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What does The Crown season 6 tell us about life at Balmoral Castle after Diana’s death?

The latest series centres on the royal family's stay at their Deeside residence in1997, when tragedy unfolded.

The royal family at Balmoral Castle, at a time of grief now being depicted in The Crown.
The royal family at Balmoral Castle, at a time of grief now being depicted in The Crown. Image: DC Thomson

The Crown swaps its usual Buckingham Palace backdrop for Balmoral Castle as it deals with the royal family’s tragic summer stay in 1997.

The sixth series of the Netflix hit finally launched today.

Many royal fans are desperate to see how the sometimes-controversial show depicts the death of Princess Diana.

The Crown season 6, on Netflix
Many will be switching Netflix on to watch The Crown season 6 today, with many scenes set at Balmoral Castle. Image: ArtMediaWorx/Shutterstock

But it also offers its own (semi-fictionalised, of course) glimpse at goings-on at what is the family’s only private residence.

The Queen, Prince Philip, Charles, William and Harry were at the Royal Deeside retreat when Diana died in a Paris crash.

Diana, Princess of Wales, died on August 31 1997. Image: John Stillwell/PA Wire.

It’s been their home away from home since the 1800s, and is a place shrouded in secrecy.

So how does The Crown show life at Balmoral Castle during this turbulent spell for the monarchy?

How does The Crown season 6 depict Diana’s feelings on Balmoral?

The first episode begins by exploring Diana’s blossoming romance with Dodi Al Fayed, while the monarch struggles with her stance on Charles and Camilla’s relationship.

In this instalment, viewers are offered an imagined idea of how welcome Diana may have felt at the Deeside estate that summer.

Dodi asks her about her summer plans – and whether she will be accompanying her sons to Scotland.

Diana, played by Elizabeth Debicki, replies: “Balmoral?

“No, I’m not welcome there any more. Very much persona non-grata.”

Princess Diana at Balmoral Castle
Diana with sons William and Harry on the River Dee outside Balmoral Castle in 1987. Image: Brendan Beirne/Shutterstock

There are conflicting accounts of how the People’s Princess really felt about the family’s Highland hideaway.

She said she “loved Scotland” though she found the atmosphere at the castle “draining”.

Diana insisted it was a “myth” that she “hated” the summer residence. But it’s likely she would have been given a frosty reception at that point in time.

How historically accurate is The Crown?

The action in Aberdeenshire begins with a trip to Tarland, a village about 20 miles from Balmoral.

The Queen, played by Imelda Staunton, is seen unveiling a plaque to mark the opening of a new wing at the Alastrean House care home for RAF veterans on July 29, 1997.

Of course, The Crown is known for being flexible with the facts.

And a dig into our archives indicates that this visit happened in 1998.

The Queen on her visit to Tarland. Image: Chris bacon/PA

Our report said the ruler “delighted crowds with her new approachable attitude” on the trip, accompanied by Prince Philip.

That said, the purple outfit she has on in the Netflix series is close enough to the one she wore on that occasion.

Alastrean House plays a fleeting role in The Crown season 6, meaning Balmoral Castle isn't the only north-east landmark represented on screen
Alastrean House pictured here in 2020.

These scenes also feature a fictional Ballater photographer named Duncan Muir, played by Scottish actor Forbes Masson.

Was River Dee photoshoot staged to hit back at Princess Diana’s lavish lifestyle?

The photographer reappears when The Crown recreates a photoshoot on the banks of the Dee, set as tensions between Charles and Diana were played out on the front pages.

The Crown recreated these scenes during the royal stay at Balmoral Castle in 1997
King Charles, seen here with his sons William and Harry at Balmoral weeks before tragedy unfolded that summer. Photo by Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

In the Netflix version of events, these images were arranged to emphasise the contrast between the estranged couple.

While Diana was snapped on luxury yachts off St Tropez, the then-prince’s advisors suggested these images would show off his more traditional values.

Details such as a black Labrador splashing about in the water are faithfully intact.

However, while The Crown has one “trustworthy photographer” on hand, the reality was a bit different…

Video footage shows a range of media outlets were actually lined up at the peaceful spot:

The Crown recreates impact of Diana’s death at Balmoral Castle

The fourth and final (for now) episode The Crown season six begins with the phone ringing at a darkened Balmoral Castle.

It’s the moment the previous three instalments have been building towards, no doubt bringing back sad memories for many viewers.

Balmoral Castle is not itself actually in The Crown
Balmoral Castle, near Ballater, is where The Queen died in 2022. Image: DC Thomson.

Prince Harry has previously recounted how his father appeared by his Balmoral Castle bedside to break the news, and these heartbreaking scenes are somberly played out in The Crown.

In the days afterwards, William and Harry visited the castle gates in their first public appearance since the tragic Paris crash.

The royal family at the gates of Balmoral Castle, at the time of the scenes now being depicted in The Crown
The Queen, Philip, Charles and his young sons inspect floral tributes at the gates of Balmoral. Image: DC Thomson

Turmoil ensues, as the family debates how to respond to the unprecedented public mourning amid the institution’s changing role in society.

The family attends at Crathie Kirk that Sunday, hours after the princess perished, keen to “keep everything as normal as possible”.

Scenes in and around Balmoral Castle, in The Crown, include this trip to Crathie Kirk
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh leave Crathie Kirk the day after Diana’s death. Image: DC Thomson

The fact-based drama shows a tearful family in the church, which has been their regular place of worship since Queen Victoria arrived in Aberdeenshire.

Staunton’s Queen later “puts away all the televisions and radios for the sake of the boys”.

Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II and Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip at a ball in Balmoral Castle in a previous series of The Crown. Image: Netflix

The brothers have since spoken about how they were grateful to have been given “the privacy to mourn”.

Without giving any spoilers away, certain ensuing scenes involving Prince William’s reaction to the tragedy appear to be wholly fictional.

And a pivotal point where The Queen bases her decisions on imagined conversations with Diana are, as far as we know, also a product of creative licence.

Was The Crown filmed at Balmoral?

The scenes at Balmoral Castle were actually shot at Ardverikie House, in Kinlochlaggan.

If it looks familiar, that might be because it’s also starred in James Bond movie No Time To Die and TV’s The Monarch of the Glen.

The grand building used as Balmoral Castle in The Crown
Ardverikie Estate stands in for Balmoral Castle in The Crown. Image: VisitScotland

But that’s not the only north location to feature in the series.

In previous seasons, Lybster Harbour in Caithness was turned into pre-war Falkland Islands.

Around the same time, scenes were shot further north in Keiss.

The Crown being filmed in Aberdeenshire
Imelda Staunton on the set of The Crown being filmed at Macduff Harbour. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

And in 2021, Imelda Staunton filmed scenes in Macduff for the fifth series of the drama.

Will you watch The Crown to see the scenes at Balmoral Castle? Let us know in our comments section below

How many episodes are in Season 6 of The Crown?

The sixth series launched on November 16, with many fans up early waiting for them to land on the streaming giant at 8am.

Imelda Staunton and Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown, which centres on Balmoral Castle in its sixth season
Imelda Staunton and Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown. Image: Netflix

Only four episodes have been released.

The final six will be out in December, bringing the decades-spanning saga to its conclusion.

Read about Prince Harry’s account of the moment his father appeared ‘like a ghost’ by his bed to tell him about Diana’s death. 

Honeymoons, heritage and heartbreak… What does Balmoral mean to King Charles?

‘I really miss her’: Queen’s personal reverend opens up about laughs with monarch who ‘knew everyone’ around Balmoral