The Princess: What You Need to Know About the New Princess Diana Documentary

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A new Princess Diana documentary uses archival footage to explore the life of the Princess of Wales, 25 years after her tragic death

It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the tragic death of Princess Diana, who alongside boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed suffered fatal injuries during a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997. The princess, just 36 at the time, left behind her young sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, who were 15 and 12. In the decades since, there’s been no shortage of books, documentaries, films and drama series (The Crown, anyone?) depicting the highs and lows of the ill-fated royal. But the latest Princess Diana documentary, now airing on HBO Max, is the first to show her life completely through the lens of the media.

Unlike typical documentaries, which usually feature talking heads discussing the subject at hand, The Princess uses 16 years of news footage to cover everything from Princess Diana’s death and Princess Diana’s funeral to aspects of the royal family tree. Curious about what else The Princess on HBO explores—and how it’s different from the other Princess Diana documentaries that came before it? Read on for the inside story. Then check out these Princess Diana pictures to see more of the woman who captivated the world.

Where can you watch The Princess?

No need to google “The Princess documentary where to watch.” Here’s what you need to know: The film is now airing on HBO Max, which means you’ll need to subscribe to the streaming service to watch it. Subscriptions start at $9.99 a month.

What is The Princess about?

For almost two decades, the relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles made near-daily headlines, and the paparazzi were as much a part of the princess’s life as they were her death. With that in mind, the Princess Diana documentary pulls from audio and video footage of the time to transport viewers to pivotal points in Diana’s life. While there will also be footage of Diana from some of her (rare!) interviews, much of the content is very cleverly edited footage of mainstream press coverage.

Because the story consists entirely of edited footage, this Princess Diana documentary begins on the day Diana died, then jumps back to her rise to fame—through her very public, seemingly romantic courtship with Prince Charles to the royal wedding watched around the world to her life as a young Princess Diana, always in the public eye. The film zeroes in on key moments, like the birth of her sons, her public divorce and the tragic death that rocked the world.

By using archival footage, the documentary tells two stories: of the media obsessed with the “people’s princess” and of a woman whose deep-rooted unhappiness often stemmed from the constant media attention and scrutiny. The Princess reveals how the media’s harsh gaze didn’t just impact Diana’s life but—because her car crash occurred as she was fleeing the paparazzi—likely also contributed to her untimely death.

What are people saying about The Princess?

Flowers And Mourners Outside Kensington Palace In The Days Following The Funeral Of Princess Diana, In London, England, September 1997.Courtesy HBO

The Princess Diana documentary isn’t without controversy. The film uses footage from Diana’s infamous 1995 BBC Panorama interview with journalist Martin Bashir, which Prince William denounced in 2021 after learning his mother had been duped by Bashir to grant the interview in the first place. (Bashir was convicted of forging financial documents that claimed palace staff and Diana’s brother were being bribed to talk to the press about Diana, so she, in turn, felt the need to set the record straight.)

After those accusations came to light, William said the interview “holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again.” He added, “It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.”

So why include it in The Princess on HBO? The team behind the documentary defended their use of the clip, telling People that “this interview is shown briefly, in context, as a moment of historical record.”

The goal, according to director Ed Perkins, was to give modern audiences the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about Princess Diana’s life and death by watching media footage as if it were happening in real time. “Our intention was to create a film that, first and foremost, felt kind of emotionally driven and immersive and that we would give audiences the space to kind of come to their own conclusions and bring their own hindsight to bear on this story,” he told People.

What are some other Princess Diana documentaries to watch?

There are plenty! If The Princess on HBO has you craving more Diana content, you might want to check out the following, all of which can be found on various streaming sites:

  • Becoming Princess Diana focuses on Diana’s early life and rise to fame.
  • Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy debuted in 2017, the 20-year anniversary of Diana’s death, and features princes William and Harry. “This is the first time the two of us have ever spoken about her as a mother,” Harry says in the film.
  • Diana, 7 Days zeroes in on the week after Diana’s death and how the loss shook both the royal family and the world. This film also had royal family involvement, and viewers will learn details like the last conversation Diana ever had with her sons.
  • Diana: In Her Own Words consists of recorded interviews with Diana from 1991, some of which had never been aired before the National Geographic documentary released. It’s a good choice for fans who want to hear from the fascinating subject herself.

Get to know Princess Diana

If The Princess has you itching for more information about the famous royal, you’re in luck. You can read all about Princess Diana’s engagement ring, the Spencer tiara and even conspiracy theories about Diana’s death. Or get inspired by her grace and compassion by reading these Princess Diana quotes.

Sources:

  • HBO Max: “The Princess”
  • People: “Princess Diana HBO Doc Creators Defend Using Controversial Panorama Clip Despite Prince William’s Wishes”

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Gillian Telling
Gillian Telling is a New York-based entertainment journalist who, for the past 15 years, has covered the entire spectrum of pop culture as a writer and editor for publications like Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and People. She's interviewed hundreds of celebrities throughout her career, ranging from Alex Trebek to Jennifer Lawrence, and prides herself on being the first person to ever declare that Schitt's Creek was an amazing new show. (Five years before everyone else caught on!) She's also a published author, whose 2010 humor book Dirty Girls was optioned by ABC in 2012.