Princess Diana: Meet the Actresses Who've Played 'England's Rose,' from the Big Screen to Broadway

Spencer's Kristen Stewart isn't the first actress to emulate Princess Diana's signature chin tilt — whether as heroine, victim, modern mom or crusading activist, the People's Princess has captivated audiences for decades

Princess Diana waering Catherine Walker
Princess Diana. Photo: Tim Graham/Getty
01 of 12

Kristen Stewart in Spencer (2021)

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Spencer (2021). Shoebox Films

Having played Joan Jett in The Runaways and Jean Seberg in Seberg, the actress is no stranger to stepping into the shoes of real-life icons.

Pablo Larraín's biopic takes place over three days in December 1991 as Princess Diana spends Christmas at Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham estate and realizes she needs to end her marriage to Prince Charles. U.K. culture professor Pauline Maclaran tells PEOPLE that the Twilight star's turn is "very likely to be a favorable portrayal for a younger audience."

02 of 12

Emma Corrin in The Crown (2020)

Emma Corrin and Josh O'Connor film as Princess Diana and Prince Charles arriving at the Royal Opera house on Prince Charles birthday for hit Netflix series 'The Crown' in London, England
Emma Corrin in The Crown.

Corrin channeled some of the Princess of Wales's most iconic looks in season 4 of Netflix's hit palace intrigue drama. According to Maclaran, "The Crown really favors Diana. It's turning her into the heroine by focusing on her virtuous side." (The role has likewise proven favorable for Corrin, whose interpretation garnered a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2021.)

03 of 12

Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown (2021)

Elizabeth Debicki, the crown
The Crown/Netflix

"Season 5 will focus on Diana as the royal who transcended the strictures of the system," says royal movie expert Giselle Bastin of what to expect when the Australian Widows star takes over the role from Corrin.

Debicki, whose credits include roles in The Night Manager and Christopher Nolan's Tenet, is expected to portray the People's Princess through the Netflix drama's sixth and final season. The show's creators have said the series will reach the early 2000s, which suggests Diana's tragic death in 1997 will be addressed.

"Princess Diana's spirit, her words and her actions live in the hearts of so many," Debicki has said. "It is my true privilege and honour to be joining this masterful series, which has had me absolutely hooked from episode one."

04 of 12

Jeanna de Waal in Diana: The Musical (2020)

diana broadway
Jeanna de Waal as Princess Diana. Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman/Murphy Made

The London-born actress began previews on Broadway in March 2020 before global lockdowns sent Broadway into an indefinite hiatus. But the show announced its return in August 2021, teasing that it would tell "The story you only thought you knew."

Set in 1981, the musical follows de Waal's Diana as she prepares to marry into the royal family, then explores the aftermath of that marriage, including Diana's complicated relationship with the press and Prince Charles's highly publicized affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles (later titled the Duchess of Cornwall through her marriage to the Prince of Wales).

05 of 12

Naomi Watts in Diana (2013)

Naomi Watts steps out as Diana on the set of Caught In The Flight

The Australian actress's turn as the beloved royal was less than adored. In fact, Maclaran tells PEOPLE, "It was widely panned."

Watts had put in the work — training with a dialogue coach for six weeks, watching interviews repeatedly and physically transforming with the help of wigs and prosthetics — and she even claimed Diana had visited her in a dream to give her permission, but "her portrayal was seen as fairly wooden," says Maclaran.

06 of 12

Lesley Harcourt in William & Catherine, A Royal Love Story (2011)

Princess Diana (Lesley Harcourt)

Harcourt donned a wig to channel Diana in the opening scene of this 2011 Hallmark movie. From there... Princess Diana figured very little into the love story of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — but royal watchers who tuned in hoping to see the Queen and Kate Middleton playing Wii Tennis were in luck!

07 of 12

Genevieve O'Reilly in Diana: Last Days of a Princess (2007)

Genevieve O'Reilly portrays Diana, Princess of Wales, in TLC's docudrama, "Diana: Last Days of a Princess."

O'Reilly played the People's Princess for this TLC documentary, which reenacted Diana's interviews and the days leading up to her tragic death in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

08 of 12

Amy Seccombe in Diana: A Tribute to the People's Princess (1998)

British actress Amy Clare Secombe smiles during a break in the filming of The People's Princess, a Tribute in the Spanish island of Majorca February 27. Seccombe is with extras portraying victims of anti-personnel mines at an Angolan hospital. She plays B

Released just one year after Diana's death, this Tribute followed the royal through her final months, delving into her romances with Dodi Al Fayed and Hasnat Khan, and highlighting her meetings with landmine victims along with other charitable endeavors.

09 of 12

Julie Cox in Princess in Love (1996)

Julie Cox stars as Diana, Princess of Wales in "Princess In Love," (the story of Diana, Princess of Wales), a made for TV movie

Based on the biography by Anna Pasternak, the tell-all TV movie detailing Captain James Hewitt's affair with Diana showed that "her story contained all the elements of fairy tale and tragedy," says Bastin.

10 of 12

Serena Scott Thomas in Diana: Her True Story (1993)

Serena Scott Thomas Diana - Her True Story - 1992 USA Television

Based on Andrew Morton's biography of the same name, which was covertly recorded when the princess was unhappy in her marriage and raising her young sons, this TV biopic chronicled the dissolution of Diana's marriage to Prince Charles.

11 of 12

Caroline Bliss in Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982)

Charles And Diana: A Royal Love Story, Caroline Bliss, David Robb

A year after 750 million people around the globe watched Diana's wedding to Prince Charles, A Royal Love Story dramatized that momentous day. At the time, Diana was still viewed "as the fairy-tale princess, and the early, quite cheesy films reflect that," says Maclaran.

12 of 12

Catherine Oxenberg — Twice!

Catherine Oxenberg as Princess Diana
hrysalis-Yellen Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock; Alamy

The soon-to-be Dynasty star — who is actually the second cousin once removed of Prince Charles through her mother, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia — made her acting debut in 1982's The Royal Romance and reprised the role of Diana 10 years later in Charles & Diana: Unhappily Ever After.

Though she'd scored an invite to Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981, choosing to play her cousin-by-marriage did have its consequences. She told Closer in 2019, "The only thing that the film cost me was return visits to Buckingham Palace."

Related Articles