Thinking of Lady Diana

The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales took place 20 years ago today, on 6 September 1997.


I, along with an estimated two billion other people, watched it on television. I cried. I cried because such a caring mother had been taken away from her little boys who loved her so much. I cried because I respected her humanitarian work and didn’t know who would be able to fulfill that function as well as she had. And I cried because even though she was such a good person it didn’t seem as if she had ever been really, truly loved by any of her romantic partners, and that broke my heart.

Possibly it was because I was in an unhappy engagement with a controlling douchebag at the time, but of all the sorrows I felt on the day of her burial, it was the fact she never found True Love that made me hurt the most. She was everything culture tells women they need to be to find love — beautiful, stylish, and thin – but her heart was broken constantly by men who didn’t really love her. She was everything culture said a woman needed to be to ‘deserve’ love – giving and caring and charitable and a good mother – but she didn’t have an adoring husband who doted on her.

Princess Diana

My culture was a liar.

I could understand why Prince Charles was impervious to her charms; his heart had been wholly taken by Camilla Parker Bowles while Lady Diana was still a child and as long as Camilla lived he would love no one else. Like his mother, who fell in love with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, when she was 13 and never stopped for a minute after, he had loved Camilla from the first and poor Diana had never stood a chance to win him over. But he couldn’t (then) marry a Catholic, older woman with a ‘past’ — so Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles‍ and Charles married a nice, Anglican, virgin descended in multiple ways from King Charles I and a member of one of the oldest peerages in Great Britain.

Andrew Parker Bowles, who had dated Princess Anne for a while in the early 1970s and was a member of the same social set, knew that Charles and Camilla were still in love. In the time-honored tradition of upper-crust unions, after Camilla had  borne his children he ignored the fact that she and Charles were discretely having an affair. It was very 19th century of them, but they were all good friends and no one was getting hurt.

prince-charles-with-the-then-camilla-parker-bowles-and-her husband

Except for Lady Diana, who was desperately in love with her husband and didn’t want that kind of marriage.

Maybe it was because her own father, John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, had made her feel so unloved. He had forced her mother, Frances Roche, to go to a doctor following the birth of Diana – a third daughter — on 1 July 1961; he wanted to find out why Frances kept having useless girls when he needed her to breed him a male heir. This is also AFTER the couple had lost an infant son a few hours after his birth on 12 January 1960. I would have stabbed John Spencer to death with a spoon for being anything other than grateful for a healthy child, but as anyone who lived through those days or has watched Mad Men knows, the early 60’s were bad time for women’s autonomy. The Spencers finally had a healthy son, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, on 20 May 1964, but their marriage never recovered. It being the 60s, Frances lost her children when she dared to leave her husband.

At age nine, Diana, already the ‘unwanted’ extra girl her father kept from her mother out of spite, was sent away to an all-girls boarding school, Riddlesworth Hall School, and then again to West Heath Girls’ School when she was 11. She didn’t do well at school, being shy and creative rather than academically minded, so she left at age 16 and did a term at a ‘finishing school’, Institut Alpin Videmanette, in Switzerland before coming back to London in 1978 and doing what she must have thought (even though it was the late 70s) a woman should do – cleaning and helping take care of little children – until she found “Mr Right”.

diana-spencer as brides maid in sister jane wedding

When the 18 year old Diana started dating Prince Charles, he must have seemed less like Mr Right and more like the even-better Prince Charming from her point of view. Here was a literal prince, the man who would make her a princess, AND he since he was 12 older than she was he was also the father-figure she subconsciously craved.

No wonder she was so gaga about him.

No wonder she was so heartbroken when she realized he didn’t love her.

No wonder that pain morphed into rage.

She tried to find love elsewhere, as Charles had already done. Like Camilla Parker Bowels, she had borne her husband’s children and would now find personal happiness with a different man.

Diana first fell in love with one of her handsome bodyguards, Barry Mannakee.


He was a little bit older than Charles, and thus another father-figure for her, but unlike Charles this father-figure seemed to love her. It didn’t seem to matter that he was also married with two children, because when you are that desperate for emotional fulfillment you can rationalize nearly anything. Their relationship lasted until it was discovered in 1986, after which Mannakee’s bosses transferred him to a Diplomatic Protection Group.

