Princess Diana in fiction & me

Princess Diana portrayals in movies – they hold a sort of fascination for me and yet they can never live up to what I expect from them. Not that I exactly know what I want, I just want them to feel authentic and good and somehow they never are good enough. Why this sudden interest? Well, I actually went to see a Diana musical (gasp!) in a theatre in Amsterdam a few days ago. Let me explain (in a long and rambling way)…

In 1981 Charles and Diana got married. We were on summer holiday in England at the time and the night before the wedding we (a family of 10) went to Hyde Park to see the fireworks and hopefully see Prince Charles, who was apparently attending that night. I remember Hyde Park being busy, we sat somewhere on the grass with our picnic dinner in a less crowded part, and of course we never even caught a glimpse of Charles. The fireworks were great, though. We all watched the royal wedding itself the next day in the TV room of the campsite we were staying at. My younger sister was 8, I was 11, and we, like so very many girls that age, were captivated by Lady Diana and also that royal wedding. At home, we collected pictures and stuck them into scrapbooks.

By my mid teens I still liked looking at pictures of Diana and reading about her and seeing her on TV, but I lost that fangirling quality. I was more impressed by other royals (European royalty is always a big thing in German gossip magazines and I read a lot of gossip magazines then) such as the Swedish queen Silvia, who seemed to have more gravitas, but even that waned when I hit 15 or so. Still, with Diana being such a famous woman and me still quite liking her, I did read about her marriage falling apart in the early 1990s and I saw the famous TV interviews both she and Prince Charles gave and I even read that book Andrew Morton wrote about her. Once, in the early 1990s, I even saw the back of her when I was in London. It was pure chance, I was walking by a very busy Leicester Square, heard Princess Diana was there and then spotted the back of her surrounded by a crowd disappearing into a cinema for some film premiere.

When she died, like the rest of the world, I was shocked. I can still clearly remember finding out. It was a Sunday morning, Mr E and I had been living together for a year and we were sleeping in when my younger sister, then 24, called me, then 27, to tell me Diana was dead. It felt unreal, she had just seemed to be coming into her own by then, but there it was.

So yes, while I would never consider myself a particular fan, Diana did always hold a sort of fascination for me and I had more than a passing interest in her. It’s why I also was happy to visit her childhood home Althorp a few years ago.

Anyway, back to adaptations on Diana’s life. My interest for such a work of fiction was first piqued when I was 13 or so and I saw an early dramatization of Diana’s romance on TV, in a film called The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana, starring Catherine Oxenberg (from 1982).

I liked the fairytale romance quality of it but at the time I didn’t think Oxenberg made a great Diana and I remember especially her shyness and innocence feeling over the top and fake to me. Although I haven’t seen the film in maybe 35 years, I even remember thinking that most of it was lies. Pretty lies that I wanted to believe, but lies nonetheless and therefore not really authentic. It was charming in many ways but also fake in a way that even naive little me didn’t buy it. (Oh goodness, I now find the movie is available on YouTube! Should I watch it again?)

I know there have been more Diana portrayals after that (even a sequel with Catherine Oxenberg reprising the role of Diana) but I didn’t watch them because I always felt there was too little to go on to make good movies about her. I also felt that no one looked right or felt right for the Diana role. In addition, Charles is always the one being vilified and while I’m not a fan of his, that does seem like a very one-sided viewpoint. I’m sure the man has his qualities as well.

Then in 2013, I finally did brave a film called Diana starring Naomi Watts in the titular role and Naveen Andrews as the surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan with whom Diana had fallen in love. I like Naveen Andrews, so he was what finally drew me in to actually watch this.

The film focussed on that love story and while intriguing (how can the world’s most famous and hunted woman, and British royalty at that, even hope to build a life with a publicity shy Pakistani doctor?), it did largely feel like conjecture as well. The film was alright, I liked it better than the Oxenberg one, but Naomi Watts never quite convinced me as Princess Diana. I like Naomi Watts, just not so much as Diana either.

