Spencer by Pablo Larran begins with a title card warning us that it is “a fairytale from a genuine tragedy,” so we know right once that liberties will be taken. It examines the inner life of one of the world’s most legendary women over the course of a few emotionally hard days, similar to the writer-previous director’s film Jackie. In 1991, when Charles and Diana’s marriage is clearly on the rocks, Spencer takes place in Sandringham, the royal house where the queen and royal family typically spend Christmas.
Ordinary divorcing spouses may struggle over custody of their children, friends, and pets, but the Waleses were also squabbling over who would come out on top in the public eye and in history, each leaking their account of the marital collapse via sympathetic biographers and journalists. The film Spencer, which is told solely from Diana’s point of view, makes no effort to be objective and instead portrays the Dianaphile version of events. It may be interpreted as a retelling of a dark fairy tale about an innocent princess imprisoned in a large castle at the mercy of an evil queen, as the word “fable” indicates. We’ll take a look at where myth and truth collide in the following sections.
The Scale of Measurement
When Diana arrives (late) at Sandringham, she is forced to sit on a large, golden, and rather ancient-looking scale to have her weight recorded, after learning from Major Alistair Gregory (Timothy Spall), the queen’s equerry and house majordomo, that her majesty expects everyone to be weighed on arrival and departure to see if they’ve put on the 3 pounds that will indicate whether they’ve truly enjoyed Christmas—not exactly what someone with an eating.
According to Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, who has been immersed in royal family mythology for decades, this is absolutely a tradition during a Sandringham Christmas. It all started with Edward VII, the well-dressed monarch and noted foodie, who wanted to make sure his visitors were properly fed.
Gregory, Major (Timothy Spall)
Major Gregory is modeled on Air Marshal Sir David Walker, however he is not a real person. Walker served as the queen’s equerry (essentially an exalted personal assistant) from 1989 until 1992, and afterwards as her master of the household, where he was in charge of the royal homes and the below-stairs employees. Diana creates quite a fuss when she walks into the neighborhood gas station store carrying a huge bag adorned with the Chanel double-emblem C’s to seek for directions. She then appears in a series of Chanel coats and evening outfits while driving her Porsche and wearing matching logo-ed sunglasses.
In actuality, following her divorce in 1996, Diana avoided wearing anything with the Chanel brand because it sparked a traumatic memory, according to Australian designer Jayson Brunsdon, who functioned as a style adviser to the princess on her final visit Down Under.
“I spotted a pair of Chanel shoes and told her, ‘Well, these will look amazing with the Versace,’ and she responded, ‘No, I can’t wear linked Cs, the double C,'” Brundson recounted. “It’s Camilla and Charles,” she responded when I asked why. However, Chanel was still a part of Diana’s wardrobe in the early 1990s, but not to the level that the film Spencer suggests; actor Kristen Stewart is a Chanel brand ambassador, and the company re-created several of its designs for Diana in Stewart’s size.
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Diana’s Interactions with Her Hairdressers
Diana’s clothing become a struggle as well as a means of expressing her independence. In Spencer, each clothing is identified with the event for which it will be worn (e.g., Christmas lunch, Christmas Eve drinks). Diana is happy with this when her favorite dresser, Maggie (Sally Hawkins), who also serves as a confidante, chooses her clothing, but she becomes irritated when the major replaces Maggie with another dresser and takes her wrath out on the unlucky replacement by refusing to wear the allocated outfits.
According to Eleri Lynn, who created an exhibition of Diana’s clothing at her old house, Kensington Palace, the real Diana was highly involved in picking her own ensembles and was unlikely to have garments picked for her. Diana is said to have paid particular attention to how her ensembles were received in publications and newspapers, repeating the ones that were lauded, eliminating the ones that were ridiculed, and carefully weighing every sartorial move.
The dresser’s role was to make sure the princess’s garments were clean, ironed, and ready to wear, as well as assist her in putting them on. Diana was more likely to seek style guidance from her personal stylist Anna Harvey, a former Vogue deputy editor, or a favorite designer if she needed it. “We’re going to Balmoral and we have to dress for tea,” Diana told Harvey in her biography, “… and then we’d have to speculate on the sort of clothing she should wear and locate dozens of alternatives.”
Fay Appleby, one of Diana’s dressers, was a personal friend. Appleby was a confidante, even though their connection wasn’t as close as Maggie’s (an imagined character who mirrors the real-life admiration for Diana from the lesbian community). “She once told me that her existence was like being imprisoned in a golden cage.” In 1997, Appleby remembered, “I was there and listened to her when she was sad.” Diana’s dresser for six years, until she left to establish a family, was Appleby. (Diana attended the wedding quietly and maintained contact with Appleby during the dresser’s lengthy cancer treatment.)
