‘The Crown’: The Real Story Behind Diana & Camilla’s Lunch Meeting
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 3 of The Crown, “Fairytale.”]
Before she was labeled as the Princess of Wales, Diana Spencer was a kindergarten teacher’s assistant living in London. Her relationship with Prince Charles changed her status, and viewers see their evolution from acquaintances to spouses over the course of Season 4.
But prior to their 1981 wedding, Diana and Charles’ relationship became even more defined as she came to terms with the truth about his unbroken connection with married ex Camilla Parker Bowles. In the series, the first time we see Camilla (Emerald Fennell) and Diana (Corrin) meet, they grab lunch following the engagement.
Diana is tipped off about the possible meeting when Charles (Josh O’Connor) heads off on tour and says he asked Camilla to reach out to her while he’s away. This little exchange isn’t necessarily confirmed in real life, but Camilla’s letter to Diana inviting her to lunch is. In the 2017 documentary Diana: In Her Own Words (also available on Netflix), the princess recounts receiving the letter upon moving into Clarence House.
“There was a letter on my bed from Camilla, dated two days previous saying, ‘Such exciting news about the engagement. Do let’s have lunch soon when Prince of Wales goes to Australia and New Zealand. And love to see the ring. Lots of love, Camilla.'”
This letter is featured in the season and even worded similarly to Diana’s real-life account. The resulting lunch was certainly a tense exchange between Diana and Camilla in the series as the pair went back and forth discussing Charles. It’s clear that Camilla knows more about Charles in that moment than his future wife-to-be, but it’s a simple question that Camilla poses during the conversation that roots the moment in reality.
“We had lunch, and very tricky, very tricky indeed,” Diana revealed in real life. “She said, ‘You’re not going to hunt, are you?’ I said ‘No.'” This reveal then, according to Diana, led Camilla to say, “‘Oh, I just wanted to know that.'” The question does slip into Camilla and Diana’s scripted conversation on the show, but Diana’s account in the documentary reveals the real meaning behind it.
“I was still too immature to understand all the messages coming my way,” Diana said of the real-life conversation, hinting at the deeper meaning behind Camilla’s words. As viewers of Season 4 will recall, Prince Charles often has rendezvous with Camilla in the countryside as Diana opts for city life.
As for the bracelet that Diana discovers Charles had made for Camilla, in the series, Di happens upon designs in the office. She realizes who the jewelry is for based on the engraving that read “Fred and Gladys,” which are Charles and Camilla’s pet names for each other.
In reality, that scenario unfolds a little differently, as Diana recountedL “Someone in his office told me that my husband had a bracelet made for her. I walked into this man’s office one day and I said, ‘Oh, what’s in that parcel?'”
“‘Oh,’ he said. ‘You shouldn’t look at that.'”
“I said, ‘Well, I’m going to look at it.’ So, I opened it and there was a bracelet. I was devastated.”
The Crown‘s Diana seems equally devastated as she kicks over flower bouquets and shoves fan mail on carts about her room when she’s unable to reach the Queen to discuss the issues at hand. Ultimately, the bracelet nor the lunch prevents Charles and Diana from walking down the aisle, but the toxic environment does contribute to the Princess’s bulimia.
While some of the small details may have changed for the show, The Crown still captures the essence of Diana’s sad tale.
The Crown, Season 4, Streaming now, Netflix