When Princess Diana got out of her limo 25 years ago on the same day at the Vanity Fair Summer Party at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, she seemed more confident, astonishing and serene than she had ever done before.
Everyone there agreed that she never looked so sensational.
It was exactly the response she had planned, that same evening, 14 million watched her estranged husband Prince Charles admit to Jonathan Dimbleby on TV that he had irrevocably broken up after marriage, committed adultery.
The next day, Dimbleby confirmed that the prince & # 39; was unfaithful to someone who had long been a friend, that is Mrs. Parker Bowles & # 39 ;.
When Princess Diana (photo) got out of her limo 25 years ago at the Vanity Fair Summer Party at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, she seemed more confident, astonishing and serene than ever before.
For Diana, the confession of Charles was pure defense.
For years she had fought against her demons – bulimia, leaving her mother, what she saw as her husband's rejection, as well as allegations of her instability and paranoia.
She feared that her children would be taken away from her – and had complained about a lack of understanding of the royal family, who, in her opinion, did not support her charity work and was jealous of her star status.
But 25 years is enough for us to look back and get a much more balanced picture of the truth about her life, starting with the fateful decision she took that evening.
Starting today in this special issue of the magazine Weekend, and continuing throughout the following week in the Daily Mail, we present a remarkable oral history of Diana's life from those who got to know her best.
The therapists, healers, astrologers, personal trainers and fashion designers who helped her in her darkest days … the courtiers and domestic staff who experienced her every mood … these are the people with whom Diana spent most of the time she entrusted to her .
What they say in their own words about the versatile princess paints a definitive portrait of this most complex and seductive woman.
Prince Charles, as he admits to Jonathan Dimbleby on TV that was irreparably disrupted after his marriage, he had committed adultery
As early as 1985, just four years after Diana's wedding, Tina Brown foresaw in Vanity Fair that Shy Di – the & # 39; Mouse Of Windsor & # 39; – already transformed into the & # 39; Mouse That Roared & # 39 ;. Heads rolled in the palace — left — and Diana was accused of bullying Charles to the extent that she would hit him with the Bible if he knelt down in prayer after one of their screaming sessions. If the royal family were convinced that Diana was a beautiful English rose that could be shaped according to their way of life, how wrong they were.
As she gained self-confidence, Diana sought advice from an army of new-age therapists and appeared slim and refined, with a charisma and looking for a goal that would determine her life. Ironically, it would be exactly 25 years ago at a Vanity Fair party – the same night that Charles promised his adultery on TV – that Diana came forward in the dress that sets her new dawn …
Petronella Wyatt author
& # 39; In the years before she died, I met Diana quite often and she seemed to have "arranged". She had become the toast of London. Not only was she the most famous woman in the world, but also because she was polite, considerate, and sang for her supper. She liked being around, unlike Princess Margaret, who reminded you how royal she was and often was very rude. Diana hated that kind of behavior.
& # 39; Even those who hated her started coming. Caroline, the Duchess of Beaufort, my godmother, showed me a beautiful letter that Diana had written to her after Caroline was diagnosed with cancer in 1994. She was very moved. It was as if Diana had become a different person. Her marriage had made her toxic and once she was free from it, many of her histrionics simply disappeared. Yes, she manipulated the press, but she was basically a good-natured person. She laughed a lot in those days; she was simply radiant. & # 39;
Diana at the Harbor Club in 1993. As she gained confidence, Diana sought advice from an army of new-age therapists and emerged streamlined and refined, tinkering with charisma and looking for a goal that would determine her life.
Jayne Fincher Photographer
& # 39; In November 1980 I went to The Ritz to photograph Princess Margaret's 50th birthday party. I had left the country, so I had not read any stories about this Lady Di, who was to be Prince Charles's new girlfriend. The photographers were all on the doorstep when this girl came behind us and said, "Excuse me." We all let her through and she went inside. A few seconds later someone said, "You know, I think that was Lady Diana." We had all missed her.
& # 39; So I waited until the early hours to try and see her. She finally set off with her sister and she looked really uncomplicated with a funny old coat that she would normally buy over her dress, which looked like a dress she had borrowed from her mother. I took about three frames. She turned bright pink, held her coat tight and looked very embarrassed. Even today, that photo is a favorite because it showed the innocence of this girl. I had no idea who she was or how she was, but she looked so young. I thought, "No, that can't be Prince Charles' girlfriend, she's like a schoolgirl compared to some of his other girlfriends, it's ridiculous."
