In The Crown season six, episode three, Elizabeth Debicki’s Princess Diana and Khalid Abdalla’s Dodi Fayed commiserate over the onslaught of media attention they’ve received since their relationship became public. “They make like they’re your friend, and they write insult after insult anyway,” Diana says of the press. “Makes me just want to move away. Start afresh. Move to another country, somewhere like. . .”
Dodi finishes her sentence: “California?”
The Crown is a piece of historical fiction, borrowing the majority of its plot points from real-life events before dramatizing them. Yet in the case of Princess Diana—did she really want to leave the United Kingdom, away from her family, sons, and people?
Princess Diana did indeed have a desire to live abroad. “There is no doubt that she was looking for a new direction in her life at this time,” her brother, Charles Earl of Spencer, said in his eulogy at her funeral. “She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers.”
In the Metropolitan Police’s official inquest into Princess Diana’s death, her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, echoed similar sentiments to investigators. “Diana had talked about living in America or France but these were just options. She had seen our brother, Charles, escape abroad from the paparazzi and this appealed to her,” she said. (For a time, Earl Spencer and his family lived in Cape Town.)
The United States, in particular, seemed to appeal to the Princess as she enjoyed immense popularity there—while also being an ocean away from the British tabloids. Yet, those plans never came to fruition.
They did, however, for another royal: her son, Prince Harry.
Like his mother, Prince Harry wanted to move from England with his wife, Meghan Markle, to escape the press attention. “What if we could spend at least part of each year somewhere far away, still doing work for the Queen, but beyond the reach of the press?” Harry wrote in his autobiography.
At first, it was a toss-up between New Zealand and South Africa for the couple, as they were both Commonwealth countries that maintained close ties to the United Kingdom. Yet, after they officially left the royal family, they settled on the very country their mother ruminated about too: America. “We found a place. Priced at a steep discount. Just up the coast, outside Santa Barbara. Lots of room, large gardens, a climbing frame—even a pond with koi carp,” he said. They purchased the home in the summer of 2020, and have remained there ever since.