More recently, I watched season 4 of The Crown because I was curious to see how Diana would be portrayed there (I have yet to watch seasons 1-3 but season 4 didn’t convince me enough to give the earlier seasons a try). Although Emma Corrin won an Emmy for her portrayal of Princess Diana, she never quite did it for me.

She does sound like her and dress like her and sort of have her hair (it never looked quite right, too stiff somehow), but her portrayal always felt more like an imitation of mannerisms to me and not an embodiment of Diana.

So yeah, an actress portraying Diana can never do it quite right in my eyes and I wonder if Kristen Stewart will finally convince me in the upcoming Spencer movie…

Not only are there books and movies about Diana, there are also musicals! One will be coming to New York City later this year and that musical will also come to Netflix. I’m not sure if I can brave that.

Another Diana musical, a completely Dutch production, has started playing in Amsterdam. I saw a blurb about this musical on the news last week, and I thought ”No! Not a melodramatic, sanctifying Diana musical in Dutch!” Then my younger sister called early this week (the one I used to fangirl Diana with at age 11), saying she had two free tickets to the musical for the next evening. She got them through her partner who has some ties in the Dutch musical world. They had already seen it together and had loved it and had cried and she thought I might want to see it as well and I could take our mother along with me. A little side note: my sister and I don’t always cry at the same things. Anyway, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my expectation for this Diana musical was extremely low and I was never ever intending to go see it. Her sweet generosity in offering me free tickets and her enthusiam and my husband’s encouragement to use the experience (bad or good) for input in a blog post, combined with my general interest in Diana, made me decide to just give it a try anyhow. My mother, who had the same trepidations as I did, indeed came with me.

The musical, Diana en Zonen (translates to Diana and sons) is still in its tryout phase (official premiere this coming weekend). The musical is about a posthumous Diana (Eek! I know!) to whom Harry still talks and later it is revealed William does as well. She stands by her sons as Meghan Markle appears on the scene and guides them through some difficult choices. The whole musical is set before Harry and Meghan get married.

So, what did I think of this musical? First the things I did not like so much:

  • The songs and music were not really my thing, just the typical kind of dramatic songs you’d expect from a musical (two of them on YouTube here and here, in case you’re interested). Maybe the second song I linked to, sung by Meghan Markle (played by Danique Graanoogst), stood out most but none of them really felt remarkable to me and often even felt a little boring. While I do like some musicals, maybe I am not musical fan enough to appreciate these songs.
  • I wondered, especially in the first half, how this was about the sons – it seemed to be mostly about Harry (played by Freek Bartels) and most of the story was really his point of view. I think the makers of this musical are Harry and Meghan fans.
  • The story is all conjecture. Apart from the obvious (Meghan being vilified on social media), the way especially William (played by Jonathan Demoor) and Kate (played by Liss Walravens) are so against Meghan in those early days just didn’t feel true to me. Maybe it is true, maybe it isn’t, but it felt so gossipy and fake, it really annoyed me.
  • Much was made over Meghan and Harry separating during their courtship because she didn’t want to deal with the magnitude of it all. That felt like a lot of conjecture as well, especially the way that was played up. Did they really separate? I don’t know, of course, but I think it more likely they discussed these things in depth with each other, rather than separate over it.
  • Diana seems less approving of Kate than of Meghan and that is some huge conjecturing as well, as she never even met either woman in real life. And even as a hypothesis from beyond the grave, it feels like a very questionable position.
  • Harry took his shirts and shoes off and put them on again, I don’t know how many times. Don’t get me wrong, he was nice to look at, but I just didn’t get what the point of that gimmick was.
  • There were more gimmicks, like Harry and an urn and paper confetti being thrown out and put back in again. I guess it signified picking up the pieces again? The urn thing happened several times during the musical.
  • There was this Harry fangirl part that felt completely superfluous to me, like someone thought it should be in there somewhere but apart from the comical element for five minutes, it didn’t do anything for the story.
  • Camilla (played by Gerrie van der Klei) was the comical element which somehow felt out of place in the first half of the musical and Charles (played by Jan Elbertse) was such an over-privileged sap, not daring to talk to Harry and leaving William to do the dirty work and not really standing up for anything. He may not be the most inspiring person but I don’t see Charles as being like that.

Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t all bad to me. The good things:

  • To my great surprise, I actually liked the posthumous Diana (played by Marlijn Weerdenburg). She’s a slightly older Diana, having learnt from her life. She wasn’t sanctified, she seemed reflective and wiser and more forgiving of Charles and even at the end finds respect for Camilla after being snide about her earlier. She owned her errors of judgement in marrying Charles and gives her sons (especially Harry) advice on fighting for what they care for. I thought she really looked the part too, with her hair styled right and that elegant white suit she wore throughout. You recognize her instantly and yet she is not the same. I also liked that there wasn’t any real shyness in her body language, she was a woman who now knows herself and acts self-assured and even a little repentive.
  • I liked Meghan, who is shown as strong, a woman with her own life and her own independent mind, finding it difficult to submit to the chains a royal life would put on her.
  • They also showed the older and wiser Charles and Diana looking at the younger versions of themselves during their own enagement, I think that may have been the most touching part of the whole musical for me.
  • And, in the second half of the musical, Camilla became more than just a comical side note and I got to like her after all, especially in her advice to Meghan, telling her to bide her time, saying that in time vilification will ease. She speaks from experience. She is also a good antidote to the somewhat morose Charles and peps him up.
  • Harry was somehwat melodramatic to me but there is this one scene where he gets so angry at his mother, angrily crying out to her that he and his brother can never break free from her shadow and that really rang so true to me. It is difficult for them to find their places without constantly being compared to or linked to their mother. I think pretty much everyone still does that.
  • In one of the few scenes of Diana and William alone he accuses his mother of treating Harry as the favourite and she guiltily admits that although she loves them both equally, she protected Harry more because William ”had his father”. ”Did I?” William asks. I would have liked to have seen more of that Diana and William dynamic.
  • Kate and William were more one-dimensional but I did like that they addressed Kate and her somewhat boring image that she doesn’t seem to be able to break away from. She has been completely usurped into the royal role, and accepts it all but sometimes there’s a little rebellion, even in her, when she tries to show more of herself and tries to break free from Meghan overshadowing her.
  • All in all, the second half was better than the first half of the musical.

In the end, I thought this might have worked better as a play than as a musical. I would have liked to have seen more of William with his mother and maybe more of an honest portrayal of Charles, it didn’t feel so honest here (except for a few small moments). I liked the element of looking back on a famous life and figuring out what people might have learned and taken away from that. In short, there were some interesting thoughts in this production that might have been explored better in a good character play.

I don’t know any of these Dutch actors (I’m not up to speed with Dutch TV, movies and theatre, they normally don’t hold that much attraction for me) but Marlijn Weerdenburg as Diana did stand out. Maybe I liked her so much because she wasn’t exactly trying to be the Diana we all know, but more of an evolved version? I also liked Danique Graanoogst as Meghan and in the end even Gerrie van der Klei as Camilla as well. The acting was fine but the story overall (despite a few interesing elements) and the music were very iffy. I left with very mixed feelings. I’d rate it 2.5 out of 5 stars, maybe? Not something I’d really need to see again but not as terrible as I feared.

On to the next Diana adaptation. Will there ever be a really good one?

My fave royal wedding

I am not a royal gusher but when I see things about royal families, I do get a look in when I feel I like them. I therefore am quite aware of who the main Dutch royals are, I know a bit who the main Danish royals are (I quite like their Australian-born crown princess) and I think just about everyone knows who the British royals are. While I do quite like prince William, his wife Kate doesn’t do much for me (never has, even when they got married). In recent years, I thought Harry was turning out quite nicely too. And then he got engaged to Meghan Markle, of tv-show Suits fame. I really like Suits and I really like Meghan too and I admit that I was very much taken by the idea of them as a couple! And today (well, yesterday, as it’s after midnight here), they got married in what I think may be my fave royal wedding to date.