& # 39; To begin with, she was incredibly shy, it was impossible to get her to raise her head. She told me later that she knew where we were when she heard the photographers' aluminum ladders rattle and she didn't look up. But she became a woman with more self-confidence, you could see that in her clothes and her body language. She grew up in principle, she gained a lot of confidence, she managed to stand and pose and looked through the lens. Later it was a completely different person, but it took some time.
& # 39; She had the most fantastic legs and I was always incredibly jealous of them. When she got out of the car that night at the Serpentine, she was wearing that very tight-fitting black dress with her endless legs that showed and she really looked radiant, she looked at a height. She must have been a good actress because she knew what was going on (with Charles' interview with Jonathan Dimbleby on TV). & # 39;
Dr. James Colthurst Diana & # 39; s confidant and old friend
& # 39; That day she was very tired of criticizing what she was the & # 39; Gray Men & # 39; mentioned, I think to do with one of her successful speeches. There was a lot of jealousy in Prince Charles' camp and she had criticized something she thought she had done well. She often felt that she was adjusting her bit for The Firm, as she called it, and she was not appreciated. The day before the celebration of the Vanity Fair, she said, "Oh thank goodness, here we go again!" So I said to her, "You have to show defiance; put something on it that really swings its heads." She finally chose that dress. & # 39;
Diana leaves the Ritz Hotel in London after attending Princess Margaret's 50th birthday party in November 1980
Dickie Arbiter Former press secretary of Charles and Diana
& # 39; With Charles and the documentary interview with Dimbleby in 1994, the original plan was to do something for the 25th anniversary of his investiture as the Prince of Wales. It would be pretty boring – what a nice nice guy Charles. Then the goal posts were moved between the private secretary and Jonathan Dimbleby. They thought it would be too bland, so they decided that instead of a one-hour program, they would do two and a half hours, some warts and all that. I said, "If you do this, you can't stop it," and I was told they were prepared for that. I didn't know Charles was going to confess his affair. However, we had a pretty good idea that it would come out. & # 39;
Jonathan Dimbleby It was broadcast about that interview with Charles the next day
& # 39; It was a Catch-22 for him, right? On the one hand, people, months or even years, speculated in the tabloid press, most of which insulted and claimed that he had been indifferent to his wife from the beginning, that he was unfaithful to Camilla Parker Bowles from the very beginning. And on that basis many people were very shocked. What he said on the program was that, as the Princess of Wales had tried, he had tried to make that marriage work.
A stylish Diana, pictured in 1996, left the Hale Clinic in London
& # 39; When it collapsed, which was somewhere in the second half of the eighties, he was no longer loyal to his wife. It seems to me intrusive and not the job of a TV interviewer to say, "When were those, what were the circumstances?" The point is that the marriage collapsed and he then continued a close relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. What matters is that he said, "I was unfaithful." You may want to know when, how and where – the question is where it has established the truth. He told me in a private conversation outside the camera that it was in the second half of the 80s that he had been unfaithful. At that moment he was no longer loyal to his wife. He was unfaithful to someone who had long been a friend. & # 39;
Carolan Brown Former personal trainer
& # 39; We talked a lot about attitude and I told her to remember that & # 39; s camera. Keep your tits outside, sit back and look beautiful. I advised her that she cannot stop taking photographs to take photos so that she can take good photos of her as well as she looks her best. I urged her not to fight, but be confident and agree. She laughed about that, but agreed with me. I tried to raise some personal confidence about looking great. & # 39;
Nish Joshi Holistic healthcare provider
& # 39; I started treating Diana & # 39; s spine for the first time in 1993. She had been driven out of Kensington Palace and a taxi had entered her car and she had sustained a mild whiplash. She also had some old injuries from horse riding and that is why she was afraid of horses. I believe Diana had scoliosis, curvature of the spine. This was noticeable in her position because she tended to walk with her shoulders bent; exacerbated by her trying to turn her eyes away from the paparazzi and also because she was self-aware of how tall she was. She was worried that William and Harry might have inherited this.
& # 39; We were working with Pilates to regain her confidence and make her body look great. Her attitude changed a lot. The night she wore that black, chiffon off-the-shoulder dress at the Serpentine Gallery, she looked stunning and stunning. She stood tall and looked beautiful.
