Who is Princess Diana’s friend Dr. James Colthurst and who plays him in The Crown?

The Crown fans want to know all about the new character

Oliver Chris who plays Princess Diana’s friend Dr. James Colthurst in The Crown and Princess Diana
(Image credit: Getty)

The Crown Season Five fans are wondering who is Dr. James Colthurst and where is he now following the medic's appearance in Episode 2 of the Netflix royal series. 

If there's one thing The Crown season five is doing right, it's introducing viewers to the wider circle of the Royal Family. From Prince Philip's friend Penny Knatchbull (opens in new tab) to Princess Diana's partner Dodi Al-Fayed (opens in new tab) and his father Mohamed Al-Fayed (opens in new tab), there's no shortage of 'secondary characters' making up The Crown season 5 cast (opens in new tab) when it comes to the latest chapter of the Emmy award-winning drama. 

In addition to shining the spotlight on Queen Elizabeth II's 'annus horribilis' (opens in new tab) in 1992, season 5 sets the tone for Prince Charles and Princess Diana's divorce, which was inflamed by rumours of infidelity and jealousy. Diana would go on to share her thoughts on the separation in the famous Andrew Morton Diana book (opens in new tab) and episode 2 introduces viewers to a key player in the project - Dr. James Colthurst. Here's everything you need to know about Princess Diana's friend, including how he met her and where he is today.

Who is Dr. James Colthurst? 

Dr. James Colthurst is a Cork-born medical doctor who rose to prominence in 1992 with the publication of Andrew Morton's Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words. 

A close friend of the late princess, the 65-year-old is best known for helping Diana to record her answers for the famous biography, which is widely regarded as the most accurate written account of her incredible life. 

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How did Dr. James Colthurst meet Princess Diana? 

Dr. James Colthurst first met a 17-year-old Lady Diana Spencer on a ski trip in Val Claret, France, after the teenager had fallen and twisted her ankle. A medical student at St. James University Hospital at the time, Colthurst was asked to examine the injury.

The pair ended up hitting it off 'straight away.' He went on to describe the young Diana, who was then working as a nanny, as "good fun, bright and mischievous." 

Princess Diana

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

It's understood that Colthurst and Diana continued to hang out for the rest of the wintery vacation and remained in touch after they'd parted ways. They met up again in the late 1980s, at which point the iconic royal's marriage with Prince Charles was on the cusp of collapse.

How did Dr. James Colthurst help Princess Diana?

Once they had reconnected in the late '80s, it's understood that Dr. James Colthurst became a trusted confidant for Princess Diana to vent her issues with the Royal Family and Prince Charles. 

The medical professional was happy to help, responding "in a pastoral fashion, listening sympathetically, and giving her counseling," according to Robert Lacey's 2008 biography, Monarch: The Life and Reign of Elizabeth II. Dr. James Colthurst has since been widely regarded as a major contributor to Diana's withdrawal from the Firm's stifling confines, having reportedly helped her draft some of the speeches that shaped her "identity as an alternative, compassionate royal." 

At the height of her marriage troubles, Colthurst claims he would sometimes receive up to ten phone calls a day from Diana. He has also suggested that Clarence House failed to prepare the young princess for life as a working royal, writing in the Telegraph in 2021 that she "may not have been fully aware of the machine she was in" when she married Prince Charles in 1981. 

Colthurst is perhaps most known, however, as the 'go-between' for Andrew Morton's 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words

The English journalist first met the junior doctor in 1986, when he was covering Diana's visit to the London hospital he worked at. The two struck up a friendship, started playing squash together, and eventually, Morton told Colthurst that he wanted to write a book in which Diana shared her side of the story. The princess 'enthusiastically' agreed, and a plan was devised: Morton would give his questions to Colthurst, who would read them to Diana over lunch at Buckingham Palace to answer on tape. 

RRP: £6.94 | View at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words (Paperback)

RRP: £6.94 | View at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words allowed her to give her own account of life as a royal. The Princess's memory lives on, as does the public and press interest in her. This world bestseller bears testimony to Diana's life, finally allowing her to have her say. It is the closest we will ever come to her autobiography.

"I peddled in with a briefcase in the bicycle basket," the doctor recalls. "And you know, initially, I sat and I read out the questions, but that was too slow for Diana. She snatched the questions away from me and then clipped the microphone onto herself and the tape recorder was on and away she went." 

Colthurst went on to say that listening to Diana's audio for the book, which detailed her feelings on everything from Charles and Camilla's affair to her struggles with bulimia, felt like "entering a parallel universe", leaving him wondering, "What on earth have I heard?" 

What happened to Princess Diana and James Colthurt’s friendship?

Princess Diana remained friends with James Colthurst up until her death in 1997, sharing a poignant phone call with each other not long before the tragic car crash in Paris cut the beloved royal's life. 

"I remember the last conversation I had with her, not long before her death. She was laughing almost uncontrollably down the other end of the phone. Someone had gifted her a poem engraved on a silver tablet, and she was howling with mirth at their unusual taste," he wrote for the Telegraph (opens in new tab) in 2021. 

"What remains with me is her almost infectious laugh, coupled with her serious desire to help others. She set a high bar for her sons, who have both inherited her natural way with others. Both have her sensitivity and caring. But they are also gutsy and tough and share their mother’s passion for using their roles to do good in the world."

Who plays Dr. James Colthurst in the Crown? Meet the actor

Dr. James Colthurst is played by Oliver Chris in The Crown Season 5. The English actor has starred in a number of TV shows, including BBC One's Motherland and AppleTV's Trying.

Other notable roles include A Very British Scandal opposite Clare Foy and Silent Witness as James Sabiston. The 44-year-old is also no stranger to royal dramas, playing the Prince of Wales in the Sky One comedy film, The Queen and I, in 2018, and Prince William in the 2017 movie, King Charles III

Oliver Chris

(Image credit: Getty)

As for his stage career, Chris has appeared in a wide range of Royal National Theatre productions, including Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in 2017 and Richard Bean's Great Britain in 2014. 

Where is Dr. James Colthurst now?

Today, Dr. James Colthurst lives in Berkshire with his wife, Domique Coles, and their two daughters, Cicely and Leah. As well as being a doctor, he's also now the director of a medical research firm. 

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