A Moment-By-Moment Breakdown Of Prince Charles & Princess Diana’s Engagement Announcement

- The Crown -
A Moment-By-Moment Breakdown Of Prince Charles & Princess Diana’s Engagement Announcement

"Whatever 'in love' means." The shot of an offhand comment that was heard around the world, and went straight into Lady Diana Spencer's heart.

Prince Charles and Diana gave their first joint interview as a couple on February 24, 1981, after sitting on the news of their engagement for three weeks before publicly making an announcement. At around 3 p.m., they emerged at Buckingham Palace for the first time in public hand in hand, hers donning that famous sapphire and diamond engagement ring.

While The Crown streamlines the press conference for the sake of pacing, they strip it down to its most visceral parts — Diana's clear adoration of Charles and Charles' crushing blow that makes Diana question what she's gotten herself into.

Below, I broke down the IRL tell-tale presser and the version on The Crown, side-by-awkward-side.

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Something Blue

The Crown is immaculate at recreation — from the production design of Balmoral Castle to Princess Diana's wardrobe on her and Prince Charles' royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. As assistant costume designer and head buyer for The Crown Sidonie Roberts shared via Netflix, there were "key moments where we adhered to recreating iconic looks she wore." And one of those picture perfect re-imaginings? The "'off the rack' engagement suit Diana bought from Harrods."

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When you watch the original engagement interview, which runs nearly eight minutes long, and the short scene in "Fairytale," the third episode of Season 4, Emma Corrin's bright blue suit and crisp blue and white pussy bow blouse look identical to the real Princess Diana's, as does her engagement ring.

While on The Crown, Diana does not specifically draw attention to the ring, the interviewer asks to have a look at the ring since he hasn't seen it himself in the original conference. Obliging, Diana divulges it's a "wonderful sapphire and diamond." No kidding.

A Shoulder to Lean On

Diana's beams of rosy adoration are plain as day in both the presser as well as in the series. While Diana bashfully leaned on Charles' shoulder during an outside stroll before the press conference, The Crown pays homage to the sweet moment during the interview inside the palace.

For the duration of the interview both in the series and in real life, the twosome's hands are unrelentingly clasped together, forming a united front on this day introducing their relationship to the world.

First Impressions

Hightailing it to the Q&A, The Crown trims down the conference to the most pertinent questions for the series' drama, omitting Charles sharing that he asked Diana to marry him two or three days before she went on a trip to Australia so she would have time to think about it. We don't see said trip on The Crown, but in reality Diana accepted quite promptly.

The highlights Peter Morgan does select, however, include recollections of when they first met. Diana is the first to answer in the real conference, citing that they were introduced in 1977 when he came to stay as a "friend" (ahem, boyfriend) of his sister Sarah's. "We sort of met in a plowed field." But Charles recalled meeting her previously.

On The Crown, Charles answered first, noting "it was a few years ago now, visiting her sister. Diana was still quite young then." No mention of her age here.

Back in the real presser, the follow-up for Charles is his first impression of Lady Diana Spencer. "I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16 year old she was. And I mean, great fun and bouncy and full of life and everything." He turns towards Diana, "I don’t know what you thought of me?" Immediately, Diana blissfully chimes in that she thought he was "pretty amazing."

On the show, Charles as played by Josh O'Connor called his bride-to-be "very original and lots of fun." Diana as played by Emma Corrin echoes Princess Diana's sincerity, reminiscing that he was "simply marvelous."

Plans for the Actual Wedding

In both versions, Charles and Diana don't have concrete plans yet for the wedding (which would go on to be at St. Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981). They did only just announce their engagement to the world, after all.

But His Royal Highness did reveal in the original interview that while there would not shortly be an announcement of where and when because "there's a lot to be decided," he did astutely predict that "when is probably in the latter half of July, I should think. It’s quite a useful time for all sorts of different reasons."

In the series, conversely, O'Connor's Charles simply insists, "We're not that far on yet, but for now, we're delighted, really," much in line with the real Prince of Wales' words to sum up the day. "It’s difficult to find any sort of word, isn’t it, really? Just delighted and happy," he said.

People Will Say We're In Love...or Not

The series does portray one rather heartbreaking dramatic moment fairly word for word though. In real life, Prince Charles goes on to coyly praise Diana in the interview when reflecting on the momentous day, flirtatiously claiming how he's "amazed that she's been brave enough to take me on." One reporter adds, "And I suppose, in love," thinking that was the obvious answer.

Diana immediately says, "Of course!" But Charles repeats the party line from his proposal. "Whatever 'in love' means. You can put your own interpretation." Trying to save face, the reporter hastens to define "in love," as "two very happy people." Charles nods "yes, absolutely," with Diana emphatically agreeing, "as you can see." But the hurt in her eyes is unmistakable.

On the show, the reverberations of Charles curt dismissal are even more resoundingly felt. The interviewer embellishes the original lead-in to Charles' answer, commending how "I see you’re going to bring a deep and lasting joy to the nation," before throwing in "and if I may say, you both look very much in love." Diana replies instantly, very sure of how she feels. "Yes, absolutely," she affirms, which is when Charles drops the lead "whatever 'in love' means" bomb with a weak laugh to make the pill easier to swallow. Emma Corrin's face is even more visibly darkened than Diana's in the original presser, confirming it was just as awkward as Charles' decision to state such a flat view on love so patently.

Screenshot via Netflix

Providing additional dramatized insight, The Crown sees Diana ring her former Earl's Court flatmates afterwards to reassure her of Charles' love because of how stung she felt. "Did you hear how he answered when they asked if we were in love?" she asks. Her pals insist that she shouldn't worry. "He was probably just a bit embarrassed." But the first crack of uncertainty in the relationship already made its mark.

Pointedly, by the time we reach "Avalanche," the ninth episode of Season 4, Princess Anne relays the truth of the Waleses' marriage to her mother, the Queen: "Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl who fell madly in love with a handsome prince. Unfortunately, the prince was already in love with someone else, who was herself in love with someone else, and they all lived unhappily ever after."

That grim reality of a marriage between two lost souls who could never fully provide what the other needed indeed first bubbles to the surface in this debut appearance as a couple headed towards marital bliss. "You kind of realize, how, this is like two magnets and it won’t work," Corrin said of Charles and Diana's relationship, per Netflix.

A young girl madly in love, a prince whose heart already belonged to someone else, happiness evaded. Sounds like an even more hapless cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream, without the perfect "fairytale" of a comedic ending.

Read More:

What Years Does The Crown Season 4 Cover? We Break Down The Timeline

A Royal Historian Breaks Down What's To Come On The Crown Season 4

No One Can Beat Princess Margaret & Peter Townsend on The Crown

Images: Netflix, screenshots

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