I love The Crown. I love everything about it.
The polished gallop through royal history, the inspired casting – Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret and Matt Smith as Prince Philip – and the audacity of creator Peter Morgan to take a living, breathing family and package them as characters in an elevated and gripping soap opera.
When I interviewed Claire Foy a couple of years ago I couldn’t stop myself asking a flurry of questions about what it was like to play The Queen even though the point of the chat was to publicise a different film.
Floral tributes and balloons laid in the gardens of Kensington Palace after the death of Princess Diana, Princess of Wales. The final series of The Crown will not show the car crash, but Angela Mollard says the tragedy remains too disturbing to watch
Princess Diana leaves Sardinia with Dodi Fayed on her way to Paris in August 1997
The wreckage of the car following the crash in the Pont de L’Alma tunnel that took the lives of Diana and driver Henri Paul. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was badly injured
Indeed, the only annoyance in five glorious seasons over six impatient years was my two teenage daughters interrupting to ask: ‘Did that really happen?’ or ‘Did the Queen’s husband – what’s his name again – really have an affair?’
And yet here we are on the eve of the sixth and final season of the award-winning series and I can’t watch it.
It’s not because an historian writing for this publication branded it ‘cruel, farcical and a sick joke’ or because sources close to King Charles have reportedly dubbed it ‘trolling on a Hollywood budget’.
No, I can’t watch The Crown because 26 years later I can’t bear to relive Diana’s death.
The car crash which killed Diana, Princess of Wales won’t be shown according to Morgan but the days leading up to her death and those that followed are too disturbing to revisit even 26 years later and in dramatised form.
Typically, my curiosity would outweigh emotion but I don’t want to be transported back to the most horrible and unsettling week of my career. I expect many others will feel the same.
I was aged 29 and working for the Daily Mail and having been alerted to the Princess’s death in the early hours of August 31, 1997 by my brother living in Japan, I was in the newsroom at daybreak.
‘The silence that day was like nothing I’d ever known,’ writes Angela Mollard. ‘How do you capture the death of an icon with paper and ink?’
Newspapers are noisy, busy places populated by people who are shocked by little and amused by much.
Yet the silence that day was like nothing I’d ever known. How do you capture the death of an icon with paper and ink?
Which of the thousands of photographs of her would illustrate the front page? And over and over through that long, strange day an unspoken refrain: ‘Has this really happened?’
For seven horrible days as the Royal Family flailed and the Blair government advised and the public sliced open a hitherto unexposed vein of unchecked emotion, we news people had to marshal words into stories that made sense. And yet nothing did.
How could someone so luminous die in something so prosaic, so preventable as a car accident caused by a drunken driver?
Why was the Queen being so odd? Why wasn’t she saying anything?
Prince Charles with sons William and Harry look at the sea of floral tributes left in memory of their mother at Kensington Palace
The Daily Mail’s dramatic front page summed up the mood of the nation one week on from Diana’s death
Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth addresses the nation on the day before Diana’s funeral
The Queen was faced with a clamour to break with protocol and allow the flag to fly at half mast over Buckingham Palace
Angela Mollard believes that The Crown’s Elizabeth Debicki is the only actress to have truly captured Princess Diana
Even those who’d earlier painted Diana as an unhinged, media-manipulating menace were mute.
Elizabeth Debicki is the only actress to truly capture Diana yet even with her compelling skills, I can’t watch The Crown.
Time may have soothed the anger and healed the rawness in those days between Diana’s accident in a Paris underpass and her coffin being buried on an island at Althorp but nothing can erase the profound sadness.
It’s there, still, in the Mother’s Day cards George, Charlotte and Louis make for their father in remembrance of a grandmother they never knew.
It’s palpable in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace where a dour grey statue, however carefully considered, was never going to capture her energy and magnetism.
But more than anything it’s there in the heartbreaking chasm between her two sons, a rift that would never have been allowed to deepen were she still alive.
Most families are misshapen, bruised or dysfunctional in some way but the sadness which sprung from the tragedy of Diana’s death seems never to be reconciled. Prince Harry is a broken man.
We know that because he tells us in nearly every page of his memoir, Spare. He is riven with anger and while we may question his choices, losing his mother has left him with deep grief and mistrust.
Next year he will be 40, four years older than his mother when she died. Will he ever not be troubled?
Prince Harry and Prince William were together at the unveiling of their mother’s statue in 2021. But it seemed they could barely look at each other
Prince Harry at the funeral of his mother, with his uncle Charles Spencer, left, brother and father. ‘Losing Diana has left him with deep grief and mistrust’
Angela Mollard is a big fan of The Crown. But there’s one part she won’t be watching
A poster advertising the sixth and final series of The Crown, which begins this week
The final month of Diana’s life was maddeningly weird. She wanted to be photographed and yet she didn’t.
She wanted to carve out a new life yet she was living one that patently wasn’t her. Dodi Fayed was a fling, a fix for a heart broken by the man she genuinely loved. Diana died unfinished, in work, in love, in life.
As Dominic West who plays Prince Charles states in a harrowing scene in the trailer for the final season of The Crown: ‘This is going to be the biggest thing that any of us have ever seen’. All these years later, I don’t need to see it again.