The true story behind Andrew Morton’s Princess Diana biography
“I’ve tried everything,” says Elizabeth Debicki‘s Princess Diana on the new season of The Crown, explaining why she has decided to help journalist Andrew Morton write a book about her. “I confronted my husband about the mistress and he dismissed me. It’s like looking at a blank wall when I go to The Queen. It dawned on my that people won’t understand what it was like for me unless I share my story. “
Diana’s collaboration with Morton would result in Diana: Her True Story. Published in July 1992, the book revealed the Princess’ unhappiness with her marriage to the unfaithful Prince Charles, her battle with bulimia, and her feelings of isolation and depression. While Morton denied at the time that Diana had helped him write the book, Diana: Her True Story became a publishing sensation, translated into 29 languages and reportedly selling five million copies around the world. Morton’s work effectively signaled the end of the royal marriage, and in December 1992 Prime Minister John Major announced that the couple had separated.
How did Diana help Morton write his explosive book? What has the writer done in the years since?
Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton
Cover of ‘Diana: Her True Story’
| Credit: Simon and Schuster
Morton began his journalism career in the ’80s, working for British tabloid newspaper The Daily Star, first as a general reporter and then royal correspondent. He is six feet four inches tall and claims that he was chosen for the latter job due to his ability to see through crowds. Morton wrote books about both Prince Andrew and his wife, the Duchess of York, and in 1990 published the unauthorized Diana’s Diary: An Intimate Portrait of the Princess of Wales. Morton, a journalist, was eager to write a more detailed biography of Diana. He also cultivated the friendship with Dr. James Colthurst who Morton met while covering Diana’s hospital visit. The Princess was open to the idea of Morton suggesting that Diana assist him in writing a biography about her.
“Diana feared that her Palace would make her mentally ill and lock her away. “Where to turn?” Morton recalled earlier this year in a first-hand account published by The Daily Mail. “It dawned on me that the public would not understand her decisions if the whole story of her life wasn’t told. “
As depicted on The Crown, Diana declined to be interviewed by Morton directly but taped lengthy answers to the writer’s questions at her Kensington Palace home, with Colthurst acting as a go-between. Morton was astonished at the princess’ candor when he began to listen to the results. “Turning on my tape recorder, I listened with mounting astonishment to the unmistakable voice of Princess Diana, pouring out a tale of woe in a rapid stream of consciousness,” he recalled this year. “She was talking to me about her unhappiness, her senses of betrayal and her suicide attempts. I also heard two things that I had never heard of: bulimia, an eating disorder, and Camilla. “
The Crown Season 5
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana on ‘The Crown’
| Credit: Netflix
When the book was published, Morton only admitted to speaking with friends of Diana, although there was little doubt that his sympathies lay with the princess rather than the royal family.
“Checkout girls in the supermarket get more training for their jobs than Diana did,” Morton told The New York Times in Dec. 1992. “And that antipathy has been going on for 10 years. You would have expected them to eventually address the problem. It is a fundamental weakness of the organization that nothing gets addressed until it becomes a crisis. “
While Diana: Her True Story inspired many people to view Diana in a more positive light, Morton was also criticized for writing the book.
It was all, “How dare you write this?”
Morton faced further criticism when, in Oct. 1997, just two months after the princess’ death in a Paris car crash, Morton published a new edition of the book titled Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words. The author clarified that Diana was the primary source of the original book and included transcripts of the princess’ recorded responses. The Guardian writer Mark Lawson called Morton a “moral leper” for publishing the new edition of the book, criticizing the journalist for “deciding that promises of confidentiality are not posthumous. “
Author Andrew Morton
| Credit: NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images
In the years after the publication of the revised edition of his most famous book, Morton wrote biographies of Monica Lewinsky, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Tom Cruise. “It’s easier to do Hollywood celebrities [than members of the royal family],” Morton told EW in 2011. “First, there is an arc about their lives in the sense that they have had to push through to showcase their talent — Angelina’s case because of her parents, her famous father and her mother’s psychological problems — it is an arc full of revelation. It’s asking the questions about why and how he would be involved in something like Scientology with Tom Cruise. It’s a different path to Prince William, for example. “
In more recent times, Morton has repeatedly returned to the British royal family as his subject matter with books like 2011’s William & Catherine: Their Story and last year’s Elizabeth & Margaret: The Intimate World of the Windsor Sisters.
Morton has yet to weigh in on season 5 of The Crown, which finds him portrayed by Andrew Steele (Outlander). We do know he is a fan of the show and in particular of Emma Corrin‘s portrayal of Diana in season 4, which he described to Vanity Fair as the most realistic he had seen to date.
I found the buildup to this wedding very moving, as both sides were slowly coming to realize that they were headed toward an unwelcome and unhappy outcome, namely, the royal wedding,” Morton said. “It reminded me of what a close friend of Diana’s said about the whole wretched mess when I was researching Diana: Her True Story: ‘I am sorry for the tragedy of it all. My heart breaks for the entire misunderstanding, but it hurts most for Diana. ‘”
Season 5 of The Crown is streaming now on Netflix.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.