There is no evidence that the royal family orchestrated the transfer or tried to prevent Diana from seeing him after he left, but Diana was convinced he had been “chucked out” on their orders and that they had blocked the relationship. And maybe they did. Not everyone is fair enough to think what is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. However, Diana also became suspicious that the royals had ‘bumped him off’, in a motorcycle accident on 15 1987, and that is ludicrous. It was a tragic, but common, result of a young drive pulling out in front of a motorcycle she did not see. Nonetheless, Diana seems to have believed his death was a planned conspiracy, and she became increasingly paranoid the royals would do her in as well.

She then had a 5 year affair with James Hewitt.

diana and james hewitt

She reportedly ended their relationship in 1991, probably because he was a self-absorbed prat who hadn’t loved her as much as he loved the idea of banging a princess. (I base this assumption on the fact he tried to sell her private love letters to him for £10 million.) It may have been because he had a cocaine addiction, though. Either way, she once again didn’t find True Love.

Diana also tried to find love with James Gilbey in the late 80s, but that didn’t work out either.

Diana's friend JAMES-GILBEY

Regrettably, a hybridized tape of one of their phone calls was published by a sleazy tabloid, The Sun, in 1992 – the so-called “Squidgygate” debacle – which humiliated the princess. The queen ordered MI5 to investigate, but the names of the offenders who taped the calls between Diana and Gilbey have never been released. Diana believed the royals were bugging her phones and seeking to ‘destroy’ her, but the subsequent “Camillagate” involving a supposed phone call between Charles and Camilla, and the fact that people working for skanky tabloid magnates Rupert Murdoch and his son James were later convicted of illegally hacking phones, makes the idea that the carrion feeders of the scandal sheets were the real villains behind Diana’s embarrassment.

Meanwhile, Diana’s affairs didn’t dampen her anger at Charles, who was blissfully happy with Camilla. He was still the surrogate father who didn’t love her and she seems to have wanted to hurt him – and the royal family, who also failed to love her as promised – as much as possible. She told Charles she wanted a divorce, and she set out to punish everyone who had hurt her so badly.


The protracted public relations battle between the royals and Princess Diana became known as the “War of the Waleses“, and although I think I understand why she did it, it was her worst mistake as a mother. Her salvos, especially her work with Andrew Morton to produce Diana: Her True Story and her 1995 televised interview where she said there had always been “three of us in this marriage”, not only damaged the royals … her remarks about Charles and portraying him as cruel to her had to have been distressing for her sons, William and Harry. The boys doubtlessly loved their father as well as their mother, and were certainly old enough to dislike hearing their parents openly slagging one another on national media. As a result of Diana’s campaign against the royals, there was even talk of ending the monarchy. I assume she was too angry to understand she was jeopardizing her children’s future, because I cannot believe she would knowingly do anything to hurt her sons.

The war also hurt Diana more than it healed her. She became extremely paranoid, sure that she the royal family had bugged her living quarters.

By 1995, claims her private secretary Patrick Jephson, Diana’s “paranoia” had “reached new heights. She saw plots everywhere, [and] was obsessed with the thought that she was being bugged.” On one occasion, Jephson expressed his “polite mystification”—although he notes that “exasperation would have been nearer the mark”—that “none of these hidden microphones had actually been discovered.” Diana pulled up a carpet in an upstairs room at Kensington Palace, to show Jephson what she believed was evidence of bugging: fresh sawdust and disturbed planks: “She pointed silently at the sawdust, and nodded significantly.” Jephson tried to reassure her that this was simply the result of the rewiring of all the Royal palaces, following the 1992 fire at Windsor Castle, but Diana, after gesturing for him to remain silent, was evidently unconvinced.

She also became insistent the royal family was going to kill her, so that Charles could marry Camilla. She wrote a letter to Paul Burrell, her butler and confidant, claiming that the royals were “planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry”.

