How to watch HBO's 'compulsively watchable' new Diana documentary, The Princess, and emotional moments to expect from the film

The new Diana documentary, The Princess, airs tonight (August 13)

HBO's new documentary, The Princess airs tonight
(Image credit: Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)

A new documentary about Princess Diana’s life and legacy premieres tonight, August 13. Described by critics as “compulsively watchable,” The Princess offers a look back at Diana’s life through archival news footage shown as if it is happening in real time, allowing viewers to get a sense of just what life was like for Diana and those around her.  

Whether you were too young to fully remember what life was like when Princess Diana dominated headlines daily, or you didn’t keep up with the royals as much back then, HBO’s new documentary, The Princess, will take you back to the days of Diana-mania.

For those who do remember, it can be hard to explain to others what HBO calls “the overwhelming adoration [and] intense scrutiny of Diana’s every move and the constant judgment of her character.”

This daring new documentary aims to do just that, offering only archival audio and video footage to paint an accurate portrait of what life was like, playing out as if in real time.

While the documentary doesn’t aim to drop any bombshells or reveal any new secrets, the bold project challenges viewers to ask questions about themselves.

Emotional highlights from The Princess

Throughout the documentary, fans will see and hear Diana struggling with various elements of her public life.

 Filmmaker Ed Perkins has said of The Princess, “I’m very aware that it’s been told many, many times before, but I hope that with our approach, we can not only…tell the story of Diana, but hopefully point the camera back at all of us to ask some bigger questions about ourselves, about our relationship to monarchy and our relationship to celebrities.”

“We are trying to allow space in the film for audiences to bring their own hindsights into the story,” he added. “We really tried with this story to not include the moments that everyone has already seen many, many times over the years.”

Starting with her 1981 engagement to Prince Charles, it shows her so-called fairy-tale courtship, their scandal-wrought marriage, the birth of William and Harry, their bitter divorce, and her untimely death in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

There will be those who look for similarities in the discourse around Harry and Meghan’s decision to step back from the Royal Family amid scrutiny from the media and rumors of family riffs.

Princess Diana with the paparazzi

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Diana struggling with the media

Diana famously had a love/hate relationship with the media.

In one clip, Charles is shown answering how he deals with it. He says, "If you don't try to work out in your own mind some kind of method for existing and surviving this kind of thing, you would go mad, I think. In the end, you do get used to it."

Charles then turns to Diana and asks, "Don't you find that after the last six months you're beginning to get used to it?"

Diana quietly responds, "Just."

Feeling "trapped"

Princess Diana and Charles

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

In an interaction between the royals and members of the media, Prince Charles talks to a young Prince William as Princess Diana looks on, quietly and fearfully.

As Prince William peers through a video camera lens, Charles tells his son, "The people in there, look at them...trapped."

Viewers are left to pick up on the irony.

“Take care of the boys” – Harry and William in mourning

The queen and Prince Philip amongst mourners for Diana

(Image credit: JOHN STILLWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Fans will be moved by clips showing the Queen and Prince Philip observing the memorial to Diana after her passing.

In one clip, a member of the public cries out to the monarch to “take care of the boys,” something Prince Philip curtly responds to with, “That’s what we’ve been doing.”

When does The Princess air?

The Princess premieres August 13 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

The release date comes just a couple of weeks before the 25th anniversary of Diana’s death. The late princess died August 31, 1997.

How to watch The Princess?

For fans who miss the live premiere, you can also stream it at your convenience on HBO Max.

HBO Max uploads their titles simultaneously as they air on HBO, so fans will be able to stream as soon as it airs on TV.

There is no news yet about a release date for viewers outside of territories with HBO Max.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.