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Photos show the true story behind Princess Diana's famous New York City visit featured on 'The Crown'

Photos show the true story behind Princess Diana's famous New York City visit featured on 'The Crown'
  • In February 1989, Princess Diana flew to New York City for her first solo overseas tour amid personal turmoil.
  • Over the course of three days, Diana met with New York's rich and famous as well as its less privileged, cementing her reputation as a compassionate and modern royal.
  • Highlights from Diana's trip included a visit to the Henry Street Settlement, a social services program, and the moment when she hugged a 7-year-old AIDS patient at the Harlem Hospital.
  • The trip has come back into focus as one of the key storylines in season four of Netflix's "The Crown."

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the fourth season of Netflix's "The Crown."

In 1989, 27-year-old Princess Diana found herself caught between two worlds: public adoration and private conflict.

After seven years of marriage, her relationship with Prince Charles was on the rocks. Both had entered into extramarital affairs: Prince Charles with Camilla, and Diana with her riding instructor, Captain James Hewitt.

Diana "was the love object of everyone in the world except her husband [...] she was faced in her mid-twenties with something she found chilling to contemplate: a fairy-tale marriage that had cooled into an arrangement," Vanity Fair's Georgina Howell wrote in 1988.

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

Episode 10, "War," shows how Diana, played by actress Emma Corrin, used a 3-day solo tour to New York City in March 1989 to establish her independence and promote causes she was passionate about amid turmoil at home.

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

On February 1, 1989, a 27-year-old Princess Diana touched down in John F. Kennedy Airport for her first royal overseas solo tour and first visit to New York City.

On February 1, 1989, a 27-year-old Princess Diana touched down in John F. Kennedy Airport for her first royal overseas solo tour and first visit to New York City.
Princess Diana walks down a set of stairs from a Concorde jet to the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on February 1, 1989. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
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The official purpose of the three-day tour was to "promote British industries abroad," Netflix's Anita Rani explains in an episode of "Beneath the Crown."

The official purpose of the three-day tour was to "promote British industries abroad," Netflix's Anita Rani explains in an episode of "Beneath the Crown."
Princess Diana is presented with a flower after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on February 1, 1989. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
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Privately, Diana sought to take control of her narrative as conflict brewed between her and the royal family over her tumultuous marriage with Prince Charles.

Privately, Diana sought to take control of her narrative as conflict brewed between her and the royal family over her tumultuous marriage with Prince Charles.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles wed on July 29, 1981. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
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After landing in JFK, Diana headed straight to a cocktail party hosted by Dawson International, producers of Scottish cashmere, where she mingled with high-profile fashion designers.

After landing in JFK, Diana headed straight to a cocktail party hosted by Dawson International, producers of Scottish cashmere, where she mingled with high-profile fashion designers.
Princess Diana attends a cocktail party hosted by Dawson International on February 1, 1989. Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images
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Before her visit, American media predicted that Diana, a fashion icon, would spend much of her time shopping in New York's high-end stores, but Diana's itinerary proved them wrong.

Before her visit, American media predicted that Diana, a fashion icon, would spend much of her time shopping in New York's high-end stores, but Diana's itinerary proved them wrong.
Princess Diana attends a cocktail party hosted by Dawson International on February 1, 1989. Susan Ragan/AP Photo
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The next morning, she paid a visit to the Henry Street Settlement, a social services program in Alphabet City.

The next morning, she paid a visit to the Henry Street Settlement, a social services program in Alphabet City.
Princess Diana visits the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side in New York on February 2, 1989. Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images
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Diana's visit to Alphabet City marked a departure from previous royal visits to New York. "Diana chose to visit deprived areas of Manhattan usually ignored by the rich and famous," Rani said. "The locals were delighted."

Diana's visit to Alphabet City marked a departure from previous royal visits to New York. "Diana chose to visit deprived areas of Manhattan usually ignored by the rich and famous," Rani said. "The locals were delighted."
Princess Diana arrives at a daycare center in New York's Lower East Side on February 2, 1989. Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images
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Later in the day, she visited FAO Schwarz, New York's oldest toy store, to see an exhibition of British toys.

Later in the day, she visited FAO Schwarz, New York's oldest toy store, to see an exhibition of British toys.
Princess Diana receives flowers during a visit to FAO Schwarz in New York on February 2, 1989. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
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That evening, Diana attended the banner event of her tour: a gala hosted at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) that included a performance of the Welsh opera "Falstaff" followed by a reception at the Winter Garden in Manhattan.

That evening, Diana attended the banner event of her tour: a gala hosted at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) that included a performance of the Welsh opera "Falstaff" followed by a reception at the Winter Garden in Manhattan.
Princess Diana attends a gala hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in new York on February 2, 1989. Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images
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Diana wore an ivory-and-gold beaded gown by Victor Edelstein, which caught the attention of New York's high society in attendance, according to Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emerita of BAM, who hosted Diana at the gala.

Diana wore an ivory-and-gold beaded gown by Victor Edelstein, which caught the attention of New York's high society in attendance, according to Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emerita of BAM, who hosted Diana at the gala.
Princess Diana attends a gala dinner at the Winter Garden in New York City, on February 2, 1989. Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Source: People

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"Since it was New York, everyone was wearing black [...] So when Diana entered the box, radiant in a magnificent long white dress with a matching bolero jacket covered in jewels, a gasp went up from the crowd," Brooks Hopkins told People magazine.

"Since it was New York, everyone was wearing black [...] So when Diana entered the box, radiant in a magnificent long white dress with a matching bolero jacket covered in jewels, a gasp went up from the crowd," Brooks Hopkins told People magazine.
Princess Diana visits the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see the Welsh National Opera Gala production of 'Falstaff' on February 2, 1989. Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images; Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Source: People

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On her final day in the Big Apple, Diana paid a visit to the Harlem Hospital, where she spoke with doctors and visited the AIDS unit. At one point, Diana, picked up and hugged a 7-year-old AIDS patient, generating a flurry of positive press attention.

On her final day in the Big Apple, Diana paid a visit to the Harlem Hospital, where she spoke with doctors and visited the AIDS unit. At one point, Diana, picked up and hugged a 7-year-old AIDS patient, generating a flurry of positive press attention.
Princess Diana is surrounded by security people as she is escorted into Harlem Hospital in New York on February 3, 1989. Richard Drew/AP Photo
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"Your presence here and in Great Britain has shown that folks with this disease can be hugged, can be cared for," Margaret Heagarty, Director of Pediatrics at Harlem Hospital told Diana, per The New York Times.

"Your presence here and in Great Britain has shown that folks with this disease can be hugged, can be cared for," Margaret Heagarty, Director of Pediatrics at Harlem Hospital told Diana, per The New York Times.
Princess Diana visits the AIDS unit of Harlem Hospital in New York City on February 3, 1989. Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
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Though Diana's New York tour was a short trip, it is acknowledged as a defining moment of her career.

Though Diana's New York tour was a short trip, it is acknowledged as a defining moment of her career.
Diana, Princess of Wales, visits New York on February 3, 1989. Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
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In place of "frivolous coverage on shopping sprees and dazzling dresses ... what emerged were headlines about Diana's public displays of compassion for those far less fortunate than the royal family," Rani said.

In place of "frivolous coverage on shopping sprees and dazzling dresses ... what emerged were headlines about Diana's public displays of compassion for those far less fortunate than the royal family," Rani said.
The Princess of Wales, wearing a Catherine Walker suit, surrounded by security while visiting the Henry Street settlement in New York City, February 1989. Terry Fincher/Getty Images
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