What “Spencer” Got Wrong, According to the Royal Family’s Real-Life Chef

Despite factual inaccuracies, Chef Darren McGrady calls Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Princess Diana “brilliant.”

Princess Diana
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tonight is the Academy Awards, and Kristen Stewart is nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of the late Princess Diana in the film Spencer. Another character in the film is Chef Darren McGrady, played by Sean Harris in the biopic; McGrady worked as a chef in the royal households for 15 years—at Buckingham Palace from 1982 to 1993, and then for Diana at Kensington Palace from 1993 until her death in 1997.

McGrady recently opened up to Insider about the details the film got wrong about the royal family, which, although the film opens with a pre-warning that the events present “A fable from a true tragedy,” many took as fact. McGrady said that Spencer is creative with its storytelling and that viewers shouldn’t confuse fiction with reality.

“I don’t want viewers thinking that the royals were bad,” McGrady said. “They weren’t at all.”

The film follows Diana arriving at Sandringham House—one of the Queen’s residences—for three days of Christmas festivities in 1991. McGrady told Insider he wasn’t consulted for the film, but that he could see snippets of interviews he’s done over the years woven into the film’s plotline. The first misconception surrounds one of the opening scenes of the movie, where food for Christmas at Sandringham was brought in by military trucks. This is false, McGrady said; food was sourced locally. McGrady previously told a reporter that the military was used to transport cookware to and from Sandringham, as it didn’t have its own kitchen budget, but the food was not only locally sourced but “simple food” ordered in reasonable quantities, not in excess as the film shows.

Spencer also shows Diana getting lost driving herself to Sandringham, but that wouldn’t have happened, as Christmas 1991 was her eleventh Christmas there and she would have known the lay of the land by then.

“The fact that she’s lost is a metaphor for her life,” McGrady said. “She’s lost in the moment. She doesn’t really know where she’s going.”

McGrady praised Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of the late Princess of Wales, saying that no other actor has mastered Diana’s voice or mannerisms the way Stewart did. She “100 percent deserves an Oscar,” he said.

But, that said, the character of Diana in the film wasn’t totally true to form. Diana wasn’t unhappy all the time and the royal family weren’t “monsters,” McGrady said. “My big worry is that somebody would watch that and say, ‘Oh my gosh, the family just sat there, they were monsters,’ and that’s not true,” he said.

And, finally, Spencer ends with Diana taking young sons Prince William and Prince Harry to a KFC drive-thru in a convertible. McGrady said this is unlikely, as there was no KFC in Kensington at the time, but Diana did take the boys to McDonald’s on occasion, even telling McGrady once to cancel lunch so the three could visit the Golden Arches.

“I said, ‘Your Royal Highness, come on, I can make better burgers than McDonald’s,’” McGrady said. “She said ‘I know, but it’s the toys. The boys want the Happy Meal and the toys.’”

Rachel Burchfield
Contributing Royal Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the royal editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.