In season five of The Crown, a newly-single Princess Diana goes on a date to the movies. (A note to the reader: spoilers to follow.) To avoid recognition, she wears a brown wig and sunglasses. The disguise works, as she happily settles into the theater alongside a Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, who she met while visiting his hospital a few weeks earlier.
Yet the viewer knows this blissfulness will be short-lived. As the show depicts, Diana was arguably the most famous woman in the world—and remaining permanently incognito was not a viable option. At the end of this season of The Crown, Debicki’s Diana laments the end of her relationship with Khan, telling Dominic West’s Prince Charles that she thinks she “scared him off.”
There may be no modern figure whose personal life has been more exhaustively chronicled than the late Princess Diana. She first entered the glare of the spotlight at just 19 years old when she began to date Prince Charles, and never left: rarely was there a day without her photograph in the paper or her name in a headline for the next decade and a half, especially as her marriage began to crumble.
This very concept is explored in the fifth season of The Crown, with multiple episodes examining (and dramatizing) her pivotal relationships with not just Charles, but James Hewitt, Khan, and Dodi Al Fayed.
Charles, the Prince of Wales
In 1977, a then Diana Spencer first met Prince Charles of Wales at Althorp House, her 1,500-acre family estate in Northamptonshire, England, when she was just 16 years old. Three years later, she and Prince Charles began to date, and he proposed on February 24, 1981. When a reporter asked Charles if they were in love, he famously replied, “whatever ‘in love’ means.”
An estimated 750 million people watched their wedding several months later. Diana called it “the worst day of my life,” according to the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words. “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter,” she once said. “And I knew it.”
By 1986, both were reportedly participating in extramarital affairs. In 1994, Charles told his official biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, that he picked things back up with Camilla Parker Bowles. Meanwhile, it’s alleged that Diana’s affair with army captain James Hewitt started around this time, and rumors of their troubled marriage begin to appear in the press.
Amid her unhappy marriage with Prince Charles, Princess Diana began an affair with army captain James Hewitt, which began in 1986 and ended around 1990. In 1994, Hewitt shared his story in a tell-all memoir which allegedly sold for millions of dollars. Reports at the time claimed he’d also been shopping the affair around to the tabloids for years. (“Hewitt’s reputation, it seems, has been dealt a mortal blow,” People wrote in a cover story published October of that year.) As of 2011, he was still giving interviews about his affair with the Princess: “If Charles hadn’t cheated, Diana wouldn’t have,” he told Entertainment Tonight.
Dr Hasnat Khan
Princess Diana’s relationship with Dr. Hasnat Khan began in September 1995. During their two years together, the two kept their relationship extremely private. (Or, as private as they could after reporters got word of the romance.) Yet the intense media attention notwithstanding, it was said to be a relatively normal relationship (Diana’s nickname for the heart and lung surgeon was “Mr. Wonderful.”) In one episode of The Crown, they show Elizabeth Debicki‘s Diana and Humayun Saeed Khan go to see a movie together—with the Princess wearing a wig to remain incognito.
To this day, Khan has hardly spoken about their relationship. The one exception? The statement he gave to police during a 2004 inquest into Princess Diana’s death, which was read in court. He spoke fondly of the late Princess: “I found her a very normal person with great qualities,” he said. Khan also admitted the two broke up due to his reluctance to be more public with Diana.
Dodi Al Fayed
After Khan, Diana dated Dodi Al Fayed, a film producer and son of billionaire businessman Mohamed Al Fayed. The couple spent the summer of 1997 on the Al Fayed yacht, sailing around the South of France, before heading to Paris. Cameras trailed them everywhere they went.
There, tragedy struck: the couple died in a horrific car crash in a tunnel. An investigation into their death found their driver was drunk and speeding at 121 miles per hour while being pursued by a tail of paparazzi.
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk