On the surface, Princess Diana lived a fairytale life, she was everyone’s favorite royal. Her public demeanor however served to mask a turbulent marriage and deeply unhappy childhood that involved domestic abuse and ended in a bitter divorce. In 1991, her husband, Prince Charles rekindled his romance with his true love, Camilla and a disillusioned Diana took the extraordinary risk of making her despair public.
She recorded her innermost thoughts for royal author Andrew Morton, on condition that her involvement be kept secret. The result was Diana, Her True Story, a best seller that shook the world. Two decades after her death in an auto crash, it is being republished with transcripts of Diana’s recordings. Daily Mail is publishing extracts and the revelations are just so sensational.
The biggest disruption was when Mummy decided to leg it (in 1967). That’s the vivid memory the four of us children have.
We all have our own interpretations of what should have happened and what did happen. People took sides. Various people didn’t speak to each other. For my brother and I, it was a very wishy-washy and painful experience.
Charles (my brother) said to me the other day that he hadn’t realised how much the divorce had affected him until he got married and started having a life of his own.
But my other sisters — their growing up was done out of our sight. We saw them at holidays. I don’t remember it being a big thing.
I idolised my eldest sister (Sarah, six years older) and I used to do all her washing when she came back from school. I packed her suitcase, ran her bath, made her bed — the whole lot. I did it all and I thought it was wonderful. I soon learned that doing that wasn’t such a good idea.
I always looked after my brother, really. We had so many changes of nannies, because Daddy was a very attractive divorcee and he was good bait for somebody. We tend to think they came for that, rather than for looking after my brother and me.
If we didn’t like them, we used to stick pins in their chair and throw their clothes out of the window. We always thought they were a threat because they tried to take mother’s position.
They were all very young and rather pretty. They were chosen by my father. It was terribly disruptive to come back from school one day to find a new nanny.
It was a very unhappy childhood. Always seeing our mum crying. Daddy never spoke to us about it — we could never ask questions. Very unstable, the whole thing.
At the age of 14, I remember thinking that I wasn’t very good at anything, that I was hopeless because my brother was always the one getting exams at school and I was the dropout.
I couldn’t understand why I was perhaps a nuisance to have around, which in later years I’ve perceived as being part of the whole question of the child who died before me. It was a son (John, who died within ten hours of his birth in 1960) and both my parents were crazy to have a son and heir. ‘What a bore, we’re going to have to try again.’ And then comes a third daughter.
I’ve recognised that now and that’s fine. I accept it.
I adored animals, guinea-pigs and all that. I had a mass of rabbits, guinea-pigs and hamsters. They all had names.
In my bed, I’d have 20 stuffed animals and there would be a midget’s space for me. They were all adored. That was my family.
I hated the dark — always had to have a light outside my door until I was at least ten. I used to hear my brother crying for my mother — he was unhappy, too — and my father was right down the other end of the house. I never could pluck up courage to get out of bed. I remember it to this day.
I remember seeing my father slap my mother across the face. I was hiding behind the door, and Mummy was crying. I remember Mummy crying an awful lot. Every Saturday, when we went up (to stay with her and Peter Shand Kydd) for weekends, every Saturday night, standard procedure, she would start crying. We would both see her crying. ‘What’s the matter, Mummy?’
‘Oh, I don’t want you to leave tomorrow,’ — which, for a nine-year-old, was devastating, you know.
I remember the most agonising decision I ever had to make. I was a bridesmaid to my first cousin, and to go to the rehearsal I had to be smart and wear a dress. And my mother gave me a green dress and my father had given me a white dress.
And they were both so smart, the dresses, and I can’t remember to this day which one I wore. But I remember being totally traumatised by it because it would show favouritism.
I remember there being a great discussion that a judge was going to come to me at Riddlesworth (my preparatory school) and ask who I would prefer to live with. The judge never turned up.
Basically, we couldn’t wait to be independent, Charles and I, in order to spread our wings and do our own thing.
We had become horribly different at school because we had divorced parents, and nobody else did at that time. But by the time we finished our five years at prep school, everybody was.
I always had this thing inside me that I was different. I didn’t know why. I couldn’t even talk about it, but it was there.
The divorce helped me to relate to anyone else who is upset in their family life, whether it be stepfather syndrome or mother or whatever, I understand it. Been there, done it.
We were always shunted over to Sandringham (the Queen’s Norfolk residence next door) for holidays. We used to go and see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film.
We hated it so much. The atmosphere was always very strange, and I used to kick and fight anyone who tried to make us go over there. I said I didn’t want to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the third year running. Daddy was most insistent because it was rude (not to go).
Holidays were always very grim because, say, we had a four-week holiday: two weeks Mummy and two weeks Daddy, and the trauma of going from one house to another, and each individual parent trying to make it up in their area with material things rather than the actual tactile stuff, which is what we both craved but never got . . .
Birthdays were obviously a treat. My father once organised a dromedary to come along and give us rides around the lawn — he got it from Bristol Zoo. Birthdays were always a good time. Daddy loves parties.
But there was still none of the arms round the shoulder, or hugging. It was always the other things. I always wanted a pram for my birthday — and dolls. I was fiendish about the dolls and the prams.
And I collected pieces of china. All sorts of fairytale things, and tiny little rabbits. I mean, anything that was small was wonderful, as far as I was concerned.
Being naughty at prep school was fun
Actually, I loved being at school. Although, because I was busy looking after my father most of the time, and then suddenly realised I was going to be away from him (back at school), I used to make threats like: ‘If you love me, you won’t leave me here,’ which was jolly unkind to him at the time.
I was very naughty in the sense of always wanting to laugh and muck about rather than sit tight in the four walls of the schoolroom.
I remember school plays and the thrill of putting on make-up. I was a Dutch doll or something like that. My big moment. But I never put myself forward to speak in a play. I never read the lessons at school. If I was asked to do anything, my condition was I’d do it if I didn’t have to speak.
My first sporting cup was for diving. I won it four years running, actually! I always won all the swimming and diving cups. I won all sorts of prizes for the best-kept guinea-pig — maybe because mine was the only guinea-pig in the guinea-pig section.
But in the academic department, you might as well forget about that!
At school, we were only allowed one animal on the bed. I had a green hippo and painted his eyes luminous, so that at night it looked as though he was looking at me.
The dare that nearly got me expelled
I nearly got expelled — I must have been 11 or 12 — because one night somebody said to me: ‘Would you like to do a dare?’ I thought: ‘Why not? Life’s so boring.’
So they sent me out at 9 o’clock to the end of the drive, which was half a mile long, in pitch dark. I had to go and get some sweets at the gate from somebody called Polly Phillimore, I think she was called. I got there and there was nobody there. I hid behind the gate as these police cars were coming in.
I thought nothing more about it. I saw all the lights coming on in the school. I wandered back, terrified, to find that some twit in my bedroom said that she had appendicitis.
Then they asked ‘Where’s Diana?’ ‘I don’t know where she’s gone.’
Both my parents were summoned — they were divorced by then. Father was thrilled and my mother said: ‘I didn’t think you had it in you.’ No telling-off.
Why I never had any boyfriends
There was an enormous hall which they had just built on (at West Heath school, in Sevenoaks, Kent). I used to sneak down at night when it was all dark, and put on my music and do my ballet there in this enormous hall for hours on end, and no one ever found me.
All my friends knew where I was when I crept out, and it always released tremendous tension in my head.
I liked all subjects. History fascinated me. Tudors and Stuarts — I adored them. I never anticipated I’d end up in the system, in the books.
In English, I loved Far From The Madding Crowd and Pride And Prejudice. But in O-levels, you were so besieged with every single line that it became a chore rather than a pleasure. I took five — I got Ds for the lot. That’s not even a pass.
If I could study a subject now, it would be about people. The mind. Definitely the mind. I’d love to study psychology.
(At school) I played the piano. I did my tap dancing, which I absolutely adored; tennis, and I was captain of the netball team, hockey, you name it, because of my height. I was one of the tallest there.
I visited old people once a week, went to the local mental asylum once a week (Darenth Park, a large psychiatric hospital near Dartford). I adored that. It was sort of an introduction for bigger things.
Then, by the time I got to the top of the school, all my friends had boyfriends but not me, because I knew somehow that I had to keep myself very tidy for whatever was coming my way.
I had more girlfriends than boyfriends. I was always mucking about with girls. But I didn’t really have any friends that stuck.
I had crushes, serious crushes on all sorts of people, especially my sisters’ boyfriends. If they ever got chucked out from that department, I used to try my way.
Moving to Althorp was such a wrench
When I was 13, we moved to Althorp in Northampton (her father had become Earl Spencer in 1975 and inherited the estate.)
That was a terrible wrench, leaving Norfolk, because that’s where everybody who I’d grown up with lived. We had to move because grandfather died.