Even the fact that Diana was dating a heart surgeon named Hasnat Khan, who was theoretically “the love of her life“, at the time of her 1996 divorce didn’t seem to soothe her frayed nerves or quell her anger toward Charles and the royal family.

diana's love khan

It especially didn’t help when Khan turned out to not be True Love either. Although Khan says that Diana broke off their relationship, she told friends that he had been the one to end it. (Did she want get married and threatened to stop dating him if he couldn’t give that to her, and then he refused to commit, so that they both felt the other one had been the person who ended things?)

Diana’s relationship with Khan ended in June 1997, and she immediately began to date Dodi Fayed, possibly to in a move to hurt Khan by showing him how quickly she had moved on. She and Dodi had only been dating a few weeks when their driver, Henri Paul, the acting security manager of the Hôtel Ritz Paris, got drunk while the couple were at dinner and then crashed them all into the wall of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris on 31 August.

Diana, beautiful and tragic, loved by millions but unloved by the men whom she had wanted to love her, was dead at age 36.


The funeral was moving, in multiple ways. Seeing her sons walking behind her coffin, trying so hard to be dignified on one of the worst days of their lives, tore my heart to shreds. Watching her brother, Charles Spencer, the same man who was so selfish he refused to allow her to live at the Spencer estate of Althorp (which he wasn’t even using at the time) after her divorce, pretending to be such a loving brother and hogging as much limelight as possible, made me furious. Elton John singing “Candle in the Wind” made me weep, because he was so obviously distraught and they had been good friends. I was bewildered by some of the people I saw in the pews of Westminster Abbey – I could understand why Hillary Clinton and Queen Noor of Jordan where there, but had Diana been that close to Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman?

I remember thinking that it was highly disrespectful of the helicopters to circle over what would be her final resting place, an island in an ornamental lake known as The Round Oval on the grounds of Althorp Park, and film the location. I wondered if they had filmed it earlier, or if they would hover over the grave in noisy choppers like nosy vultures while her children and family tried to bury her?


In one of the many, MANY articles about her death I read later, it said she had been buried with only Prince Charles and her sons, her mother and siblings, a close friend, and a clergyman in attendance … although I assume that the 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment who acted as her pallbearers and honor guard were there as well. Reportedly, Diana was buried in a modest black dress with the rosary beads that Mother Teresa had given her wrapped around her hands.

The thought of those rosary beads around those slim fingers made me cry yet again.

diana and mother teresa

I also remember that a month later that I was livid when I saw her image and pink ribbon on butter in an American supermarket. Would they NOT stop trying to use her? Wasn’t it bad enough that she was dead at only 36, and wouldn’t see her sons grow up, or ever find the True Love she had wanted so badly? Did they have to shill her on every damn thing?

Wherever Princess Diana is now, I hope she finally feels loved enough. She may not have found her True Love in life, but I hope she finds happiness knowing that so many people truly loved her for her unceasing devotion to charity and making the world a better place.

Diana with orphan

2 thoughts on “Thinking of Lady Diana

  1. Everyone but Diana knew the scurrilous things people were doing behind her back. The Charles/Camilla affair was no secret to anyone in Britain. That the Queen mandated Charles marry someone who could give him an heir was no secret…because Camilla could not. That Charles didn’t love anyone but himself was no secret. That there was a plot –definitely — to eliminate Diana was no secret–she was not a dodo bird, she knew something was going on. Dodi Fayed’s father was right: it was a plot to murder her. The Queen has to live with that the rest of her “royal” life.

  2. I have never read a more thoughtful reminiscence of Diana Princess of Wales. I too cried endlessly that day and I have thought all of the things that you talked about her anger at the Royal Family and I have always sympathized and empathized with her. I think it is so very important that her sons champion the cause of mental health, because I also believe that her experiences as a child and then with Prince Charles left her very “damaged”. I was damaged in much the same way in my younger life. I am now 58 and have found the man who loves me, and I am well now!! I so wish she could have lived long enough to find the same peace. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I do not blame Charles or Camilla, however it seems that many people who are fans of the Duchess of Cornwall tend to berate and vilify Diana. I always feel very protective of her and always will. Thank you for this!!!

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