There is a scene in Netflix’s The Crown where Princess Margaret and her lover Group Captain Peter Townsend are heading to a party, and suddenly find themselves being chased by a pack of press photographers, who swerve across the road and lean out of car windows to snap pictures for tomorrow’s papers.
Anyone even remotely familiar with the latter history of the British royal family will immediately think of the late Princess Diana – and, as star Vanessa Kirby says, this is no coincidence.
Kirby says she always intended to play Margaret as a “pre-figure of Diana”, following discussions with The Crown’s creator and writer Peter Morgan.
“We talked a lot about that,” Kirby tells RadioTimes.com. “He [Morgan] sort of said she foreshadowed it.
“And actually, she had more paparazzi following her than Diana did, and she was on more front pages than Diana was. People don’t remember it because it was less invasive in terms of the public eye, but she was as famous as Elizabeth Taylor, if not more so – and in fact they were friends.
Princess Margaret, pictured in October 1955
“And she courted it as well, whereas Elizabeth shied from it, so I think she was the pre-figure of Diana, and this tragic figure as well.”
Jared Harris meanwhile, who stars as King George VI, also says he gained a new sympathy for his character, thrust on to the throne following the abdication of his older brother.
“He was someone who didn’t appear to be naturally suited to it,” Harris says. “His brother was sort of a movie star, a gregarious charming person who everyone thought – quite similar to Margaret – would be better suited to the presentational aspects of the role,” he adds.
Princess Diana, photographed in November 1992
“I suppose he surprised everybody by knuckling down and taking it seriously as a sacred responsibility, but it doesn’t seem like he ever felt as though he was successful in the job. There was always a feeling of, he was second best.”
King George, says Harris, was “imprisoned” by the role – and so was his daughter, according to Kirby. “Margaret too, because in a way you’re imprisoned by not being the Queen. You’re defined by the fact that you’re not.
“And so there’s always a sense of lack, I think, and I think what I loved about her so much was this juxtaposition between being the gregarious, confident, extrovert exhibitionist rogue one, combined with a low sense of self-worth.”