Princess Diana once revealed decent men are put off by me because of all the baggage

BY one of the chances that relieves the dullness of life, I had the pleasure of  dining with the late Princess Diana at a friend’s house in London, two years before she died.

I had met her before, at parties given by mutual friends, but we had never really talked at length nor in an intimate setting. On this occasion it was a small dinner, in the summer of 1995.

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It was an infernally warm evening and we were all standing around with our wine glasses, perspiring and complaining about the heat. And then Diana arrived.

She had in fact slipped in quietly, with no fuss, but she needed none. She held the room with something no mere celebrity can bottle.

There was nothing gaudy about this magic she generated, nor was it an illusion of superficial beauty.

Though she was 34 and eight years older than me, I was struck by her having retained a disarming air of innocence, like a girl who had grown up saturated with English dew and the clean life of the country (which in fact, she had).

Looking at her close up, she was not conventionally pretty, but her features had an obvious fineness, her eyes like sapphires and the lustre of her complexion reminded me of a summer sunset.

She wore a blue shift dress, simply cut — it was the dress of a royal — far removed from the tight and garish concoctions favoured by Hollywood actresses.

After we had sat down to dinner, and eaten some cold asparagus and poached salmon, Diana moved her chair next to mine.

She smelt of attar of roses and her smile was dazzling. Soon her purpose was clear enough.

She was aware I was a journalist and wanted to win me over, but she also knew I was single like herself (I was only vaguely aware of her on-off relationship with the surgeon Hasnat Khan) and appeared to want advice.

Her motives may have been partly those of the professional charmer, but there was a flash of something else. She seemed wistful, almost regretful, the regret of a woman put in a situation she was coming to find difficult.

Though she was constantly sought after and inundated with stiffly embossed invitations, she was lonely for the true coin of love. That night she wished for someone to talk to, and I happened to be there.

“Most decent men are put off by me,” she confided in her clear, almost childlike voice. “You know, my  situation and all the baggage that goes with it.”


I asked her if she would like to marry again. She laughed — it was a cello contralto laugh, lower than her speaking voice.

“No way. But I would like to redo some things.” She turned her  head in a moment of comradeship. “You seem to find it difficult meeting men too. We’re not very lucky, are we?”

I knew of two or three married men, much older than Diana and very wealthy, who frequently gave her lunch and dinner in expensive London restaurants, but the Diana of the mid-1990s was no callous home- wrecker, and these excursions were wholly platonic.

We agreed that it was almost impossible to meet males who weren’t gay, problematic or with the usual complement of arms and legs, which made her giggle again.

Of course, Diana was pursued by men in their hundreds — but what men! Consider the sordid comedy of her brief affair with Dodi Fayed that resulted in her death.

But it was not just loneliness that bothered her, but a worry that her life would end in grotesque futility.

Hadn’t she achieved, almost out of nothing, a vast and dizzying success?

The mature princess, that night at least, seemed to have come close to realising success was hollow, a preposterous, colossal nothing. She was acclaimed by multitudes, yet increasingly found herself blushing inside and turning her head to the wall.

Diana’s critics would argue that through her once assiduous, breakneck courtship of the media, and her undoubted manipulation of public opinion, she had no moral right to complain. Yet, like Pandora, she didn’t quite realise what she had unleashed from the box.

We sipped more wine, and she looked over the rim of her glass with those famous eyes of hers. “I worry about my sons. Am I a good mother? I don’t see them for months and then I spoil them rotten,” she sighed. “Sometimes I’d like a time machine.”

I had first encountered Diana in 1987, at a society wedding in the country.

There was a lot of gossip at the reception because the Prince and Princess of Wales would be coming to the dance afterwards.

By this time, Charles and Diana had been married for nearly six years, and their incompatibility was legend. Most of my circle blamed Diana. She was traduced as unbalanced, manipulative and hypocritical.

The received wisdom was that Charles had gone into the marriage with reservations, but had intended to make a proper go of it.

I too believed, and still do, that at the time of their wedding the Prince was not involved in a sexual relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, who was well liked by everyone.

Even so, Diana did have her supporters. The wife of a well-known business magnifico said the Royal Family had treated her badly — “She is a star, their only star, and they are throwing all that away”.

In retrospect, this wasn’t quite true. If both Charles and Diana had possessed different personalities, the marriage might have been a success, but as the Queen Mother told my father, it had been a “terrible mistake”.

