Princess Diana would be 'horrified' by movie portrayal, says confidante

Watch: How Princess Diana would feel about Kristen Stewart's Spencer movie

As the saying goes, the dead can't defend themselves – and when one of the most famous people in the world passes away, there's a rush to publish books, make TV dramas and cast movies about their life, whether accurate or not.

Princess Diana would have been 60 in July, and the anniversary has sparked renewed interest in how a shy teenager became a confident global royal and in the process fundamentally changed the House of Windsor. Her story is ripe for the Hollywood treatment – but not everyone is delighted about that.

"She would not want to be remembered as someone who was destructive towards the monarchy," royal biographer Ingrid Seward, a friend of Diana's and editor of Majesty Magazine, told The Telegraph.

Flying the flag, the Princess of Wales at the Cancer HospITal in Lahore, Pakistan, started by Imran Khan, sits under the Union Flag.   (Photo by John Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Princess Diana in Pakistan in 1991. (John Giles – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

"She said to me that the monarchy was her sons’ future so she would never try to destroy it.

"She would be very sad that people think she and Charles never loved each other, that wasn’t true. She’d be horrified at the way she’s portrayed now."

Read more: Spencer: How does Kristen Stewart's Princess Diana movie stack up?

Series four of Netflix hit The Crown showed Diana, played by Emma Corrin, falling in love with Charles, enduring his affair with Camilla, and succumbing to bulimia and depression as she grew to realise that divorce was inevitable.

The latest attempt to explore who Diana really was, and how she felt, is blockbuster Spencer, out 5 November, which stars Kristen Stewart and takes place over four days that changed the princess's life.

Kristen Stewart as Diana in <em>Spencer</em>. (PA)
Kristen Stewart as Diana in Spencer. (PA)

The plot centres on four days at Christmas 1991, which the royals spent at Sandringham. It follows Diana coming to terms with the idea of divorce, focusing on her sadness and bulimia as well as her eventual strength.

The trailer depicts elaborate royal preparations for Christmas, and Diana unhappy and besieged by paparazzi. A royal aide tells the Queen: "She is late..." as Diana drives towards her fate, murmuring "Three days... that's it" to herself.

"Mummy, what's happened to make you so sad?" asks a young William.

Read more: Spencer writer says the Diana biopic's most shocking details are true

Another aide adds: "You have to do things you hate" as she sobs with despair. The images are suffused by sadness, wintry landscapes and cold glances – seemingly, Spencer depicts Diana as a prisoner of fate.

"She’s now seen as this kind of martyr, which I think is wrong," her makeup artist Mary Greenwell told The Telegraph. "She did amazing things, but she’s misunderstood...

"All I’d say is that the portrayals you see now are not the best way to understand her. She wouldn’t want to be on this pedestal with all this glory and fame."

Kristen Stewart captures Diana's mannerisms, say reviewers. (Getty Images)
Kristen Stewart captures Diana's mannerisms, say reviewers. (Getty Images)

The film, directed by Pablo Larráin, who also directed Jackie, "takes poetic licence a little far", thinks Seward.

"That Christmas she was there with Fergie, she was pretty miserable and she wasn’t speaking to Charles," Seward says, "but she wasn’t cutting herself at that stage.

"They’ve piled every bad thing into one weekend."

In December 1991, Diana appeared on the cover of Vogue with a new, short hairstyle not shown in the film.

‘The moment she found her power was doing the Vogue cover, it changed everything for her," says Greenwell.

"It was organised separately from the Royal Family via her wonderful stylist Anna Harvey, a Vogue fashion editor. It was hugely empowering for her because it wasn’t about anything other than being absolutely herself."

As for the portrayals of Diana on film, friends dismiss the idea that she was a tragic figure, despite her well known eating disorder and her sadness over Charles's affair.

Britain's Princess Diana meets an AIDS patient at the hospital of the
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro on April 25, 1991. The Prince and
Princess of Wales are on a five day official visit to Brazil.
REUTERS/Vanderlei Almeida

Diana visited Brazil in 1991, where she greeted and comforted Aids patients. (Reuters)

"I don’t think Diana saw herself as a victim at all," Seward says.

"She saw herself as a single woman before the end of her marriage. She was very funny about it all, that’s how she dealt with life – she was either crying or laughing."

The film has gained excellent reviews, with Stewart even tipped for an Oscar for her performance – and judging by the trailer she's certainly captured "the voice" and the mannerisms.

The movie's writer reportedly spoke to people who were there at the time and based much of the script on their recollections. At the premiere, Stewart said the film comes from “a genuinely careful and considerate place” and added: “I hope she’s watching.”

British royals Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997), wearing a blue and turquoise suit by Catherine Walker, with a matching hat, Prince William, Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1900-2002), Prince Charles, Sarah, Duchess of York, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002) attend the Christmas Day church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, England, 25th December 1991. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Diana and other royals attend the Christmas Day church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, 1991. (Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)

Whether the real Diana would really have been "horrified" will never be known – but it's comfort to her many loyal supporters that after the terrible Christmas, she and Charles divorced and she went on to become both a fashion icon and humanitarian, as well as the most famous woman in the world and, in her words, "a princess of peoples' hearts".

Kristen Stewart has one major regret about playing Princess Diana