Photos show the true story behind Princess Diana’s famous Australia tour featured on ‘The Crown’

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  • In March 1983, Princess Diana flew to Australia with Prince Charles and her son, Prince William, for her first-ever overseas tour. 
  • The four weeks Diana spent in Australia solidified her reputation as the "people's princess," but created a rift between her and Charles.
  • The 1983 tour has come back into focus because it's one of the key storylines in season four of Netflix's "The Crown."
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"Uneasy, even glum" is how a news report described Princess Diana when she arrived in Alice Springs, Australia, for her first-ever overseas tour with Prince Charles.

For Diana, only 21 years old and just two years into her marriage with Prince Charles, the highly public tour was a "terrifying baptism of fire," Diana's confidant and biographer Andrew Morton wrote for the New York Post in 2017.

But by the end of the tour four weeks later, Diana had solidified her reputation as the "people's princess," charming her way into the hearts of Australians at a time when the monarchy was looking to repair public opinion in the Commonwealth.

The tour is a central focus of season four of Netflix's "The Crown." Released on November 15, the newest season depicts the lives of the British monarchy from 1979 through 1990. 

Episode six, "Terra Nullius," shows how young Diana, played by actress Emma Corrin, eclipsed Prince Charles, played by actor Josh O'Connor, in fame as they traveled around Australia, causing a rift between the royal pair. 

Here's how the real-life tour happened and a look back in photos.

On March 20, 1983, 21-year-old Princess Diana arrived with her husband Prince Charles in Alice Springs, Australia, for her first-ever overseas royal tour.

Source: Beneath the Crown

The royal couple would spend four weeks touring Australia in order to repair public opinion of the monarchy.

Source: Beneath the Crown

In a break with royal tradition, Diana insisted that her 9-month-old son, Prince William, travel with them. Previously, children of heirs had remained in England during overseas tours.

Source: Beneath the Crown

While his parents toured the country, Prince William stayed with his nanny at the family's home base, a sheep ranch in central Australia called Woomargama.

Source: The Age, PM Transcripts

The royal couple's first official stop was at Uluru, a sacred site to indigenous Australians also know as Ayers Rock.

Source: Beneath the Crown

During the visit, Diana expressed her discomfort with the heat and asked for a glass of water. This endeared Diana to the public, Anita Rani explains in an episode of Netflix's "Beneath the Crown," since "royals were not supposed to show such emotions in public."

Source: Beneath the Crown

Newly inducted Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who had publicly expressed his desire to lessen Australia's ties to the British crown on TV, met with the young couple three days later.

Source: Beneath the Crown

Hawke was skeptical that the royal couple could charm Australians and rebuild public faith in the monarchy, according to BBC's HistoryExtra. What he didn't count on was Diana's likability.

Source: HistoryExtra

Australians quickly fell in love with Diana's easygoing manner and showed up in droves to see her.

Source: Beneath the Crown

"Diana…was accessible to the public, physically and emotionally," Netflix's Rani said. "She's estimated to have shaken hands at least 6,000 times with members of the public on this tour and offered down-to-earth comments to her admirers."

Source: Beneath the Crown

"Mothers, in particular, gravitated towards her, impressed by her refusal to leave William back in the UK," Rani said.

Source: Beneath the Crown

A photo taken one week after their arrival in Australia shows Diana outside of the Sydney Opera House surrounded by throngs of spectators.

Source: Getty

In April, The Times ran an article saying that Diana "won the heart of Australia" and that the tour was "an unqualified success, due in large part to the Princess."

Source: The Times

While Diana's star appeal helped the reputation of the monarchy, it served to "drive a wedge" between her and Charles, who was used to the limelight, Andrew Morton wrote in his 1992 biography "Diana: Her True Story."

Source: Diana: Her True Story

"The crowds complained when Prince Charles went over to their side of the street during a walkabout … In public, Charles accepted the revised status quo with good grace; in private he blamed Diana," Morton wrote.

Source: Diana: Her True Story

The couple did have good moments during the trip. One was during a charity ball in Sydney on March 28 where they shared their first dance together on tour. "They gave the impression that they were very much in love," Rani said of the dance.

Source: Beneath the Crown

But tension grew between them as Diana's fame blossomed. "With the media attention came a lot of jealousy," Diana told the BBC in a 1995 broadcast. "A great deal of complicated situations arose because of that."

Source: BBC

On April 17, Diana and Charles concluded their tour in Australia and flew to New Zealand for two weeks before returning home to London.

Source: Beneath the Crown

While Diana had worked her way into the hearts of Australians, the trip highlighted fissures in her marriage with Charles that would ultimately deepen over time.

Source: Beneath the Crown

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