The press release for the Diana at Sixty documentary says that the film “chronicles the life of Lady Diana Spencer, the young woman who married a prince, but who went on to become an internationally loved princess in her own right.” The movie is 63 minutes long and currently streaming for free on Tubi. Here’s ToDiForDaily.com‘s review/recap.
The film opens with footage of Princess Diana’s funeral procession. The longest two miles in the world for two small boys who wanted none of it. Diana’s funeral is probably one of the most memorable in recent history. I can only think of one other (not in my lifetime) that I can visualize: JFK’s.
The narrator reminds us that Diana was only on the global scene for 16 years before that horrific Paris car crash that stole her from us. She has been dead for longer than she was an active member of the royal family but she is still spoken of, thought of, and honored in a way… nearly every day.
Diana at Sixty features vintage interviews with people that did know and have access to a young Lady Diana Spencer. The first interview is with a nanny named Mary Clarke. I enjoy the way she clasps her hand over the armrest of her decadent stately chair like a Disney villain. However, a young Diana is the naughty one in this story!
Mary shares stories about Diana putting pushpins in chair cushions to harass previous nannies, she says Diana would “lock them in the toilets and throw away the key,” and toss their clothing along the roof of Park House. Mary claims that Diana’s father, John Spencer, the 8th Earl Spencer, told her that Diana was the “most disturbed” by her parents’ divorce. Diana and Charles, her baby brother, had a difficult time accepting nannies around the house because, quite simply, they were not their mother… and they missed their mother.
Did you know that Diana grew up on Queen Elizabeth‘s Sandringham Estate in a home called Park House? Diana’s grandparents originally rented the home from King George V. Multiple members of Diana’s family were royal courtiers. It often feels like that is excluded from her story. Was she more interesting or fascinating by being considered “a commoner” to the press? When her family has such a rich and fascinating aristocratic background?
Mary says that Diana wasn’t the least bit interested in clothes or fashion. Can you believe that? One of the most celebrated women in fashion only wanted to wear old t-shirts and trousers. “She absolutely hated dressing up,” says her nanny.
Penny Walker and Ruth Rudge worked at West Heath School while Diana was a pupil. Ruth remembers Diana’s rebellious streak… and how the quiet student would sneak in “illegal food” for “midnight feasts” in her bedroom with friends. Penny referred to Diana as “naughty” and Ruth remembers the future princess as one of the regulars that weeded the gardens with her on Saturdays “as a punishment.”
In the documentary, they cut to an adult Princess Diana that has returned to West Heath School for a visit. She jokes in her speech about becoming “an expert at weeding the garden.” She always had the best sense of humor!
We hear a lot about Diana’s prized guinea pig. Did her boys have a guinea pig? She seemed to love animals when she was younger but not necessarily when she became an adult.
Her nanny says that young Diana loved to be the center of attention and would demand everyone’s attention before an elegant dive in the pool. Does that not remind you of the St Tropez photos splashed across every newspaper in 1997? A newly-single Diana determined to change the narrative after an ugly divorce? (As Prince Charles and co. schemed to present Camilla to the public.)
Mary Robertson, who you might recognize from CNN’s DIANA docu-series, is interviewed in this vintage footage. Mary was Diana’s former employer. Diana nannied her son, Patrick. She has always spoken highly of Diana and remembers how “affectionate” the teenager was with her son. Diana was working for Mary when she first started dating Prince Charles. Packs of paparazzi would wait for her outside of Mary’s home. Both women were taken aback by the enormous amount of attention that Diana was receiving.
Mary says that Diana was very generous and considerate. Mary did not have a car and Diana did… so without prompting, Diana would pick up things from the store that she knew Mary needed but might be a chore to get. She would also make the bed, clean the kitchen and do anything that might make Mary’s life easier (but was not required or requested) after a long work day.
Photographer Arthur Edwards tells us how he discovered Lady Diana Spencer. After getting a tip that she would be a guest of Prince Charles at a polo match, he spotted a beautiful young blond wearing an initial D necklace and assumed she was the one. The rest was history.
Mary remembers Diana telling her that she was secretly dating Prince Charles… and how defeated the young nanny seemed when she admitted that she did not think that he would consider her marriage material.
Mary talks about Lady Diana feeling overwhelmed by the media attention. Diana did break down on more than one occasion and called in to tell Mary that she couldn’t face the press and walk out of her front door to go to work. Mary understood and would call into her office to tell them that her babysitter wasn’t available and she had to stay home with Patrick. However, her office was so tickled by the idea of her babysitter marrying the Prince of Wales that it never caused her any trouble!