The Queen Mother adored Charles. She once described him to me as “very sensitive”. But he was spoiled and used to getting his own way.

He needed careful managing, unconditional love and someone to jolly him along in an almost motherly way. Very few people could have done it. Diana was too green and even more sensitive than he.

This was a young woman suffering from a serious form of depression and an eating disorder.

One must remember that this was a different generation — one that believed in discretion and the stiff upper lip.

No one talked about mental illness, at least not in any open or constructive way. Charles could not cope.  He didn’t hate her, but he ran from it. People unfairly thought she had driven him back to Camilla.

The Queen Mother used to come to dinner at my parents’ house in London regularly.

Her desperation over the Charles and Diana situation had unnerved her. Charles was her darling, the son she never had. Naturally, she felt wretched when Charles and Diana became antagonists, brawling like longshoremen.

“My grandson is so desperately sad,” she would say, her eyes almost welling up.

Yet despite what has been said or written, no one in the Royal Family hated or actively disliked Diana, except perhaps Princess Margaret, who was disobliging about nearly everyone, and a sour and bitter woman. She wasn’t the least bit upset by the Princess’s death.

Her behaviour at the funeral was extraordinary. I heard from an unimpeachable royal source that as she and the Queen waited for the gun carriage which carried the  coffin, she was badgering the Queen about improving the toilets at Kensington Palace.

But nearly everyone else in the Royal Family, including the Queen and Prince Philip, succumbed to Diana’s charm. After the divorce, Prince Charles not only came to respect her, but  in an irony worthy of the Greeks, began to love her.

In the last few years of her life, Diana and Charles drew closer and closer, in unquenchable friendship.

Indeed, the Princess told many people I knew that she regretted the infamous Panorama interview, fraudulently obtained by Martin Bashir, for it had precipitated a divorce she had never wanted.

After the London dinner party, I started meeting Diana quite frequently. She had become the toast of the town and, like Scarlett O’Hara, even those determined to dislike her were unable to do so when confronted by her smile.

She seemed to be more settled in herself. She was unfailingly polite, thoughtful and sang for her supper.

She was fun to be around, unlike Princess Margaret, who kept reminding you how royal she was.

Diana hated that  behaviour, and would have deplored the self-importance of the Duchess of Sussex, who, in her obsession with her late mother-in-law, fails to appreciate what she really was — a lady.

If the unhappiness of Diana’s marriage had made her histrionic, once she was free of it, her foolishness and artifice fell away.

She laughed a lot, and was  radiant. But the wistfulness was always there, like a dull thread running through a tapestry. There was a dinner at The Ritz. I sat next to Diana and she spoke a great deal of her new-found friendship with Prince Charles. That made her very happy.

But I always thought, and so did friends of both her and Charles, that she remained a little in love with him.

No one who knew her believed she was in love with Dodi Fayed. He was  a Daddy’s Boy. She had no intention of marrying him. That was a fantasy of his father, Mohamed Al Fayed.

That Charles cared little when Diana was killed in Paris is an unfounded rumour that needs to be put to rest.

The Queen and Prince Philip were distraught, partly for their beloved grandsons, who had been deprived of an adoring mother. But Charles wept.

When he flew to Paris to collect her poor, broken body, he spent an hour alone with her.

What he said to his dead former wife he will doubtless take to the grave, but friends who know him well testified to his terrible grief. That he had loved her is beyond doubt. He couldn’t live with her, but he loved her still.


I am not sure what Diana would be like today, approaching 60. When she died  there were two paths open to her, something I believe she had been trying to tell me. 

She could have gone on with the glitzy gaudiness and the approximations of romance, or tried to change her life and her fame.

I think that, had she survived the car crash, she would have attempted to mould it into something closer to her heart’s desire. But what?

Diana was  a highly respectable, upper-class English woman of the sort that never truly metamorphoses into a bargain basement, Hollywood approximation of royalty.

She was no Meghan. She had true aristocracy — basic honour, honesty and courage, though it took her time to find it.

I think that perhaps death was kind to her, in taking her off so soon.

Growing old would have been hard. Diana would have discovered, after vast heavings and yearnings, that what she had come to was indistinguishable from what she had left — an imitation of life.

Here was a young woman daily living the dreams of millions of other young women.

Here was a woman who was catnip to the world. But here was a woman who would never have found what she was really looking for — the steady love of just one man, and one surprisingly like Prince Charles.

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