True Story of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s 1983 Australia Tour in The Crown

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True Story of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s 1983 Australia Tour in The Crown

The Crown launches into Dianamania with the sixth episode of Season Four, as it follows Prince Charles and Diana on their 1983 royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. They embarked on their first overseas tour as a couple with young Prince William in March, and as the Netflix series shows, the tour launched Diana into superstardom and solidified Charles’ resentment of her. Here’s how the actual tour compares to Peter Morgan’s adaptation in the episode entitled “Terra Nullius.”

In The Crown, Diana is adamant that she should bring infant Prince William along on their busy tour, refusing to leave him back in England. In reality, Diana didn’t object to leaving her young son behind. According to Andrew Morton’s 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words, Diana was “all ready to leave William. I accepted that as part of duty, albeit it wasn’t going to be easy.” And while William was separated from his parents for most of the tour, they did share that happy moment we see in the Netflix series at the cattle and sheep ranch Woomargama. Sally Bedell Smith, in her biography of Prince Charles, describes a letter Charles wrote to a friend at the time about the blissful family time they shared there, recalling the couple watching William learning to crawl “at high speed knocking everything off the tables and causing unbelievable destruction,” as they “laughed and laughed with sheer, hysterical pleasure.” The first ever precedent-setting royal tour with a small child in tow was a hit, and painted Diana as a relatable, human, loving mother in the eyes of the world.

However, the 21-year-old new mother was having a difficult time, as shown in the show—she was “jet-lagged, anxious and sick with bulimia,” wrote Andrew Morton of the tour. We see Diana turn back mid-hike at Ayers Rock in Episode Six to Charles’ dismay, which did really happen. However, this was likely because of her impractical front-buttoned white dress and heels, per the Sydney Morning Herald. “When Charles coaxed her to climb part of the way up the rock, she hesitated, not through fear of slipping, but because she knew that coming down would expose her knees and petticoat to the world’s press,” they wrote of the incident.

Charles and Diana at Ayers Rock, before she turned back.

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Still, the tour was likely as rocky for Charles and Diana’s relationship as The Crown depicts. There are accounts of Diana crying at a public appearance outside the Sydney Opera House, which a photographer who was present, Ken Lennox, described in the documentary Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals, per Vanity Fair:

I’m about four feet from the princess and I’m trying to get a bit of the opera house in the background and some of the crowd, and Diana burst into tears and wept for a couple of minutes. Charles I don’t think has noticed [Diana crying] at that stage. If he has, typical of Prince Charles to look the other way.

While the show accurately depicts some moments that the couple seemed to be genuinely in love, such as their dance at a charity ball in Sydney, Charles’s jealousy of the mad adoring crowds over Diana did in fact amplify the wedge between the couple.

“The prince was embarrassed the crowds so clearly favored her over him,” wrote Sally Bedell Smith. “For her part, Diana was upset by the disproportionate interest in her, especially when she realized that it was disturbing Charles. She collapsed under the strain, weeping to her lady-in-waiting and secretly succumbing to bulimia. In letters to friends, Charles described his anguish over the impact ‘all this obsessed and crazed attention was having on his wife.’”

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In a 1995 interview with the BBC after their separation, Diana affirmed this herself. “We’d be going round Australia, for instance, and all you could hear was, ‘oh, she’s on the other side.’ Now, if you’re a man—like my husband—a proud man, you mind about that if you hear it every day for four weeks. You feel low about it, instead of feeling happy and sharing it,” she recalled. “With the media attention came a lot of jealousy. A great deal of complicated situations arose because of that.”

Charles and Diana’s royal tour did, however, have a powerful impact on the public opinion of the monarchy in Australia, as depicted in the episode. The popularity of the monarchy had been in decline in Australia in the ’70s, and Republican Prime Minister Bob Hawke did not hide his stance that the country would be better off as an independent nation. While he may not have directly expressed this to Charles as he did in the episode, after the royal tour The Evening Standard stated that the public’s extreme fawning over Diana “ha[d] set Republicanism back 10 years.” And when, in 1999, the country held a referendum to vote on the possibility of becoming a republic, the people voted against it.

And the most crucial factual detail that The Crown snuck into the episode—Charles really did fall off that horse in the polo match.

Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.

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