Princess Diana was a hugely inspirational figure for so many throughout her life, after being thrust into the spotlight upon her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981, when she was just 20-years-old. But alongside the public highs were also some more private lows, and Emma Corrin - who plays the late royal in series four of The Crown, released on November 15 on Netflix - was keen to ensure that all sides of her character were properly portrayed in the dramatisation, including the more difficult, personal issues she dealt with.
The Princess of Wales suffered with an eating disorder; bulimia - a cycle of binge eating, followed by purging (vomiting, taking laxatives, fasting or over-exercising) - for "a number of years". For a long stretch, Diana's battle with bulimia remained a private matter. Although it's been reported that members of the royal family were aware of it, nobody spoke externally about Diana's mental health until her struggles were made public in a book about the Princess of Wales, written by Andrew Morton.
Diana later went on to bravely speak about her experience in a 1995 interview, despite mental health being a largely stigmatised subject at the time. Speaking to Martin Bashir, the mother-of-two explained her eating disorder had materialised as a result of low self-worth."You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable," she said. "You fill your stomach up four or five times a day – some do it more – and it gives you a feeling of comfort."
Emma Corrin felt it was important to approach this side of Princess Diana "in an honest way" in The Crown. And it turns out, the young actress was actually the one who insisted on scenes depicting the royal's bulimia making it into the show.
"We'd been working on her body language, and we put together a document that we sent to the script team and said: 'Can you include some of this in the writing because we’d love to really flesh out those scenes?'" Emma Corrin told Radio Times.
"I felt that if we were trying to depict bulimia in an honest way, we had to actually show it – otherwise it’s a disservice to anyone who has been through that," she said, adding: "I don’t think we should shy away from those conversations; Diana was very candid about her experience with bulimia, and I so admire that."
The Princess of Wales' eating disorder does, as a result, now feature in The Crown, and the show makers consulted experts from the charity Beat to ensure their portrayal of such a sensitive issue was appropriately handled.
In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson from Beat said: "We were not involved on set, but advised on how to portray eating disorders in a sensitive and non-glamourising way, including signposting to appropriate sources of help and providing trigger warnings where needed."
Beat is the UK's leading charity dedicated to helping people with eating disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling and want to seek help, call their helpline on 0808 801 0677 or visit their website for more details.
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