& # 39; She heard about me from the dancers of the English National Ballet – she was patron. The dancers performed these exercises to strengthen the joints and improve posture. Diana loved exercises that strengthened her backbone. I encouraged her to stay big and not be ashamed of her height. I persuaded her to celebrate and not to bend her head and stoop or to wrap her shoulders. & # 39;
Charles, Diana, William and Harry presented their family history on Christmas Day 1994, six months after her appearance at the Serpentine on the night of Charles & TV's interview. This was the last Christmas of Diana in Sandringham
Penny Junor Journalist and biographer
& # 39; As time went on, she discovered her sexuality and the power she had over men. One of those she enchanted was my father Sir John Junor, then editor of the Sunday Express, but who later wrote for the Mail On Sunday. She invited him to lunch several times, entrusted him, flattered him, and he became a devotee. He wrote glowingly about her and during the War of the Waleses he shamelessly took part. The Mail On Sunday offices were across the street from Kensington Palace and she sometimes saw him on the street as she drove by and stopped the car for a chat. He became 6 feet taller each time. I met her one day when I was with him at The Landmark hotel in London. The actor David Hasselhoff was also there and my father and I were talking to Mr. Baywatch when Diana joined us. She delivered a master class in flirt. I may not have existed. & # 39;
Jayne Fincher Photographer
& # 39; She was a real flirt. If you went to the Gulf, there would be all these restrictions on what you could and could not wear. But wow did she flirt with those Arab dignitaries – they fluttered around her like little school boys. Before we went to Saudi Arabia in 1986, the few women were told that we should have our arms and neck covered and in the end we looked like big bags of potatoes. Then she got off the plane with this dress on. It was okay below her knee, but she had the tightest belt around her waist and she had her hair cut very short and she had exposed her neck. She got away with it because she fluttered at them with her eyelashes – they were all mesmerized. & # 39;
Patrick Jephson Diana & # 39; s former private secretary
Last minute decision that turned out to be a knockout
Diana stepped into the sexy strapless cocktail dress that evening at the Serpentine Gallery – and chose it from a Valentino creation at the last minute – hoping that this would overshadow Charles & # 39; s TV interview and made everyone in the country think: & # 39; How could he have given her up? & # 39;
Author of Diana: Her True Story
& # 39; On the day of the Vanity Fair party, Diana had to wear a Valentino dress, she would not wear the Revenge dress. But she became very annoyed when Valentino sent a press release in advance, saying she was going to wear their dress because she thought it was overbearing.
& # 39; So it happened that James Colthurst, who was the intermediary between Diana and me for my book, had her on the phone that day. Now James & # 39; s fashion sense, say, is tweed of the country, he has absolutely no idea of fashion. She told him she was so annoyed by Valentino, and he said, "Well, I don't know, look, wear something else, something sexy." She said, "I'll probably do it," and she chose the Christina Stambolian from dress.
Diana talked to Christina Stambolian at the auction preview in 1997
& # 39; The Revenge Dress was the key, because one thing Diana was good at was that she understood that a photo is telling a thousand words, or 10,000 words in her case. She was all nervous that day, I remember. She reacted excessively to the Valentino dress because she was nervous about what Prince Charles would say on television in the interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, what he would say about her and the kids, and so on. So on the morning of the Serpentine Gallery's office she was nervous, she was nervous, she was away. By wearing the Revenge dress and the attention it brought to her, I was sure she thought she had avoided a bullet. Charles also admitted his adultery on TV and gave Diana & # 39; permission & # 39; to talk about her own relationship with James Hewitt in the interview with Martin Bashir TV the following year. & # 39;
Greek fashion designer who made that dress
& # 39; I met Diana for the first time in the loos at the Italian restaurant San Lorenzo. She was lovely and blushed. San Lorenzo was next to my store in Beauchamp Place and on a warm September day in 1991 she walked in with her brother.
& # 39; She was interested in a cocktail dress: she didn't say for a specific event, she just said she wanted something special. We were joking because she liked to smile and we outlined what to do for her. Diana had no input whatsoever – she was one of those people who just believed in the designer. We talked about colors and finally we decided to turn black. She asked her brother what he thought and he said, "You can do exactly what you want."
& # 39; She thought the dress was challenging, but then she decided: & # 39; Okay, I'd like to have it. & # 39; I felt very good about it, very happy and proud. But then I was disappointed when the time passed and I didn't see her wearing it. We saw her in newspapers and magazines every day, but I didn't see that dress. I think it was a bit too much for her at the time. Then I completely forgot. I only found out that she had worn the Serpentine the next day when I saw her in the newspaper. I was happy because she looked very sexy and feminine. I was very satisfied and decided that I could better enjoy all the attention. She was not happy with her marriage. Everyone knew that, so with that dress the people were on her side. It was a vengeance that everyone agreed with.
& # 39; She was more advanced in 1994. When she was young, she wore everything. She became more beautiful as she grew up. She had this aura and everyone loved her.
