HBO's New Diana Doc Sparks Comparisons with Meghan, Harry's Royal Treatment

The release of a feature-length documentary focusing on the life and times of Princess Diana has sparked comparisons between the late-princess's turbulent experiences as a member of the royal family and those of her son and daughter-in-law, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Viewers of the HBO documentary The Princess, which aired on August 13, weeks before the 25th anniversary of Diana's death at the age of 36 in a Paris car crash, took to social media to highlight the parallels.

"Watching The Princess on HBO I can see why Harry wanted to protect Meghan so fiercely. The paparazzi were ravenous and she never knew a moment's peace," wrote one user.

"Just watch The Princess on @hbo. Harry was so wise to get his wife away so history couldn't repeat itself. The parallels going on today are alarming," posted another.

Princess Diana Documentary, Harry and Meghan
Princess Diana on September 17, 1980, and Harry and Meghan on December 1, 2017. HBO's "The Princess" documentary showcasing Diana's treatment from the age of 19 at the hands of the press and public has drawn parallels with the treatment of Harry and Meghan on social media. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/ Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The documentary pulls into sharp focus the intense scrutiny faced by Diana from the age of 19 by the world's press and the public.

Told through documentary clips overlaid with original news commentary from the 1980s and 1990s, there are no talking-head royal experts or historians to contextualize the movie, which leaves viewers to come face to face with events as they were reported at the time.

In one audio clip overlapping footage of Diana as she embarked on her independent public life when her marriage to Prince Charles became irreparably strained in the 1990s, an unidentified male is heard saying:

"When you put a modern person in an ancient institution they will be destroyed. But once an institution starts destroying people, it's time to recognize there is something fundamentally wrong with that institution and not the people it destroys."

This was picked up on by prominent royal author Omid Scobie, who co-wrote the 2020 Harry and Meghan biography Finding Freedom and has announced a second project focused on the couple to be published next year.

Scobie sent a poster of the documentary to Twitter alongside the quote, with one follower responding:

"It's wild to recognize so many of the names and faces of the people dehumanizing Diana. Decades later, these people are in the 70s pushing the exact same smears against Meghan. Imagine making a living being hateful for 40 years."

A central element of the documentary is Diana's treatment by the press including paparazzi photographers, who would ultimately play a role in the car crash that ended her life.

Princess Diana Documentary
Diana before her marriage to Prince Charles, in December 1980. HBO's "The Princess" documentary shows the life of Princess Diana from the age of 19 to her death at 36 through the lens of media reporting and footage. Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Harry and Meghan have both spoken out about their own treatment at the hands of the British tabloid press, most notably in their 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Speaking about the couple's desire to step away from the royal spotlight to "take a breath" from the "constant barrage" of the media, Harry told Winfrey:

"My biggest concern was history repeating itself and I've said that before on numerous occasions, very publicly. And what I was seeing was history repeating itself. But more, perhaps. Or definitely far more dangerous because then you add race in and you add social media in."

"When I'm talking about history repeating itself," he clarified. "I'm talking about my mother."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Oprah Interview
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. They spoke of their treatment at the hands of the British tabloid press. Harpo Productions

Following the release of The Princess in both the U.S. and the U.K., Harry and Meghan announced that they would return to Britain for the first time since the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II in June, to undertake a round of charity engagements in Europe.

From September 5 to 8, the Sussexes will undertake two charity ceremonies in Britain, with a visit to Germany ahead of the 2023 Invictus Games in between.

The timing of the visit means the couple will start their engagements after the August 31 anniversary of Princess Diana's death. The visit to Germany also means Harry won't be in Britain for the anniversary of the Princess's funeral, which took place at Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997, when he was 12 years old.

The Princess is available to stream on HBO Max.

For more royal news and commentary, check out Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast: