SPOILER ALERT: This news story features details from Season 6 of The Crown
Season 6 has dropped on Netflix and the opening episodes chronicle the burgeoning romance between Diana and Dodi in the sun-soaked surroundings of the Mediterranean.
Peter Morgan‘s lavish royal drama repeatedly implies that the relationship was engineered by Al-Fayed, the late Egyptian business mogul, as part of his ambition to obtain British citizenship.
This allegation was refuted in 1997 and Michael Cole, Al-Fayed’s former spokesperson, has gone on record again to deny that his ex-boss was involved in Diana and Dodi’s fateful romance.
Cole told Deadline that he never witnessed or had knowledge of Al-Fayed engineering the relationship, or playing a role in making the tryst known to the entire world by commissioning photos of the couple.
“Netflix and the production company describe The Crown as ‘dramatized fiction’ and I am not going to disagree with that characterization. That means it is made up,” he said.
The opening episode of the final season of The Crown features Al-Fayed (Salim Dau) re-introducing Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) on his yacht, Jonikal.
Al-Fayed did indeed invite Diana and her sons, Princes William and Harry, to his St. Tropez villa in the summer of 1997 and it was reported at the time that Dodi joined them on Jonikal.
But the boat provides a precinct for The Crown writer Morgan to apply some creative license, according to Cole, Al-Fayed’s former press secretary.
In one scene, Al-Fayed instructs Dodi to woo Diana, saying that he has put “her on a plate” and that a relationship between the two would “finally make me proud of you.”
In Episode 2, Al-Fayed orders a maid on his yacht to tell him if Dodi and Diana are “intimate.” After being informed that they are sharing a bed, the Netflix drama suggests that Al-Fayed commissioned Italian photographer Mario Brenna to take the famous photos of Diana and Dodi in a private clinch on Jonikal.
“How do I find a good paparazzi photographer,” Dau’s Al-Fayed asks his assistant. “Not just any idiot with a long lens. I want the best photographer on the Mediterranean.”
In reality, there are conflicting accounts about how Brenna managed to snap the images, from which he reportedly earned $5M.
Last year, British journalist Tina Brown wrote in her book, The Palace Papers, that Diana herself tipped off Brenna to “send a taunting message” to her lover Hasnat Khan.
In 1997, The Independent newspaper reported that Brenna happened to spot Al-Fayed’s boat off the coast of Sardinia as he was in the area on other assignments.
Cole said the suggestion of Al-Fayed’s involvement in the relationship was “total nonsense.” He added: “Mohamed was a remarkable man in many ways. He was delighted that his eldest son and his family’s dear friend Diana were together. But making two people fall in love with each other? That was beyond even his great talents.”
Al-Fayed died in August at the age of 94. Cole said he suspects that his former boss, who was known for speaking his mind, would have had “quite a lot to say” about The Crown‘s version of events.
Diana and Dodi died in a car accident weeks after romance blossomed between the duo. The crash is depicted off-camera in the opening moments of The Crown’s first Season 6 episode.
Netflix had no comment.