Engaging and entertaining miniseries about the troubled marriage of Charles and Diana, adapted from the biography by Andrew Morton, features fine performances by Serena Scott Thomas and David Threlfall, as well as solid script , direction and production values.
Although the royal tale of woe may be familiar to avid readers of the tabloids, for non-royal aficionados the series dramatically unravels the events that led to the formal separation of the couple by focusing on the personal tragedies behind the headlines.
Charles (Threlfall), as portrayed in this program, is under extreme pressure from the Queen (Anne Stallybrass) to marry and produce an heir. Despite his love for Camilla Parker-Bowles (Elizabeth Garvie), Charles accedes to the wishes of his mother and becomes engaged to Diana (Thomas), who’s only 19 and barely past her school days.
The marriage is in trouble from the beginning, as Diana’s naive expectations are crushed and Charles is bewildered by the unhappiness of his new bride, who apparently was ill-prepared for the fishbowl life of the royal family.
Their story becomes a classic drama, a clash of love and the pursuit of personal happiness against the crushing duties of the crown.
It is ironic that Queen Elizabeth, who was devastated by the abdication of her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, because of his love for divorced commoner, must preside over the dilution of the monarchy because of the marital difficulties of her own children, most prominently Charles.
The story is told from the point of view of Princess Diana as she struggles to overcome not only rejection by her husband and demands from the royal family but her own emotional frailties that lead to numerous suicide attempts, bulimia and devastating mood swings.
However, Prince Charles, long-suffering heir to the throne, emerges as the truly tragic figure in the piece. A man who has no choice but to play by the rules, despite an underlying sensitive and vulnerable nature, Charles is portrayed by David Threlfall in a captivating performance as an almost Shakespearean prince.
But Charles is a thoroughly modern prince, whose tragedy is not written in blood or war, but in the tabloid headlines and the battle of competing publicists with his schoolgirl wife.
Particular credit should go to scripter Stephen Zito, who made a major contribution with his fine adaptation of the Morton book.
Director Kevin Connor and producer Martin Poll kept the ambitious project on track and focused on the emotional core of the piece.