It started special when there was Idris Elba and Oprah Winfrey and George & Amal Clooney walking up to the chapel in Windsor Castle.

I wouldn’t call myself a George Clooney fan, although I do like him, but he sure as hell looked extremely gorgeous in grey (colouring nicely with his hair) in the spring sunshine!clooneys3

I got the greatest kick out of seeing the Suits actors walk to the church. There was gorgeous Gabriel Macht (Harvey Specter on the show) and his lovely wife Jacinda Barrett…

… and Patrick J. Adams (who plays Michael Ross, the man Meghan Markle married on the show!) with his wife Troian Bellisario…

Back in November, when Meghan and Harry had gotten engaged he had tweeted…2017-11-27-Patrick J Adams op Twitter_ _She said she was just going out to get some milk...

… and this morning he followed on from that joke with this Instagram post…

2018-05-19 22_03_22-Patrick Adams on Instagram_ “I_m beginning to think she might not actually be ou

Also Sarah Rafferty (Donna Paulsen on Suits) was there with her husband Santtu Säppäla…

And Gina Torres (who plays Jessica Pearson) and Rick Hoffman (who plays Louis Litt) also came…

There were more illustrious guests (like Serena Williams and Elton John) but I don’t want to go on about guests, I want to show pictures from the wedding!

Harry arrived with his brother William, who was best man…

… and then bride Meghan, driving with her mother Doria Ragland beside her, appeared…

In the church, the two princes were waiting for the bride…wed3 asile0

Doria went into the church alone, and, already fighting the tears, Harry caught her eye…

It must have been quite something special for her to see her daughter get married in such a unique way, she looked very touched throughout the service.

Outside Meghan arrived, accompanied by two page boys who carried her veil…

I kinda loved that she walked down the aisle on her own, as an independent woman of the world.wed3 asile1For the last part of her walk, she was met by Prince Charles (standing in for Meghan’s father who was ill and couldn’t be there), who welcomed her into the family rather than ‘gave her away’. When she got to Harry, you could lip-read Harry saying “Thank you, Pa” to his dad. Awww.

And just after the couple greeted each other at the altar you could also lip-read Harry saying to Meghan “You look amazing”. 🙂

They found each other’s hands and held hands for most to the ceremony, which I found sweet and I don’t think I ever saw other royal couples do so extensively.

Harry uncovered Meghan’s face (another awww!) and they went right on holding hands during the ceremony.

And then maybe the best part of the ceremony came, when Episcopalian bishop Michael Curry delivered his lively sermon about love.Bishop Michael Curry3That man is a good speaker and certainly woke people up, made them sit up and made people smile. Not only the royal couple…

… but many guests looked surprised and bemused…

The best reaction has got to be from Zara Tindall (daughter of Princess Anne, Charles’ sister), who was trying to process what was hitting her…react zara

I think that may have been the moment I said to Mr Esther “best royal wedding ever!” After that wonderful, enlivening sermon came a wonderful gospel choir singing “Stand By Me”, which was stunning…gospel choir2

Harry and Meghan listened from afar…wed7-seated01

And then finally the vows were exchanged (and I wiped away a few tears).

Again, lovely. The way these two look at each other, it’s pretty clear how they feel about each other! After the vows they went out for a few minutes to sign the register. They were followed by Prince Charles who so graciously invited Doria to come with him. One of the highlights for me really was how Charles looked after Doria, who was the only member of Meghan’s family present.doria charles

He was also sweet to Doria after the service, walking with her and talking with her, including her in everything and lending her his arm. I found that very touching.

Back to the wedding service: after the signing, the national anthem was sung and the couple left the church…

They exited the church…

… looked at each other…

… and kissed…

Pictures from another angle…

Ah, the romance! The walked down the steps to an awaiting carriage…

… and then came the carriage ride through Windsor…

Apparently there was also a kiss in the carriage. I didn’t see it on TV, but it was there in the pictures..wed11-carriage (8)

I also found this image somehow very beautiful and endearing…wed11-carriage (13)

The wedding was festive and there was pomp and circumstance, but it also was personal, mixing the traditional more reserved English world of Harry beautifully with the more emotionally demonstrative American world of Meghan. It was about a woman standing on her own, openly embracing a future with a prince, it was about embracing difference and celebrating it. And it didn’t hurt that I found Meghan’s dress absolutely gorgeous and the couple was beautiful to look at.

The rest of the festivities were outside the public eye, except for a moment this evening when the couple left Windsor to go to Prince Charles’s residence at Frogmore house for the evening party. Meghan had changed into another dress, Harry had changed into a tux and they were off in a cute little blue Jaguar sports car…

I don’t often go gaga over royal events. I do usually enjoy them and like looking at the pictures but then easily move on. This wedding, however, somehow touched me more than other weddings have and yes, it even made me actively actually gather all these pictures throughout the day! In a world so hateful and cynical Harry and Meghan today radiated an image of love and inclusion and change. I hope they can continue to do this and wish them all happiness and the best for the future!

London & the Colin Firth connection

So, I recently was in London for a week and if I had really tried I possibly could have met Colin Firth! Theoretically… I maybe could have caught a glimpse…

Just before I went to London I read that Prince Charles would be hosting a reception for Britain’s Oscar winners at St. James’s Palace in London and that Colin Firth would be there! I would love meet Colin Firth one day, if only for a few brief moments… I’ve met Richard Armitage, I’ve seen Pierce Brosnan up close and personal, and I sat just a few rows away from Michael Palin when he came for a talk to The Netherlands, but I have never once seen Colin Firth in real life. And Emma Thompson was also going to be at this reception. And Judi Dench. And Maggie Smith. And.. and… and…

I was going to be in London and I would actually know where Colin Firth would be on a certain day (May 4th) when I was also there! So, I was thinking of staking out St. James’s Palace to try and catch a glimpse of the man. However, I was in London with the family… and I had no idea when exactly on May 4th this reception would be… and I had no idea what entrance Colin Firth would use… I had no idea if I would even catch a glimpse should I even know these things, maybe his car with darkened windows would just whizz by and that would be it!

In the end, there just was no time! My guess was that the reception would be in the evening (a correct guess as it turned out later) and that evening my brother had, as a surprise, gotten us tickets to see the play The Railway Children! As much as I want to see Colin Firth, doing this with the family came first and what a wonderful time we had. So, I did not do my stake out at St. James’s Palace after all and I could not regret that either… But I did see a few pictures the next day:

Oscar winner's reception1

Colin is behind Camilla with Mark Rylance and Michael Caine. Vanessa Redgrave beside Camilla and on the other side next to Prince Charles we have Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Emma Thompson is cut off this picture, but she was somewhere more to the right.

Of course I really liked this picture below of Colin Firth looking very pleased shaking Prince Charles’s hand:

Oscar winner's reception2

And to think that Colin won his Oscar for playing Prince Charles’s grandfather in The King’s Speech!

Apparently Emma Thompson was clowning around with Prince Charles (with Colin Firth in the background):

And I loved this shot of Judi Dench:

Oscar winner's reception5

There is also a brief video summary of the event:

Then two days later my brother tells me that Emma Thompson doesn’t live too far away from where he lives! He’s never seen her around ‘in the wild’ but we figure out where her house exactly is. Basically we could just walk past her house if we wanted to! But we never do, that would be creepy… I also haven’t held on to the info about her house because what good would that do me anyhow?

I do leave London feeling like I could have almost met Colin Firth! And that I could have theoretically bumped into Emma Thompson at Waitrose supermarket! Just the idea that I could have seen them around makes me happy! Maybe when I come again next time I will? I’ll keep a lookout…