& # 39; I can't think of another person who had so much charisma. She was very beautiful, big and sweet – and her taste in clothing just got better and better. My most vivid memory of Diana is her smile. She had an innate sense of humor. When I saw her a few years later at Christie's in 1997 in London (a preview of the auction of her dresses for charity), she stooped into her beaded Jacques Azagury dress and told me: "I had to pinch yours that night! "& # 39;
& # 39; She ate a shrimp sandwich and one disappeared in her fork. I said, "Poor shrimp," and she corrected me, "Bloody lucky prawn!" It was just a nice exchange, but since her husband didn't seem to enjoy her attractiveness, and because she did her job, a certain standard of self-confidence and self-confidence had to be maintained, in close collaboration with such a person, I often said, "You looks good." What she looked like was important. She was aware of how high the expectations of her people were. There was no one in the morning to say, "My darling, you look fantastic, get out and beat them," and no one in the evening to say, "Honey, you've done a great job today. Sit down and let me have a drink. & # 39;
& # 39; To maintain her morality for her to do her job well, it was sometimes necessary to say, "You look good." Because normal human kindness and attention did not come from her husband or in-laws, someone had to make up for it. & # 39;
Catherine Walker The late fashion designer
& # 39; Over time, her response to my clothes changed from & # 39; Yes please & # 39; to & # 39; It's different & # 39; and later, when her clothing knowledge became more European: & # 39; It & # 39; s smart & # 39 ;. Later, when she started sexily dressing, it was "Eat your heart out, Brazil!" & # 39;
Petronella Wyatt author
& # 39; The late Charles Churchill, a distant cousin of Diana, told a very good friend of mine that Queen Charles and Diana would visit in Highgrove. Charles & # 39; car was parked in front of the house. He had to move it so that the queen's car could stand at the entrance. He went to get his keys, but the keys were missing.
& # 39; The whole house was looking upside down for them. Everyone was asked. Diana swore she had not seen them. The staff all said the same thing. Then came the moment when the Queen's car just arrived. Diana leaned out of an upper window and shouted: "There are your rotting keys" and threw them in the driveway. She always had them and just tried to annoy Charles and the queen. & # 39;
Winston Churchill The late former conservative member of parliament
& # 39; Within a month of Charles and Diana's wedding, her father Johnnie Spencer said: & # 39; Why don't you come and have lunch with us in Althorp? I would like to show you the private apartments. "So we had lunch, and he said, proudly as a Turkish cock," I have to show you the guest room that I completely renovated for the return of Charles and Diana's honeymoon. "He had been given new green silk wallpaper and the four-poster bed had been completely renewed. He opened the door and said," I'm afraid it's a bit of a mess now. "And there had clearly been a battle royal: there were water stains on it green silk wallpaper, a Chippendale chair that was broken, a mirror cracked.
& # 39; At the time, my then wife and I laid it down on a tiff of a loved one. But now, with the benefit of retrospect, one can see that marital discord began in the beginning. And I suspect it was when he told her about his affair with Camilla before they were married. This seemed to drive her ballistic and from that moment everything went downhill quickly. She became very mentally ill in terms of bulimia and everything else. & # 39;
Penny Thornton Astrologer
& # 39; I met Prince Andrew for the first time through mutual friends, photographer Gene Nocon and his wife Liz. Gene was Andrew's photographic mentor. One evening in 1986, during dinner at their home, Andrew said to me, "My sister-in-law would like to have her card made." For a moment I thought he meant Anne. I said, "I'm very surprised, I didn't think she would be interested in astrology." And then I realized: "Oh, he means Diana." I said, "I'd really like to do that." After my first visit to Diana, Liz Nocon immediately called me afterwards. Sarah Ferguson had called her and said: & Please tell Penny how grateful we are all, her bags were packed. Charles is extremely grateful. & # 39; She wanted bolts and she didn't. That Christmas I had drawn a card from Charles. He was sure of my first visit and approved it. He wanted a solution. & # 39;
Debbie Frank Astrologer
& # 39; Diana was fascinated by her astrological map. She knew that it would provide insight into who was around her and what was going on. She consulted me for literally everything. All the intimate details of her life, whether it was the President of the United States, her friends, Charles and Camilla, her children or what she went through. The graph is about giving someone the tools to control their feelings. She went through a major transformation process and the graph helped her to manage every phase of that process. What was remarkable was that at the end of her life she had overcome so many of her problems and that she was glowing and radiant. & # 39;
Dr. Lily Hua YU Acupuncturist and herbalist
