Photos show the true story behind Princess Diana’s famous New York City visit featured on ‘The Crown’

Princess Diana The Crown Real Life 1989 New York Tour Diptych v2

  • In February 1989, Princess Diana flew to New York City for her first solo overseas tour amid personal turmoil.
  • Over the course of three days, Diana met with New York's rich and famous as well as its less privileged, cementing her reputation as a compassionate and modern royal.
  • Highlights from Diana's trip included a visit to the Henry Street Settlement, a social services program, and the moment when she hugged a 7-year-old AIDS patient at the Harlem Hospital.
  • The trip has come back into focus as one of the key storylines in season four of Netflix's "The Crown."
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the fourth season of Netflix's "The Crown."

In 1989, 27-year-old Princess Diana found herself caught between two worlds: public adoration and private conflict.  

After seven years of marriage, her relationship with Prince Charles was on the rocks. Both had entered into extramarital affairs: Prince Charles with Camilla, and Diana with her riding instructor, Captain James Hewitt. 

Diana "was the love object of everyone in the world except her husband […] she was faced in her mid-twenties with something she found chilling to contemplate: a fairy-tale marriage that had cooled into an arrangement," Vanity Fair's Georgina Howell wrote in 1988. 

This moment in time is a central focus of season four of Netflix's "The Crown." Released on November 15, the hit series' newest season depicts the lives of the British monarchy from 1979 through 1990. 

Episode 10, "War," shows how Diana, played by actress Emma Corrin, used a 3-day solo tour to New York City in March 1989 to establish her independence and promote causes she was passionate about amid turmoil at home. 

Here's how the real-life tour happened and a look back in photos.

On February 1, 1989, a 27-year-old Princess Diana touched down in John F. Kennedy Airport for her first royal overseas solo tour and first visit to New York City.

Source: Beneath the Crown

The official purpose of the three-day tour was to "promote British industries abroad," Netflix's Anita Rani explains in an episode of "Beneath the Crown."

Source: Beneath the Crown

Privately, Diana sought to take control of her narrative as conflict brewed between her and the royal family over her tumultuous marriage with Prince Charles.

Source: Beneath the Crown

After landing in JFK, Diana headed straight to a cocktail party hosted by Dawson International, producers of Scottish cashmere, where she mingled with high-profile fashion designers.

Source: Beneath the Crown

Before her visit, American media predicted that Diana, a fashion icon, would spend much of her time shopping in New York's high-end stores, but Diana's itinerary proved them wrong.

Source: Beneath the Crown

The next morning, she paid a visit to the Henry Street Settlement, a social services program in Alphabet City.

Source: Beneath the Crown

Diana's visit to Alphabet City marked a departure from previous royal visits to New York. "Diana chose to visit deprived areas of Manhattan usually ignored by the rich and famous," Rani said. "The locals were delighted."

Source: Beneath the Crown

Later in the day, she visited FAO Schwarz, New York's oldest toy store, to see an exhibition of British toys.

Source: Beneath the Crown

That evening, Diana attended the banner event of her tour: a gala hosted at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) that included a performance of the Welsh opera "Falstaff" followed by a reception at the Winter Garden in Manhattan.

Source: Beneath the Crown

Diana wore an ivory-and-gold beaded gown by Victor Edelstein, which caught the attention of New York's high society in attendance, according to Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emerita of BAM, who hosted Diana at the gala.

Source: People

"Since it was New York, everyone was wearing black […] So when Diana entered the box, radiant in a magnificent long white dress with a matching bolero jacket covered in jewels, a gasp went up from the crowd," Brooks Hopkins told People magazine.

Source: People

On her final day in the Big Apple, Diana paid a visit to the Harlem Hospital, where she spoke with doctors and visited the AIDS unit. At one point, Diana, picked up and hugged a 7-year-old AIDS patient, generating a flurry of positive press attention.

Source: Beneath the Crown, Los Angeles Times

"Your presence here and in Great Britain has shown that folks with this disease can be hugged, can be cared for," Margaret Heagarty, Director of Pediatrics at Harlem Hospital told Diana, per The New York Times.

Source: The New York Times

Though Diana's New York tour was a short trip, it is acknowledged as a defining moment of her career.

Source: Beneath the Crown

In place of "frivolous coverage on shopping sprees and dazzling dresses … what emerged were headlines about Diana's public displays of compassion for those far less fortunate than the royal family," Rani said.

Source: Beneath the Crown

Source: Read Full Article