"The Crown" is this delicately crafted Netflix series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the ins and outs, the secrets and intrigues, of the life of royals. In the season that just premiered this weekend, the character of Princess Diana is introduced into this world not so much as a romantic partner for the Queen’s son but as possible future queen people will love.
In the episode called Fairytale, it is 1981 and the young Diana Spencer has just been proposed to by Charles. Just before she moves in, she is invited to grace a dinner at Clarence House where she fumbles in the rituals of acknowledging the your highnesses in the room. She enters this scene just as Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) is telling a story on her encounter with then Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos.
“So there we are, in Manila, in the middle of a state banquet, when who barges into the room but Imelda Marcos,” says Margaret, holding a cigarette. “She makes a beeline straight to me, saying she’s desperate to show me her—“
“Shoe collection?” asks Princess Anne.
“Shell collection,” Margaret firmly corrects the previous speaker.
This sparks a short discussion on whether or not the storyteller, The Countess of Snowden, misheard. “Did she have something in her teeth?” asks the Queen. And the group proceeds to make fun of Imelda’s speech, implying she has a lisp.
We’re not sure if Imelda indeed had or has a lisp—although there has always been something very unique in the way she spoke—but the way she approached Princess Margaret (at least as it is told in the episode), who at that time was the highest-ranking British royal to have visited the Philippines, seems in tune with how the former First Lady has been portrayed in books and society gossip. In a photo of Margaret during that particular visit, Imelda, in a pink terno, is shown flipping the pages of a book, as if explaining its contents to her guest who was in a white dress and wearing a crown. Princess Margaret graced the inauguration of the Lungsod ng Kabataan’s Children’s Hospital, and reports say she was also indeed honored in a dinner and shown a collection of seashells.
In "The Crown," the Princess gets to continue on with her story about Mrs. Marcos. The entire dinner party, she says, “decants into a convoy of limousines” and takes to the streets of Manila until they reach Imelda’s “private aquarium where she keeps a vast portrait of herself wearing—“ And she’s interrupted again, this time by the series editor who cuts to the next scene: the announcement of the royal betrothal.