& # 39; Diana has given me a lot of confidence. I remember she told me on more than one occasion: "Men don't like neurotic women." She thought this was the reason that her marriage didn't work. She told me that she would burst into tears and lose her temper if she had a problem, but since she saw me, she felt better in her skin and confident to face her problems without being so neurotic. & # 39;
Carolan Brown Former personal trainer
& # 39; I introduced her to Peter Settelen in 1992, who voted for my fitness video & # 39; s. I told Diana how my voice sounded like a little girl's, and she said: & # 39; I also have that problem and I don't know how convincing it is. "I said that Peter not only helps you change your voice, but builds your confidence if he believes that the voice comes from within, and if you are happy in yourself, your delivery will be better. She said," That's what I am need. "& # 39;
Dr. Lily Hua yu Acupuncturist and herbalist
& # 39; She was interested in the Chinese signs of the zodiac and every time she came, she would buy a book about Chinese medicine. She would always ask questions and she even identified the problems of Prince Charles. She told me he was losing his hair and is constantly opening windows and always feels warm at night. She said, "I think he's kidney-yin deficient," making me laugh. She thought Nelson Mandela should see me too. She was close to Mandela and found that he had water retention, yang deficiency, and arthritis. & # 39;
Diana at the AcuMedic center in London, specialists in Chinese medicine. Jan Cisek, a Feng shui consultant, said: & # 39; Diana invited me to Kensington Palace in May 1994 (the month before her appearance at the Serpentine Gallery) and said she wanted me to make her home healthy and happy & # 39;
Jan Cisek Feng shui consultant
& # 39; Diana invited me to Kensington Palace in May 1994 (the month before her appearance at the Serpentine Gallery) and said she wanted me to make her home healthy and happy. The boys were in boarding school, but they wanted me to do the whole house including their bedrooms. The bedroom is the most important space.
Everything depends on sockets, such as the position of the bed, because it can determine how you feel – if you have an impressive image, you will have a good energy flow. I told her that the position of the bed is the key to sleep – you must be in the "force position", with a wall behind the headboard and the door diagonally opposite, so that you can see who is entering. Sleeping with your back to the window is not good, it gives you no protection. She asked many questions and was fascinated by the subject. She really understood that whatever you do in your house will affect you. It made sense to her at a time when people were suspicious about feng shui. & # 39;
Andrew Morton Author of Diana: Her True Story
& # 39; Diana began to realize that she had to take steps to escape from the prison in which she considered herself – a bitterly unhappy marriage combined with a royal system ruled by & # 39; men in gray suits & as they called them. She had a humanitarian vision for herself and wanted to explain her story to the people – what she saw as her people – so that everyone could understand who she really was before it was too late. I don't think she published my book to get revenge. I think she felt she was a prisoner who was trapped in the system. She felt voiceless. She thought the image we had of this kind of fairytale princess was a grotesque lie, and she wanted to let people know what was really going on in her life. She felt completely trapped. The first tape we did was like a prisoner telling her story before the guards return. & # 39;
The shy Di they abandoned: A timid kindergarten teacher with a passion for Barbara Cartland novels, the world of Lady Diana Spencer was about to turn upside down
Diana was shocked when she put her car outside her flat in 1980
When we first met Lady Diana Spencer, she was Shy Di, peeking out from under her pony, good with kids and hamsters (but she had failed all her O-levels twice), the girl from a broken house that & 39; self-cleaning & # 39; & # 39; hoping to be saved by a prince – just like in her favorite novels by Barbara Cartland.
But was Di really shy? Her friends deny it. Ze kwelde haar kindertijd kindermeisjes, en een hoveling die een dochter had op dezelfde prep school nam stappen om zijn nakomelingen te verwijderen van Diana's slechte invloed.
Ze waagde haar stiefmoeder Raine met brieven met gifpen en stille telefoontjes, een tactiek die ze later in het leven zou gebruiken. Shy Di was zich ook bewust van haar status.
Toen haar vader het graafschap erfde, rende ze op school door de gang en riep: 'Ik ben een dame, ik ben nu Lady Diana.'
Penny Junor Journalist en biograaf
'Hoewel ik Diana niet in het echt had gezien voordat ik veel van haar op televisie had gezien, en wat me schokte tijdens haar eerste tournee in 1981, was hoeveel ze in de loop van een jaar was veranderd. Toen de pers voor het eerst besefte dat Charles Diana zag, was ze rond en onwerelds: een typische Sloane Ranger in onopvallende kleding en platte schoenen die op een kleuterschool werkte. Een van de meest iconische foto's uit die tijd werd genomen in de tuin van die school, waar haar rok transparant werd en we onze eerste glimp van die fantastische benen hadden. Charles zou haar hebben geplaagd: 'Ik wist dat je benen goed waren, maar ik wist niet dat ze zo spectaculair waren.'
