‘Spencer’ Can (and Should) Be Read as a Coming Out Film Story

That isn’t exactly how the movie has been characterized by critics or viewers. Pablo Larrain’s fictionalized biography of Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) is set in December 1991, shortly before Diana decided to separate from her husband Prince Charles (Jack Farthing). 

In the film, she feels constricted by the artificiality and tradition of royal life, and especially by the many rituals around food. Diana was bulimic, and she’s shown as being particularly uncomfortable with a weighing-in ceremony; everyone is supposed to weigh more when they come out to show how much they’ve enjoyed themselves.

The film takes extensive liberties with history; many of the characters and most of the dialogue and action are at most loosely based on real events. Among the made-up incidents is the film’s emotional climax in which a major character reveals that she’s lesbian.

More, that revelation structures the rest of the film, in part by analogy with Diana’s life, and in part by analogy with the life of Kristen Stewart.

The character who comes out is Maggie (Sally Hawkins), the royal dresser. Maggie is presented as Diana’s closest friend among the servants and as her most intimate relationship outside of her young sons. 

Diana is hugely relieved when she discovers Maggie will be her dresser for the holidays, and then devastated when Maggie is sent away. Another servant, the quietly tyrannical Major Gregory Alistair (Timothy Spall) tells Diana that Maggie was exiled in part because she had said that Diana was going insane.