**Trigger Warning for Discussion of Eating Disorders**
Fans of The Crown, readers of Regency Era fan-fiction, and other Royal Watchers, rejoice! The People’s Princess is among the latest Royal stories, blending fiction and historical events. Flora Harding is among the latest to take on the story of Princess Diana and provide speculation about her inner life. If you’re a fan of Royal history and even more takes on the life of Princess Diana, this may be the book for you.
The People’s Princess combines Diana’s story leading up to her ill-fated marriage, with Princess Charlotte, a Princess of Wales in her own right. Through a series of truly tragic events, both women were the Queens who never came to be. Princess Charlotte, too, was unlucky in love, although she eventually found happiness in her marriage by all accounts. She, too, was used as a pawn by those in power around her.
There’s precedent for comparing Princess Diana to other royal historical figures. Pablo Larraín’s Spencer made a point of drawing parallels between Princess Diana and Anne Boleyn. This was an apt comparison, showing two women who were unloved by the powerful men they married. While times were different, it was clear in this comparison that the institution that is the British Monarchy remains unchanged in so many ways, including making a concerted effort to strip women who marry into the family of their power.
It makes for an interesting comparison, to contrast these two attempts to place Princess Diana in the context of royal British history. By all accounts, Princess Charlotte did find at least some measure of happiness in her marriage before she died tragically young. Anne Boleyn, by contrast, was of course the victim of her husband, Henry VIII’s hubris and stunning inferiority complex. In Spencer and The People’s Princess, it’s pointed out that the current Prince of Wales is perhaps not altogether different.
It’s honestly devastating to see Diana find comfort in these two predecessors who met with so much tragedy in their own times. In The People’s Princess, Princess Diana is portrayed as someone hopelessly in love with a man who himself is in love with someone else. By contrast, her historical counterpart Princess Charlotte is shown to be at the center of an unlikely, but sweet, romance. This romance between Princess Charlotte and Leopold I is among the strongest aspects of this story.
It would have been great if The People’s Princess had delved further into the relationship between the British Monarchy and the press. It’s mentioned briefly that the Royal Family was endlessly scrutinized, even in Princess Charlotte’s time. This would have been a fascinating parallel to explore further. To this day, so many hold the press at least partially responsible for Princess Diana’s deteriorating health towards the end of her life, as well as direct contributors to her untimely death.
Unfortunately, there are parts of The People’s Princess that ultimately fall flat. The portrayal of eating disorders throughout devolves into a lot of stereotypes and misinformation about the illness that unfortunately prevail today. As with so many books and movies that show the British Monarchy, The People’s Princess was devoid of any sort of critical analysis about how this institution, historically responsible for genocide and imperialism around the globe, continues to perpetuate real harm today. Perhaps too much to expect from a light-hearted royal romp.
Still, The People’s Princess has its charms. Both Princess Charlotte and Princess Diana are treated with the compassion that was too often denied them in their lives. It’s a poignant historical exploration of two women who met with tragedy in life and death. This story also emphasizes the fact that both women made undeniable impacts on Great Britain and beyond. The People’s Princess is a tribute to both of their legacies. If you’re looking for a royal ride to make you want to explore history on a deeper level, The People’s Princess may just fit the bill.
The People’s Princess is available now.