De eerste foto
John Minihan, voormalige avond Standaardfotograaf:
'Ik was in september 1980 aan het drinken in South Kensington toen ik de column van Nigel Dempster in de Daily Mail las, waarin stond dat prins Charles geen belangstelling meer had voor Lady Sarah Spencer en nu uitgaat met haar zus Lady Diana, die leraar was in Young England Kleuterschool in Pimlico.
I had my cameras, so I drove round there and knocked on the door. I met the headmistress and asked if I could photograph Lady Diana. She was very helpful, and despite the fact that parents were arriving in droves with their children she brought me to her.
‘There was a garden at the back and I asked Diana to pose with two children. She explained she would have to get the permission of the parents and went off to do that. It was early in the morning and the sun was shining at an angle in the back garden.
Diana working as a nursery teacher in 1980, taken by John Minihan , former Evening Standard photographer
Diana was very bubbly and a bit overawed by all the fuss. I asked her to pose with the sun behind her, and her legs were illuminated through her long skirt. I immediately knew I had something special. I came out of that school with a little bit of history. She was clearly in love with Charles, very human and vulnerable. She was incredibly natural and liked being in front of the camera.
‘Within hours the school was under siege, as well as her flat in Coleherne Court. I felt sorry for her and about ten days later, on an impulse, I bought a dozen red roses and went round to her flat.
As I knocked on the door I saw her looking out from an upstairs window. She recognised me and came down. Despite the fact I had my cameras, I didn’t try to photograph her. She apologised for being silly trying to avoid the photographers and reporters. She was very young but a lovely girl.’
‘A year later, the duckling had turned into a swan, but she had lost a terrifying amount of weight – because, as we later learned, she was in the grip of a devastating eating disorder.’
Elizabeth Emanuel Fashion designer
‘I think her waist went down to 23in before the wedding, which is very small – she was like a large 10 to a 12, and not fat at all. She didn’t look like she had any weight to lose and she was only 19, but you could actually see the bones in her face. She looked wonderful and in fact for the pre-wedding ball in July 1981 we did a dress designed to look very sexy and emphasise how small her waist was.’
Ken Lennox Photographer
‘Diana was very good with the photographers in the early days and as a naturally polite young woman she would co-operate with us. One evening I was talking to her outside her flat. She knew my family were still up in Scotland and she said, “Are you going to get home for Christmas?” I said, “I doubt it”, and when she asked why I said it was because we needed some good close-ups of her in case an engagement might be announced. She said, “If you get those will you be able to go home for Christmas?”
When I said yes, she said, “Right, tomorrow morning come to the flat at 7 o’clock and if there’s no one else there I’ll come down and sit in the car and you can do some close-up pictures.” So I turned up at seven and she came down, didn’t say a word, went straight to her car, sat inside, rolled the window down and just smiled at me. I shot a whole film – they were great, with lots of different expressions. It gave her an out, in that it didn’t look like they were posed, it looked like they were photos taken on the run.’
Jayne Fincher Photographer
‘We’d have funny chats about my colleagues, it was a bit like talking to someone you went to school with. We’d observe things, saying, “Look at that awful dress”, or, “That photographer’s quite good-looking.” She used to bite her nails, as did I, and we used to compare them. It was nice, non-threatening.’
Dr James Colthurst Diana’s confidant and old friend
‘I first got to know Diana when she was 16 on a ski trip in France with her family. She discovered our group was there and she knew some of them, so she just swung in to join us. She was one of only two girls who came to dinner at my flat and then did the washing up. That was typical of her, she was happy to muddle in.
‘When she was first dating Charles she stood me up for dinner at her flat. When I got there her flatmates were there but Diana said, “I’m afraid I can’t do dinner, I’ve got to go out.” She pulled me out of the door and across the street to get some food for supper and brought it back, told the girls what they were to prepare and then disappeared. She came back at 10.15pm, saying, “It’s just crazy; they’re working him far too hard.” Everybody just nodded slowly, realising what was starting to happen.’
They think I’m ‘suitable’ for Charles. My sister wasn’t: Diana said she ‘didn’t have a background’ when she spoke to neighbour Danae Brook in her first ever interview. But she was a blue-blooded Spencer – what could she mean? The truth is just one of the astonishing revelations she made that day…
Diana lived in a flat in the same London mansion block as journalist Danae Brook, and agreed to speak to her – the first interview with the future princess that anyone would read.
