Did Princess Diana actually record secret tapes for Andrew Morton's book?

the crown did diana actually record secret tapes for a book
Did Diana actually record secret tapes for a book?Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

The Crown is back on Netflix and season five has brought with it a lot – and we mean a lot – of drama. From suggestions that Prince Charles tried to convince the Queen to abdicate to a rumoured romance between Prince Philip and a family friend, there's plenty to unpack about the fifth season of The Crown.

As for what's next on our omg-did-that-really-happen!? list, we're certainly not alone in wanting to know more about Princess Diana and the tell-all biography she seemingly had a hand in writing.

Episode two of The Crown sees the former Princess of Wales – played by The Great Gatsby's Elizabeth Debicki – secretly recording audio tapes for Andrew Morton, a journalist writing about the royal's life. In the tapes, Diana shares previously-unknown details about her time as a royal, her crumbling marriage to Charles as well as her battles with bulimia and depression.

During the episode, word gets out that Princess Diana is involved in the project and it's not long before the Royal Family steps in to put an end to it. In a tense scene, Prince Philip confronts his daughter-in-law and – for lack of a better phrase – gives her a right telling off. But, as dramatic as the scene is, did it actually happen? After all, The Crown's makers say it is a fictionalised retelling of true events.

With that in mind, here's what we know from the series about Princess Diana's involvement in Morton's biography...

Did Princess Diana actually record secret tapes for Andrew Morton's book?

Morton has spoken out numerous times about Princess Diana's involvement in his book, which he accredits to the bond he formed with one of the royal's close friends – this is corroborated in The Crown's retelling of the events.

"I was keen to talk to the Princess directly, but this was simply out of the question. At 6ft 4in tall and as a writer known to Palace staff, I’d hardly be inconspicuous," Morton told the Daily Mail of how he convinced the Princess of Wales to work with him on the biography. "So I interviewed her by proxy — giving my questions to James Colthurst [the pair's mutual friend], who then conducted six taped interviews with her in her sitting room at Kensington Palace."

the crown did diana actually record secret tapes for a book
Charles and Diana in 1991, just one year before they announced their separation.Tim Graham - Getty Images

As for what the recordings contained, Morton says the royal went into great detail about her life at the heart of the world's most famous family. "Turning on a battered tape recorder, I listened with mounting astonishment to the unmistakable voice of Princess Diana. She was pouring out a tale of woe in a rapid stream of consciousness," he said.

"I felt I’d been transported into a parallel universe. The Princess was talking about her unhappiness, her sense of betrayal, her suicide attempts — and two things I’d never previously heard of: an eating disorder called bulimia nervosa and a woman called Camilla."

Did Andrew Morton's book get released?

Morton's biography of Princess Diana was released in 1992, although it was not well-received at first, with many believing its contents to be fictitious.

"The book was banned by numerous major bookstores and supermarkets. Ironically, a biography written and produced with Diana’s enthusiastic co-operation was being piously boycotted on the suspicion that it was a pack of lies," Morton recalled. "But it soon became apparent that the book really was, as it claimed, Diana’s own true story."

the crown did diana actually record secret tapes for a book
Morton shortly after the release of Diana’s biography.Tim Graham - Getty Images

Diana: Her True Story went on to become a bestseller – surging in popularity once again after her untimely death in 1997 – and was later translated into more than 35 languages.

Three decades on from its release, Diana: Her True Story is still widely read by royal fans and critics alike, and has been a source of inspiration for dramatisations and documentaries.

What were the biggest revelations in Andrew Morton's book?

TW: Disordered eating, self-harm and suicide.

From the outset of her involvement in the book, Princess Diana wanted to share her lived experience of life as a royal. From her ongoing struggle with bulimia to details of her husband's affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, these are the biggest revelations from Diana: Her True Story.

  • Princess Diana had an unhappy childhood after her parent's divorce and was raised by a revolving door of nannies

  • Princess Diana developed bulimia just one week after her engagement to Prince Charles, following an alleged comment that she was "chubby"

  • Princess Diana said she considered calling off the engagement, mostly due to her discovery of Charles and Camilla's affair

  • Princess Diana said she was ignored by everyone in the Palace upon joining the Royal Family, and given no formal training on royal protocol

  • Princess Diana said she self-harmed and attempted suicide several times as a result of Charles and Camilla's relationship

Did Princess Diana regret recording the secret tapes?

"She never regretted the taping sessions," Morton said of how Princess Diana reacted to the biography's public reception. "In the last five years of her life, the world witnessed the flowering of Diana’s humanitarian spirit — qualities that might have remained buried if she hadn’t had the courage to disclose the reality of her life."

Cosmopolitan UK has reached out to the Palace for comment.

Season five of The Crown is available to stream on Netflix from 9 November.

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