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Accurate (Or Not): ‘The Crown’s Shocking Inclusion of Princess Diana’s Battle With An Eating Disorder

The actress portraying the late Princess worked with a movement coach and researched how to depict the disorder accurately.



*T/W: This article contains details on eating disorders as well as spoilers for season 4.


The late Princess Diana was revered for her strength, resilience and kind heart. She was well known for her tremendous work with multiple charitable organisations and for being the hands-on mother (that very few royals before her were). However, in her lifetime, the beloved Princess of Wales had to deal with her failed marriage to the heir apparent to the British throne as well as her own struggles as a human being who was juggling her stature, job, motherhood and sense of self – all in the prying eyes of the media. With the new season of historical drama streaming television series ‘The Crown’, Princess Diana’s struggles are detailed, as accurately as done in previous seasons of British royal family drama, and brought to life by 24-year old actress Emma Corrin. The fourth season of the series comprises of 10 episodes charting Princess Diana’s tumultuous marriage to Prince Charles and the ways that the royal family was forever changed as a result of her introduction to the family.



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One aspect of the late Princesses’ life that the show was sure to include was her battles with the eating disorder known as bulimia (a disorder that sees sufferers binge eating food only to purge it later). Just as Princess Diana was open to the media to discuss the disorder, the show is as blatant with including it in its narrative. So much so that it does nothing to cover up or make the issue a covert one, with the streaming platform Netflix having to include a trigger warning at the start of the show as a warning to viewers. At the time of her interview with journalist Martin Bashir for BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ in 1995, Princess Diana described the disorder as a “secret disease” that she had “for a number of years”, calling it “a symptom of what was going on in [her] marriage”. In the biography of the Princess ‘Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words’ (written by Andrew in Morton 1997), she said:


“My husband [Prince Charles] put his hand on my waistline and said: ‘Oh, a bit chubby here, aren’t we?’ and that triggered off something in me. And the Camilla thing … the first time I was measured for my wedding dress, I was 29 inches around the waist. The day I got married, I was 23½ inches. I had shrunk into nothing from February to July.”



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With ‘The Crown’ heavy emphasis was placed on ensuring that the depiction of the disorder was accurate and yet, not glamorising nor appearing to normalise bulimia. After all, the portrayal of disorders of any kind in the media has to be informative – in ways that raise awareness, incites recovery and is in no way triggering to those who are battling the said disorders. Netflix is said to have worked closely with eating disorder charity Beat in ensuring that Princess Diana’s struggles with bulimia were as accurate as it could be. Actress Emma Corrin even went through extended research, worked closely with the scripting team and consulted a movement coach for her role. In an interview with Variety, Corrin elaborated:


“If we’re going to show it we need to do it properly, otherwise I think it’s unfair on people who experience it. If that’s going on in your life, it’s symptomatic of other things and it’s also not just a sideline […] it’s something you structure your day around, you’re thinking about it at meals, after meals, and in between.”


As for why she felt the Princess’ battle was integral in the narrative, she says:

“I, through my research, realized that she was very candid about it and I was really impressed. I thought that that was massively ahead of her time. If you think about it, even these days if a public figure comes out and says something about that as their experience it makes headlines. It has journalists going wild to want to find out what happened. Everyone’s so celebratory of people sharing their experiences and it’s such a good thing these days. And she was doing that in the ’90s, which is incredible. I wanted to do it justice.”

All things considered, ‘The Crown’ manages to accurately outline the Princess’ extended struggle with bulimia and does provide viewers with an ending to that story arc. While they don’t address how exactly Princess Diana recovered nor is there any scientific referencing done in the show, they do a good job of avoiding the romanticising of the issue, which often happens with the retelling of issues that high profile celebrities and figures face. There are scenes of ‘Diana’ hurriedly spooning mouthfuls of desserts into her mouth that are juxtaposed with images of her in the bathroom, after having forced herself to cast up every that she’s eaten. These scenes are interloped with those of her going about her duties as the Princess of Wales and as the wife of a cold husband. In including the often-glossed over the existence of the disease, the series does well in reminding viewers that the disease is one that is a constant battle that affects every choice one makes, not just around mealtimes.



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With that in mind, when watching the show, it is advised that people who may be dealing with bulimia to avoid watching the series or to have a strong support group and network to reach out to, should the series trigger any past or existing issues.



*Cover image credits: Instagram / @thecrownfas

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