‘Mesmerised by her periwinkle blue eyes, I could hardly believe what I was hearing as we stood talking in her hallway. She said that unlike her sister Sarah, a former girlfriend of Charles, she was considered “suitable” for the future king.
'The main reason, she thought, was because she didn’t have what she called “a background” – or, to put it more frankly, she hadn’t had several boyfriends.’
Here, for the first time, is the full story behind the edited version of her piece that appeared in the Daily Mail about her encounter with the young, innocent aristocrat all those years ago…
When I first met her, Diana Spencer was running up the stairs in the building we both lived in, Coleherne Court. It was 1980 and she was 19. She was long-legged, athletic, as though she had just come off the netball field, a pretty young woman but nothing startling, apart from her eyes. What I remember most was the eyes. Periwinkle blue. Almost as purple as Elizabeth Taylor’s in National Velvet. Mesmerising. If she caught your eye, caught you looking at her, it was like being in the headlights of a car.
Diana spotted inside her apartment in 1981. Diana lived in a flat in the same London mansion block as journalist Danae Brook, and agreed to speak to her – the first interview with the future princess that anyone would read
But she had no idea back then, when she was working in a children’s nursery in Pimlico, of the power of that gaze. When I later interviewed her, this was obvious from her constant apologies. It turned out I would be the first print journalist to interview Diana, long before the famous TV interview with Martin Bashir when she rolled her kohl-rimmed eyes, saying, ‘There are three of us in this marriage.’
She and I became neighbours at least a year before the marriage, weeks before the engagement was announced. She was just beginning to date the Prince of Wales, barely out of knee socks, when she came to live in Coleherne Court, an Earl’s Court Victorian mansion block. Few people knew he was taking an interest in her. Diana-mania was a distant bubble on a far horizon.
She was an ordinary upper-class girl, coming to London from her country estate for the first time. When she moved in, her relationship with Charles was so hush-hush I had no idea there was one. He had a reputation as a young blade about town. She had no reputation at all, as she was quick to point out when she decided to talk to me on the record. But whispers were starting and Fleet Street diarists like Nigel Dempster were starting to pick up on the new girl in Prince Charles’s life.
Our home was one floor above hers. I raised three children there and Diana Spencer shared hers with three girlfriends. We began to get clues as to what was going on – The Three Degrees (one of Charles’s favourite groups) were played at full blast, flowers were left outside their door.
Diana was painfully shy and self-deprecating, with no self-confidence. After work she would slip into the lift carrying an orange and a Crunchie bar with the Evening Standard tucked under her arm. She wore little make-up, and seemed to want to be invisible. ‘She likes Crunchies,’ said my youngest. ‘She got us one each!’ It turned out my two youngest, sweet, naughty boys of eight and nine, Orion and Liam, were friendly enough with her for her to buy them an occasional treat at the shop. She introduced herself to them as ‘Diana’, not even ‘Lady Diana’.
When a stunning photo of Diana, looking about 15 with the sun streaming through her skirt, appeared on the front pages announcing her presence in Prince Charles’s life, my sons saw it on the breakfast table. ‘We know her,’ they squealed. ‘She lives here. She likes oranges, we see her in Mr Barnsley’s shop.’
I was astonished. Diana was the Prince-About-Town’s new squeeze. I could not believe the shy nursery school teacher was the future wife of a future king. One week on I needed no more convincing. Not only Diana, but the whole building was under siege. Day and night people would ring the bells madly, hoping to speak to Prince Charles’s new girlfriend.
I watched as she became more and more stressed. Every morning when she tried to jump into her red Mini, photographers would race her to the first set of traffic lights, hoping she would be stopped long enough for them to get a shot or, worse, that they would cause a little accident, which would give a more dramatic shot.
We’d sometimes go up in the lift together or walk up the road with the children and she’d tell me about her work and ask where my children would go to school next. Nothing intimate, just neighbours getting to know each other. Then things became more immediate, more dramatic, as the roar of the motorbikes chasing her became more threatening.
Everything was skewed by a sense of the pressure she was under. So when she became more and more upset with Charles for giving her no assistance with the Press, I wasn’t surprised when she decided she should make a statement. She knew I wrote for a newspaper and wrote books. I left her a note explaining this when, at the urging of a trusted colleague, I asked her to consider telling the story in her own words. Several times in passing she had expressed her annoyance at being quoted when she’d not given a quote. ‘I need to say what I feel,’ she said. ‘Not what somebody else thinks I feel.’
