There are very few figures more iconic, polarizing, and intriguing than Princess Diana. And in the years since her passing, our fascination with her and her relationship with the royal family has only grown. Secrets and scandals have emerged in the 20-plus years since her fatal car crash, keeping a spotlight forever shining on the “People’s Princess” — and her fractured relationship with her in-laws.
Here are 15 secrets about Princess Diana’s relationship with the royal family.
The princess was manipulative — and very troubled
Not all accounts of Princess Diana paint her as a saint. Historian Sally Bedell Smith unveils the darker side of the princess’ later life in her book, Prince Charles: The Passions And Paradoxes Of An Improbable Life. In it, she reveals the emotional wreck Diana was, and how her struggle with eating disorders, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies aided in the fall of her marriage.
But all the while, Diana remained a darling in the public’s eye. Of course, all of that probably played a part in how her relationship with Queen Elizabeth II unraveled …
Next: Don’t mess with the Queen.
A book reveals Diana’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth
A 2015 publication on the Queen chronicles commentary following the news of Diana’s death. It is reported that the Queen didn’t immediately believe that the car crash in Paris was fatal. She then openly commented, “Someone must have greased the brakes.”
It’s just one of many shocking looks into their fractured relationship.
Next: When mama gets in on the drama.
The queen ordered Diana and Charles’ divorce
In August of 2017, one of Diana’s former butlers went on record to reveal that Queen Elizabeth had ordered the Princess of Wales and her son, Prince Charles, to get a divorce. The two had already been separated for four years. Queen Elizabeth reportedly made the order to Diana in an icy hand-written letter. Diana fought through divorce proceedings to maintain her royal title, although she lost it just a little before her tragic death.
Next: How much did Queen Elizabeth actually know?
Did the queen know how bad the marriage was?
Reports on Queen Elizabeth’s knowledge of the failed royal marriage differ. In the 2015 account, the queen reportedly had no idea that the Princess of Wales was suffering from anxiety and bulimia, or that her marriage to Prince Charles was awful. However, a new documentary shows Diana claiming she went to the queen for marital advice. The queen reportedly responded by saying, “I don’t know what you should do. Charles is hopeless.”
Next: One book to rule them all.
Diana lied about her involvement with Andrew Morton’s book
Everything really hit the fan in 1992 when the book, Diana: Her True Story was published. The princess reportedly never met with author Andrew Morton face-to-face, but still gave a scathing account of her sexless marriage and battle with suicide attempts, among other things. Diana allegedly lied to the royal family and others about her involvement with the book. It was only a matter of time, though, before the truth came out that she was involved.
Next: A cat-fight for the ages.
Diana confronted Camilla about the affair
Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, was never a very private matter — and Diana definitely had something to say about it. Morton’s book chronicles the story of Diana confronting Camilla at a birthday party. Diana reportedly said, “I know what’s going on between you and Charles, and I just want you to know that.” Allegedly, a spat ensued at the party. Later, Diana notoriously said, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage. So it was a bit crowded.”
Next: An affair to remember… and be entitled to?
‘I refuse to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress.’
Apparently, extra-marital affairs were a common theme during Charles and Diana’s union. In fact, both parties engaged in relationships outside of their marriage. In previously unreleased tapes from the 1990s, Diana tells her voice coach that she confronted Charles specifically about his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. He reportedly didn’t just tell her that it was “his right” to have a mistress, but that his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, gave him permission to sleep with Camilla if his marriage to Diana was failing.
Next: What the royal wedding was really like.
The big wedding was actually a nightmare
Trouble for Diana and Charles started even before they married. In fact, neither of them wanted to go through with their wedding. The prince reportedly spent the night before the wedding crying over Camilla, with whom he’d had a long-standing affair with many years before.
Diana wasn’t much happier. It’s no wonder the iconic picture of their wedding kiss looks so strained.
Next: The spotlight isn’t big enough for the two of us.
The queen didn’t like all the attention that Diana got
Princess Diana was always the paparazzi princess — which further hurt her relationship with Queen Elizabeth. The queen allegedly grew tired of all the attention being on the Princess of Wales and the royal wedding. She then thought that the spotlight may have contributed to Diana’s volatile behavior, and asked the press to reel in their coverage of her. The move apparently didn’t work for long, as Diana reportedly thrived off of the attention from the press.
Next: Back to that business about Diana losing her title …
Why Diana didn’t want a full-blown divorce
Princess Diana never wanted more than to be separated from Prince Charles. A divorce, later ordered by Queen Elizabeth, would mean a cut from the family and losing the title of “Her Royal Highness.” It would also mean that she would have to curtsy to Prince Charles — and to her two young sons, William and Harry.
Next: Prince William’s promise to his downtrodden mum.
Diana confided in Prince William after the divorce
Diana confided in the eldest of her sons, Prince William, after being stripped of her pride following her divorce from Prince Charles. Diana’s former butler says in his book, A Royal Duty that a 14-year-old William vowed to his mother he would restore her title when he became king. She died about a year later.
Next: The true Charles-Camilla timeline.
Prince Charles rekindled his affair after his sons were born
Princess Diana remained paranoid throughout her marriage that Prince Charles was sleeping with Camilla Parker-Bowles. However, according to reports, Charles didn’t rekindle his old romance with the current Duchess until after Prince Harry was born. It made matters worse that Charles and Diana spent so little time together.
Next: Keeping it in the family.
Charles dated Diana’s sister first
Prince Charles courted many women over the years. Notably, he dated Diana’s older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. When Charles and Diana’s engagement was announced, she allegedly called herself “cupid” for introducing them. She later married and had three children of her own.
Next: Things weren’t always so bad.
The royal family accepted Diana at first
The relationship between Princess Diana and the royal family wasn’t always strained. Being the fresh-faced daughter of an earl, Lady Diana Spencer was a welcome presence. It took years of feuding with Charles and speaking to the press before the whole family began to turn on her.
Next: Diana’s lasting effect on Charles.
Diana’s death drove a wedge between Charles and the queen
Prince Charles was broken up upon hearing of Diana’s death, despite the horrific union they’d previously had. He reportedly went to his mother the queen for comfort, but was met with a cold front. Although she spoke fondly of Diana to the public, the queen’s all-around stoic stance reportedly drove a wedge between her and her son.