The princess’s relationship with her substitute dresser, Evelyn Dagley, was tumultuous, despite the fact that Diana had recruited her. Wendy Berry, a former royal maid, defied precedent by writing a biography called The Housekeeper’s Diary: Charles and Diana Before the Breakup, in which she claimed that, far from being a downtrodden victim, “Diana treated her employees horribly.” … Because of Diana’s tantrums, Ev was often driven to tears. Evelyn walked into Diana’s room with the breakfast tray one morning, and Diana had a fit—’God, Evelyn,’ Diana exclaimed. What have you been consuming lately? You have a strong curry odor. Will you go out and wash your hair? ‘I can’t take the odor.’
Home of Diana’s Childhood
Diana is yearning for her childhood home on the Sandringham estate, which is within walking distance of the main house, in the film Spencer. Diana breaks into the home, which is now dilapidated and lonely, to relive past memories. Diana was born and raised at Park Home, a mile from the main house on the Sandringham estate, until she was fourteen years old. It was built for Edward VII in 1863, but was afterwards leased to the Spencer family.
The film Spemcer implies that Diana comes to relive joyful childhood memories there, however Diana’s upbringing was particularly sad, marked by emotions of abandonment after her mother’s departure from the family when she was eight years old. Park House did not fall into disrepair when the Spencers left. The queen gave it to a charity in 1983 so that it might be used to build an accessible country hotel for persons with impairments. It also lacks a moat, unlike the mansion in the movie.
Eating Disorders in Diana
Diana binges and purges throughout the film Spencer, barely tasting her meal at expensive banquets before slipping down to eat pastries in the big pantry before regurgitating them. Andrew Morton wrote in his 1992 book Diana: Her True Story that the princess’s marriage had deteriorated to the point that she was losing weight due to despair and bulimia as early as 1982.
Morton published audio after Diana’s death in 1997 that indicated his source for the material was Diana herself, tapes she had begun producing in 1991, despite the fact that the Buckingham Palace press staff continued to deny Diana had worked with the author. On the audio, the princess states, “The bulimia began the week after we were engaged and would take almost a decade to conquer.” “My husband placed his hand on my waistline and remarked, ‘Oh, a little fat here, aren’t we?’ and that set off a chain reaction in me,” the princess adds on the recording.
Diana’s Self-Destructive Behavior
Diana slashes herself with wire cutters and considers hurling herself down the Park House stairs in the film Spencer. This is also based on fact. On one of the Morton recordings, Diana states, “When I was four months pregnant with William, I hurled myself downstairs, trying to attract my husband’s attention, for him to listen to me.” She also admits to slashing her wrists with a razor blade, cutting herself with the edge of a lemon slicer, cutting her chest and thighs with a penknife during an altercation with Charles, and attempting suicide five times.
Is Diana a descendant of Anne Boleyn?
By Diana’s bedside, Major Gregory leaves a history of Anne Boleyn, to whom the Spencers are linked, presumably as a warning tale. Diana later sneaks into Park House late at night, when she is confronted by the spirit of the executed queen, who warns her of impending peril. Through an ancestor who married Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn, Diana was truly Anne Boleyn’s 13th great-grandniece.
There is no indication that Diana had a personal connection with Anne, and this visitation is most likely supposed to represent Diana’s anxieties that the royal family will go to any extent to get rid of her. During the divorce, Diana expressed worries that her life would be jeopardized in order to keep her silent. “This specific moment in my life is the most perilous,” Diana said in a letter to her butler Paul Burrell (though others have questioned its authenticity).
My husband is planning a ‘car accident,’ with brake failure and serious head injury, in order to clear the way for him to marry.” Despite the fact that no factual evidence has emerged to back up this claim, it has spawned a slew of conspiracy theories following the princess’s death in a car accident.
Is Queen Elizabeth II Really That Cold?
Unlike the more balanced The Crown, which shows the queen was concerned about Diana but didn’t know how to assist her, entrenched as she was in the concept that royals did not get divorced, come what may, Larran portrays the queen as cold and insensitive to Diana’s suffering. In her book The Queen and Di, Seward claims that Elizabeth had feelings for Diana, whom she had known for many years because Diana’s grandmother had been her lady-in-waiting, and that her death was a horrible waste.
Is Charles Really That Bad?
Similarly, the film Spencer portrays Charles as cold and unyielding, refusing to compromise with Diana or give up his romance with Camilla Parker Bowles. A more objective observer, once again, has a different perspective. Diana “mocked Charles’s ideas and refused to study her own briefing material or follow the advice of the courtiers entrusted to assist her,” according to Sally Bedell Smith, a former New York Times writer and a historian of the queen, Prince Charles, and Diana.
As their marriage deteriorated, she emotionally tortured Charles, teasing him about his medals and told him he’d never be king. Charles, to his credit, did not retaliate in like.” Diana was also the first to be unfaithful, according to Bedell Smith, having an affair with her bodyguard Barry Mannakee in 1985. Mannakee and James Hewitt became lovers the following November, when she was relocated out of her family. As with so many divorces, it’s evident that there are three sides to the story: his, her, and the truth.