Kristen Stewart, ‘Spencer’, and the second coming of media fanfare over Diana, Princess of Wales

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana Spencer

As Kristen Stewart gears up to take on the role of Diana, we take a look at the Princess’ latest on-screen resurrections.

Princess Diana’s life has always been treated as a bizarrely public commodity. Ever since she married the Prince of Wales, she has been a product to be consumed. And never more so than in death.

Her life and the public’s treatment of it is a subject that could stand up to and has stood up to reams of critique: pages and pages have been written about her, hours of documentary and drama have been filmed, countless podcast episodes and radio shows have been recorded with her as the central topic.

There’s an extent to which the royal family exists as a kind of joint British thing that we sort of ‘own’ (a hideous turn of phrase): we pay for much of their lifestyle with our taxes, though they are, in many people’s estimation, obsolete, useless to the country and completely unnecessary.

So, there’s an extent to which it’s understandable that the British public did feel a righteous allowance for their complete and utter obsession with the families most compelling member (other than HRH Princess Margaret of course). They allowed her to exist as a princess.

Emma Corrin as Diana in The Crown season 4

Emma Corrin as Diana in The Crown season 4.

On the other much less tyrannical hand, Princess Diana was a real-life human being with feelings and fears and anxieties and sadnesses and joy all of her own. The constant surveillance of her life that is still occurring now, 23 years after her tragic death, is inelegant and intrusive. I say this as a person who glugged down each season of The Crown like a lush – clearly, I contain multitudes.

Thanks in part to the most recent season of Netflix’s hit drama, Princess Diana is experiencing a resurgence in interest. Of course, the media’s interest in her never actually went away, but it did seem to wane a bit between royal weddings and the birth of her grandchildren. However, in the last few months, two new documentaries about Diana have also been added to Netflix, as well as Naomi Watts’ 2017 biopic set a couple of years before her death.

There’s even a word of a musical adaptation of Diana’s life coming this year, too. And now, deadpan Kristen Stewart is going to be playing Diana in a new film, a biopic called Spencer which depicts Diana’s decision to leave her husband and the events subsequent.

The first images from the film have begun to be released and by the looks of things so far, Kristen Stewart has mastered the characteristically expressive doe-like eyes that Emma Corin nailed so accurately in The Crown’s most recent series. We all know that Stewart, despite perhaps not being the world’s most wonderful actress, sure does know how to pick excellent roles and in terms of visuals alone, it looks like she has been really well cast in this upcoming film.

The jury’s out on whether she will be able to pull off such a specifically particular and recognisable a British accent convincingly or not, and the competition is fierce: The Crown has depicted Diana so convincingly, Kristen Stewart will have to work incredibly hard.

The film, which only went into production at the start of the year, has yet to suggest a release date, but it is safe to say it is very much hotly anticipated and will certainly cash in on the continued fascination with Diana specifically and the royals in general.

Pablo Larrain, who is making the film, is no stranger to depicting the lives of remarkable women, specifically remarkable wives, on screen. His film, Jackie, which starred Natalie Portman was a stylish, carefully controlled, very beautiful film, and I for one am anticipating something very similar from Spencer. Faithful costuming, tightly directed performances and lingering shots full of implication are all reasonable predictions but we will have to wait until it is unveiled at Cannes to the doubtless enthusiastic buying market before we know much more about the production.

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Leah Welch

Leah is Culture Editor @ No Majesty. Leah is a literature graduate from Bristol, likes include: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, My So Called Life, Goodfellas, and Ally McBeal.