Princess Diana’s character in The Crown is shown saying she wants to move “away from England” to somewhere like California, in an echo of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s own royal exit.
Elizabeth Debicki portrays Diana having a heart-to-heart with Dodi Fayed, played by Khalid Abdalla, on a visit to town from his father Mohamed al-Fayed’s yacht in St Tropez in Episode 3.
And she talks about her struggle with the media, who had been hounding the couple during their holiday.
“They make like they’re your friend, and then they just write insult after insult anyway,” she says. “It makes me want to just move away, start afresh. Move to another country, somewhere like…”
“California,” Dodi suggests. “Exactly,” Diana replies. “Away from England anyway. Somewhere where one can actually be free. Sit under a tiny tree with a boy you like eating ice cream.”
In real life, Diana made similar comments during the same period though in a slightly different context—and friends also said relocating to America had been on her mind before her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.
Princess Diana’s Conversation With Journalists
In real life, newspapers quoted Diana discussing the prospect of a move to America during a different moment also depicted in The Crown.
Episode 1 shows the princess taking a boat out to meet reporters and waiting paparazzi to ask them to leave, but also poses for pictures and tantalizingly tells them to expect a surprise move from her.
Charles Rae, former royal correspondent at U.K. tabloid The Sun, was on the boat with the press pack and told Newsweek Diana mentioned a move to America.
“They got into the speed boat. We all looked, and we think they’re going off to The Jonikal. They head out, and immediately they turn, and we think to ourselves, ‘she’s coming here,'” Rae said.
“And she came towards us, she stopped and as you could see with the picture she held onto the side of the boat and she started going on with ‘my kids want me to go to America, I’m sick and tired of everything that’s going on.’
“And we kept saying to her, look, if you’re upset with us being here, the only reason we’re here is because you’ve got the future king and his brother here, and you’re having a holiday with one of the most controversial men in Britain. We’ll speak to our editors and see what they want to do.
“Six times we asked her that question, and each time she said ‘no, that’s not what I want.’ I just put it down to that phone call. And it was then at the end that she came up with this enigmatic, ‘you’ll be very surprised with the next thing I do.'”
Newspaper coverage from the era reflects that account, with the Western Morning News, for example, quoted her saying Prince William and Prince Harry “are always urging me to live abroad,” while The Scotsman reported she said: “Maybe that’s what I should do, live abroad.”
The same reports quoted her telling journalists to “expect a big surprise with the next thing I do,” as seen on The Crown.
However, those present also relayed Diana’s demeanor somewhat differently to how she is shown in the series, with the Evening Standard quoting one: “It was not an amicable conversation. Diana was getting increasingly distraught and working herself up.”
Rae also said the conversation came immediately after media saw her having an animated phone call.
The Standard reported at the time that Diana’s team at Kensington Palace later denied she had promised a statement: “In the light of reports in this morning’s newspapers, Diana, Princess of Wales, wishes to make it clear that she did not give any exclusive interviews to reporters yesterday.
“Her purpose in talking to some journalists was merely to enquire how long they intended to remain in the South of France, as the oppressive media presence was causing great distress to all the children. There was no discussion of the possibility of any statement being issued in the future.”
However, friends and even family also later told the U.K. police investigation into her death, codenamed Operation Paget, that she had considered a move to America.
Diana’s Discussions With Friends and Family
Quoted in the investigation’s publicly available report, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Diana’s eldest sister, told detectives: “As for any other future plans, Diana had talked about living in America or France, but these were just options. She had seen our brother, Charles, escape abroad from the paparazzi, and this appealed to her.”
Rosa Monckton, a close friend of Diana’s, told officers: “It has been reported in the press that Diana was going to make an announcement on her return from her holiday with Dodi Al Fayed. I have no idea whatsoever as to what that announcement would have been.
“I certainly have no reason to believe that she was going to announce that she was going to get married. Diana’s plans always changed a lot. She had thought about moving to America and living in the country. She said she thought it would be good for the princes and considered moving to Althorp.”
While Diana does appear to have considered a move to America, such a plan would likely have been complicated.
King Charles III—then the Prince of Wales but always destined for the throne—would not have been able to go with her as he was tied to his royal duties in Britain.
Prince William, too was destined—as he still is—to one day be king and would certainly in the long term have been required to live in Britain.
Any efforts to take the children to America would, therefore, likely have triggered a significant headache for the palace, and perhaps an even larger one than Harry and Meghan’s more recent royal exit.