Aug 31, 2022 - World

The commodification of Princess Diana

Images of Princess Diana on souvenirs in a shop in the U.K. in January 2020.

Images of Princess Diana on souvenirs in a shop in the U.K. in January 2020. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

Since her death 25 years ago, there have been countless films made about Diana, Princess of Wales. A musical bares her name, she is a character in multiple television series, the subject of numerous books, and her face can be found on commemorative plates, dolls, tea towels, and other memorabilia worldwide.

The big picture: Even before her tragic death, Diana was seen as an economic power, with her popularity selling out magazines and newspapers across the globe. One of the most expensive photos ever sold was a paparazzi photo of her for $6 million.

  • In the 25 years since she was killed in a car crash, people have only continued to make money off of her story.

Flashback: After her death, the memorial fund for Princess Diana petitioned for the trademark of her face in order to raise money for many causes she championed while alive.

  • But in July 1998, Britain's Patent Office ruled that Diana's face belonged to the world, and could not be trademarked.
  • Still, the fund went on to support several causes, including those focused on palliative care and refugee rights in the U.K. and worldwide.

By the numbers: Movies, documentaries and television series continue to be created about Diana.

  • Netflix's hit series, "The Crown," has been watched by 73 million households worldwide since it began. Diana's story is told largely in season 4, with viewers watching roughly 2.24 billion minutes of the season the week it was released.
  • HBO this month premiered a new documentary, "The Princess," told entirely through collected news clips and television interviews.
  • "Spencer," released Nov. 5, 2021, only grossed $ 7.1 million the box office in the U.S. and Canada, and $23.8 million worldwide. But its star, Kristen Stewart, who played a Diana struggling through a Christmas with the royal family as her marriage fell apart, received several award nominations.

Our thought bubble via Media Trends reporter Sara Fischer: In a TikTok-driven media world that favors authenticity, there's an insatiable appetite for content that reveals the true inner workings of the royal family, especially in the U.S.

  • Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's interview with Oprah was one of the most highly-rated interviews last year, with 17 million people viewing it in real-time on CBS.
  • Markle's new podcast surpassed Joe Rogan in Spotify's top chart at its debut last week.
  • Martin Bashir's now infamous Diana interview was viewed by 23 million people in the U.K. in 1995.
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