Have you ever seen how sincerely happy Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip look on Prince Charles’ wedding day? The Queen looks absolutely blissful. I also noticed, thanks to Diana at Sixty, a very tender moment during the wedding as Diana greets Charles. She lovingly leans into him as if to say, “Here we go!”
Barbara Daly did Princess Diana’s makeup on her wedding day. She giggles remembering meeting up with Diana moments after she said her vows. Diana lifted her wedding veil for a touch-up and whispered, “I made a mistake!” Poor Diana had mixed up the Prince’s names calling him “Philip Charles Arthur George” instead of “Charles Philip.” Barbara whispered back, “Yes.” Diana then asked, “Do you think anybody heard?”
750 million people watched Princess Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles.
Diana is remembered as a romantic and a traditionalist. There is a constant theme of Diana’s fear of divorce and separation. She truly thought her marriage was forever.
The documentary acknowledges some of the generic royal playbooks that Diana found herself trapped in. From photo ops to wardrobe. Diana felt limited by protocol but certainly not as uninterested in it as we saw, for instance, Meghan Markle. Diana’s push for change seemed to be subtle and oftentimes, Prince Charles agreed with her. Specifically, he enjoyed having Prince William along for their trip to Australia… no matter what The Crown tells you.
Cue the strangest two-minute acoustic guitar montage of Princess Diana on royal engagements. It’s like when you’re watching something royal-related illegally uploaded to YouTube and the uploader has covered up 5 minutes of the show or documentary with royalty-free music to throw off YouTube’s copyright system. Is this real life?
Debbie Frank, an astrologer, and friend of Diana discusses how the presence of Camilla ignited a curiosity in astrology. Diana wanted to know more about her chart, vs. Charles, vs. Camilla. What did the future hold? Would she ever find happiness? Would Camilla steal her Prince Charming away? She was fearful and looking for guidance.
Diana at Sixty suggests that Diana was always looking for a mother figure.
Enter Lucia Flecha De Lima. The ex-ambassador of Brazil to the UK immediately stresses how much she truly loved the princess… as a daughter. “She was the most wonderful friend to me,” Lucia tells the doc in vintage footage. “She brought a lot of joy, light, laughter, dramas into my life,” she remembers fondly. Sadly, one of Diana’s closest confidants admits, “I’ll always be afraid that I didn’t do enough for her.” I think these interviews are particularly special as Lucia Flecha De Lima passed away in 2017 from cancer.
Mary Robertson theorizes that Prince Charles had “a wretched childhood” which limited his ability to be able to properly respond to Princess Diana. Arthur Edwards suggests that Charles was green with envy over Diana’s celebrity and success.
Derek Deane of the English National Ballet (one of the six charities that Diana opted to continue to work with post her divorce) remembers Diana showing up for an event on the day that her divorce was finalized. He quotes the princess as saying, “Obviously I’m having the most terrible day. This is one of the worst days of my life but I have to accept it.” So sad.
It takes Diana at Sixty 45 minutes before they acknowledge what an incredible mother Diana was. Her ultimate legacy. Barbara Daly recalls a hilarious story about a small Prince William… “She said: You know, he came back, ran into me, and said ‘Mommy, I’m a Prince and I think they have to call me Prince at school!’ And she said to him, ‘Your name is William and just don’t forget it.”
A waiter at Sticky Fingers shared a funny story about Prince Harry: “When customers come in… you go through the specials of the day. We told Princess Diana and the two princes the specials and Harry turned ’round and said, ‘Is that just because it’s us, it’s special?’ And Princess Diana turned around and said, ‘You’ll get a special smack in a minute!” He continues, “She was really down to earth. She was great.”
The documentary talks about Diana taking the boys to homeless shelters far and away from press so that they could truly see how the less fortunate lived and could sympathize and show compassion. These visits have moved Prince William immensely as an adult. You can see through his current activity and interests.
With 12 minutes left in the film, we are introduced to Dodi Fayed and the mystery surrounding Diana’s death. They question whether or not Henri Paul (the driver on that fateful night) was genuinely intoxicated as reported. Why were they driving in the wrong direction? How fast were they going? Why did the crash happen out of sight? In a tunnel? Why were 11 security cameras not on and operating that evening? Why was evidence cleaned up so quickly? Why did Diana and the ambulance take so long to reach the hospital? “For some people, all of these terrible coincidences are just too much…”
The film ends by suggesting that Diana would have not allowed Megxit to happen. A narrator is speaking over footage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. It’s the first piece of fresh footage we have seen in 60 minutes so it feels like a lazy, last-minute addition. I would have liked to have seen old footage weaved in with new footage vs. the bizarre 3 minutes of recent imagery. Overall, minus Hillary Clinton, the interviews are high quality and the stories delightful.