And life took a very big turn because my stepmother, Raine, appeared on the scene. (Then aged 46 and married to the Earl of Dartmouth, Raine was the daughter of romantic novelist Barbara Cartland.)
We all hated her so much because we thought she was going to take Daddy away from us. She was very clever and she wanted to marry Daddy; that was her target and that was it.
I’ve sat and boiled for years and years, and two Septembers ago (1989) my brother got married (to model Victoria Lockwood) and I told Raine what I thought about her — and I’ve never known such anger in me.
It’s because my stepmother and my father were very rude to my mother at the rehearsal before my brother’s wedding; they refused to speak to her, even while sitting next to her on a pew.
I thought that just for one day, for the sake of my brother, we could all be grown-up and get on with it. I just thought it was unbelievable.
So I took it upon myself to air everyone’s grievances in my family. And it was very difficult. My father didn’t speak to me for six months. Raine doesn’t speak to me now (although later they were to get on very well).
But I stuck up for Mummy, and my mother said that was the first time in 22 years anyone had ever stuck up for her.
I said everything I possibly could. Raine said: ‘You have no idea how much pain your mother has put your father through.’
I said: ‘Pain, Raine? That’s one word you don’t even know how to relate to. In my job and in my role (as Princess of Wales), I see people suffer like you’ve never seen — and you call that pain? You’ve got a lot to learn.’
I remember really going for her gullet — I was so angry.
I said: ‘I hate you so much. If only you knew how much we all hated you for what you’ve done. You’ve ruined the house, you spend Daddy’s money and what for?’ (Raine had embarked on a lavish redecoration of Althorp and sold off numerous paintings, antiques and other objets d’art.)
Daddy’s stroke left him a different man
He had a brain haemorrhage (in 1978). He’d suffered headaches, took Disprins, told nobody.
They said: ‘He’s going to die.’ The brain had ruptured. And we saw another side of Raine which we hadn’t anticipated, as she basically blocked us out of the hospital; she wouldn’t let us see Daddy.
My eldest sister took charge of that and went in sometimes to see him. Meanwhile, he couldn’t talk because he had a tracheotomy, so he wasn’t able to ask where his other children were.
Goodness knows what he was thinking, because no one was telling him. Anyway, he got better and he basically changed character. He was one person before and he was certainly a different person afterwards. He’s remained estranged but adoring since.
He’s not the same since he had that haemorrhage.
I treat people nicely — even the gardener
My father always said: ‘Treat everybody as an individual and never throw your weight around.’ I always got on very well with everybody. Whether it be the gardener or the local police or whoever, I always went over to talk to them.
My father used to sit us down every Christmas and birthday, and we had to write our thank-you letters within 24 hours. And now if I don’t, I get into a panic.
If I come back from a dinner party or somewhere that needs a letter, at midnight I’ll sit down and write it there — and not wait until next morning because it would wrestle with my conscience. William now does it — it’s great. It’s nice if other people appreciate it at the other end.
My brother’s clever, but not with people
I’ve always seen him as the brains in the family. I still see that. He’s got S-levels, and things like that. But if you’re talking about how to deal with situations and how to deal with people — no.
I think that my brother, being the youngest and the only boy, was quite precious because Althorp is a big place.
I longed to be as good as Charles in the schoolroom. I was never jealous of him. I so understood him.
He’s quite mature in some ways; he’s quite immature in others. But that’s to be expected — for God’s sake, the boy’s only 28.
He’s very like me, as opposed to my two sisters. He will always suffer, Charles, because he’s like me — whereas my two sisters are blissfully happy being detached.
Finishing school was such a waste of money
I know that when I went to finishing school (The Institut Alpin Videmanette in Switzerland, in 1977) I wrote something like 120 letters in the first month. I was so unhappy there — I just wrote and wrote and wrote.
I felt out of place there. I learnt how to ski, but I wasn’t very good with everybody else. It was just too claustrophobic for me, albeit it was in the mountains.
I did one term there. When I found out how much it cost to send me there, I told my parents it was a waste of their money. So they whipped me back.
My parents said: ‘You can’t come to London until you are 18. You can’t have a flat until you are 18.’
So I went and worked with a family in Headley, near Bordon in Hampshire — Philippa and Jeremy Whitaker. I looked after their one daughter, Alexandra, and lived as part of their team.
It was all right. But I was itching to go to London because I thought the grass was greener on the other side.