photos and videos will be included – there’s clearly moments in Diana’s life that can never be overlooked and will no doubt be included.

Here’s a taste.

Early royal life: The British press couldn’t wait to see who Charles had fallen for “whatever love is”, and, after a string of failed relationships, the pressure was mounting for him to find a bride and produce future monarchs.

Nursery school assistant Lady Diana Spencer with children from the Young England kindergarten in Pimlico, London, in January 1981. Photo: Getty

High profile work: After settling into married life, raising two young boys, and travelling the world, the paparazzi and Charles were both becoming big problems for her mental health and happiness.

But she battled on through and decided to take on causes celebres that had meaning and purpose, including helping the homeless, people living with HIV and AIDS, and raising awareness of the dangers of leftover landmines in war-torn Angola.

diana hiv
Diana visits a patient at the London Lighthouse, a centre for people affected by HIV and AIDS in London in October 1996. Photo: Getty

Brushes with Hollywood A-listers, celebrities, world leaders: Who could go past the dance at the White House with John Travolta while late US president Ronald Reagan watched? Or the friendships with Elton John and Mother Teresa.

diana michael jackson
Diana with Michael Jackson backstage at Wembley Stadium in London in aid of the Prince’s Trust charity in July 1988. Photo: Getty

The People’s Princess: The last few years of Diana’s life saw her travel the world and become one of the most loved, popular and fashionable women of the 1990s. In 1997, she began dating Egyptian film producer and playboy Dodi Fayed. She was with him when they both died in  that infamous Paris tunnel.

News of her death shocked the world, and Queen Elizabeth 11 eventually succumbed to public pressure to deliver a televised address from Buckingham Palace: “No one who knew Diana will ever forget her,” the Queen said. “Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her.

“I, for one, believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death.”

princess diana death
A multi-colored sea of floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales outside the gates of her London home on August 31, 1997. Photo: Getty

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