Diana outside her flat in 1981. The future-princess said she ‘didn’t have a background’ when she spoke to neighbour Danae Brook in her first ever interview
I offered to clear the air, to give her a voice. We agreed a time to meet and she invited me to her flat. It was teatime, November grey and raining outside. When I pressed the doorbell, she opened the door to the flat with its elegant floor-length curtains and mahogany furniture. We stood in the hall, where Barbour mackintoshes and wellington boots were squashed next to an umbrella stand. It was like being in a rambling country house. She was in blue jeans and a twin-set with pearls, which she fingered constantly.
As I walked into the flat, Diana’s shoulders were bowed as though standing straight would draw too much attention. Her skin was transparent and she blushed continuously, especially when talking about Charles. ‘It’s absolutely maddening to see things written about me, and him, when I haven’t said anything.’ She paused. ‘But I don’t know what the future holds.’
I asked if anyone was advising her on how to handle the situation. ‘No!’ she said, shocked. ‘I don’t think the Royal Family is aware of what is happening here. At least we didn’t talk about it when we were in Norfolk.’
Apparently she’d crept away at night the previous weekend to stay at Sandringham, managing to evade reporters. I wondered aloud if she’d wound sheets together to climb out of the window. She laughed. ‘No, I got a very fast driver and we shot off in a puff of smoke. I had my new car delivered somewhere else where I stayed the night, then shot off to Norfolk.’ It was Prince Charles’s 32nd birthday party. ‘Unfortunately,’ she added, ‘somebody found out I had a new car and even though I parked it miles away they found it.’
So the siege went on. ‘I’ve no idea why the whole thing has built up to such a peak,’ she shrugged. ‘I think it’s because everything happens for the Royal Family in November. Princess Anne married and had a baby in November. It’s the Queen and Prince Philip’s anniversary. And of course it’s Charles’s birthday and everyone is dying for him to get married, and I was the one who was around this time.’
Diana is pictured outside her flat in Coleherne Court, Kensington, London, in 1980 – a year before her wedding to Charles
A little disingenuous perhaps. Not every pretty young woman is asked to stay at Sandringham for these highly personal events.Then she changed the subject, apologising for what a nuisance all the attention must be for other people in our building. ‘It must be so bloody for everyone who lives here,’ she said. ‘I feel so awful about it.’ I assured her we were taking it in our collective stride.
I knew she wanted me to write what she said, although she was afraid to say much. She thought she was ‘suitable’ for a future king, only because she did not ‘sleep around’. It was clear she thought herself second best to her older sister, who had been Prince Charles’s girlfriend for almost a year but had been crossed off the eligibility list. Not for lack of blue blood – the Spencer blood was probably bluer than the Windsors’ – but for reportedly telling journalists she’d had ‘thousands of boyfriends’. Diana strongly implied she was a virgin, and she obviously felt that was the only reason ‘The Family’ had approved her as a future bride, although I did not write that in my interview. ‘I don’t really know why they like me,’ was what I wrote. ‘You see my sister Sarah was going out with Charles last year and she talked about it to the Press but she talked too much and they murdered her.
‘I’m OK because I haven’t got a background.’ I looked surprised. No background? Daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer, distantly related to the Royal Family, directly related to the Churchills? No, it turned out she meant a background of leaping in and out of bed with people. ‘That’s what everyone else seems to have. I mean I haven’t had a chance to have that kind of background, I’m still only 19!’ She looked shocked and embarrassed. ‘But people are longing to dig something up about me.’ She looked at me sideways. ‘It’s like the story about me meeting him on the Royal Train in the middle of the night.’
She was referring to reports, denied by the Palace, that she’d had an assignation with the prince when the train was in sidings in Wiltshire. ‘I simply couldn’t believe it,’ she exploded. ‘I’ve never been near the train, let alone in the middle of the night!’ I was told later, by a reliable source, that the woman on board was Camilla.
I was very sympathetic, but as I turned to go, realising a cup of tea was not on the cards, she apologised again for the disruption she’d caused to others in our building. ‘I am so, so sorry for interrupting the lives of the people who live here,’ she said.
She told me when she was finally allowed a bodyguard, a woman dressed in black who shadowed her like a, well, shadow, a very dark one, but effective. I could see the top of the woman’s head as I slipped down the stairs behind Diana, neither of us waiting for the old Victorian lift. None of the other members of the Press spotted her, that’s for sure. Diana, soon to be HRH Princess of Wales, was learning her lesson.