Yes, Prince Charles really did say he was in love with Diana Spencer — “whatever in love means” — as portrayed in The Crown.
The Crown creator Peter Morgan hews closely to actual events while fictionalizing particular moments and conversations based on extensive research into Charles, Diana, Queen Elizabeth II and the other central characters on the show. He imagines what they may have said behind closed doors, making educated guesses.
But in a scene where Diana (Emma Corrin) and Charles (Josh O’Connor) give their first engagement interview, he didn’t need to guess. Because footage of the February 1981 interview, in which they announced their plans to marry in July, is widely available.
Prince Charles makes his weird “whatever in love means” comment at the 7:40 mark:
And, as you’ll see, Charles philosophically and unromantically agrees with an interviewer who says they seem to be “in love.”
“Of course,” says Diana.
“Whatever in love means,” says Charles, as Diana chuckles nervously. He then says something about the different interpretations of being “in love.”
The real Diana Spencer – later Princess Diana — later said that the answer “traumatized” her.
“Charles turned around and said, ‘Whatever in love means,’ and that threw me completely,” she said in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words. “I thought, ‘What a strange question — uh, answer.’ God, absolutely traumatized me.”
The Crown is essential viewing for screenwriters adapting real-life events because of the way it poetically dramatizes situations — based on lots of research – rather than recreating them. It tries to get to the essence of real people’s emotions, though not always with literal recreations.
In some cases, events like a hunt for a wounded deer or a Midsummer Night’s Dream meet-cute between Charles and Diana may not have occurred, but rather serve as almost dreamlike re-imaginings of real events.
For example: As Charles and Diana make clear in the engagement interview, she and Charles did not meet indoors, as seen on The Crown. The series shows a 16-year-old Diana, in a tree costume, dashing from one potted plant to another to ostensibly hide from Charles while actually seeking his attention.
That never happened. But she did, on one of their first dates, hide from photographers behind a tree.
Watching the news conference above shows how ruthlessly, and skillfully, The Crown cuts to the basic truths of a situation — the uncertainty around Charles and Diana’a relationship from the start — without getting bogged down in dull details. The show provides just enough seemingly innocent background chatter to remind us of the exclusive world we’re visiting — see for example Princess Margaret’s monologue about Imela Marcos’ aquarium. But it isn’t a history lesson. It’s a show about real people who must decided whether to carry on traditions, or break them.
And it doesn’t fudge the crucial details, like dates, ages and locations, but rather revels in them, looking for parallels, for example, in how Margaret Thatcher and soon-to-be Princess Diana are introduced to the Royal family.
Here’s a terrific side-by-side comparison of The Crown Season 4 and the real-life moments it recreates:
The Crown is now streaming on Netflix.