PRINCESS DIANA was “desperately trying to find herself” in the year before her death, according to a well-respected author. Diana, Princess of Wales’ story will be told through archive audio and video footage in a new critically-acclaimed feature documentary. While Diana’s time in the Royal Family is well-documented, this new programme “reframes her story by taking an entirely immersive approach.” ‘The Princess’ airs on Sky Documentaries on Sunday in the month of the 25th anniversary of her death.
She died tragically in a car crash in Paris, on August 31, 1997.Her divorce from Prince Charles had been finalised a year previously, meaning she lost her ‘Her Royal Highness’ title and no longer represented Queen Elizabeth II in an official capacity. James Patterson, a well-respected writer and author of the upcoming book ‘Diana, William and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother’, discussed the final year of her life on this week’s episode of Podcast Royal.
He told hosts Rachel Burchfield and Jessica Robinson that the Princess was “desperately trying to find herself” in the months ahead of her death. Mr Patterson said: “I think it was chaos for her [Diana]; I think she was desperate to find herself. “I’m sure there was some guilt there about leaving the Royal Family. She wasn’t seeing the boys as much as she had. “I think she was really desperately trying to find herself.” Diana’s international fame brought with it great scrutiny, and while Mr Patterson claims the Princess “loved elements of the fame”, he also argued it was a “difficult period for her.”
Diana and Charles’s relationship was tumultuous, with their incompatibility becoming clear as both had affairs. The gradual breakdown of their marriage was played out in public, and the pair were embroiled in a battle of words, known as the ‘War of the Waleses’. In May 1992, Andrew Morton published ‘Diana: Her True Story’, a blistering tell-all of the collapse of Prince and Princess’ marriage, Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, and Diana’s mental health struggles.
Unbeknown at the time, the Princess had co-operated with the book, providing Mr Morton with audio recordings. Seven months later, Prime Minister John Major announced to the House of Commons that Charles and Diana were separating. Reading from a Buckingham Palace statement, he said: “This decision has been reached amicably and they will both continue to participate fully in the upbringing of their children.” Neither Charles nor Diana make a comment.
In 1994, the heir to the throne sat down for an unprecedented interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, during which he admitted to his infidelity. During the lengthy television documentary, Charles was asked if he tried to be “faithful and honourable” to Diana. He initially replied: “Yes, absolutely,” but after further questioning from Mr Dimbleby, who said: “And you were?”. Charles added: “Yes… Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” The following year, in an interview with the BBC, Diana famously said: “There were three of us in this marriage.”
Following Diana’s infamous interview, and after coming to an agreement in July, the Prince and Princess of Wales’ divorced. Diana received a significant financial settlement, but tragically, her new, liberated post-royal life was cut short after the fatal car crash in Paris. Mr Patterson talked about what the Princess’ life could have been, telling the Royally Us podcast: “My sense of it is that she was in a little bit of chaos,” adding that she may have “been in disarray for a short period of time.”
But, he went on to say: “I’m sure she would have done more with the charities, maybe she would have gotten married — I’m sure she would have spent a lot more time with the boys.” Both Prince William and Prince Harry have recently touched on the impact and legacy of their late mother. Last month, in a letter to the winners of the Diana Award, William said that those honoured with the award were “the personification” of the Princess’ legacy. He continued: “I believe there’s no better way to celebrate her life and work than through recognizing incredible people who dedicate so much time and effort to helping those around them.”
More recently, Harry expressed his affection for places in Africa he connected to memories of both his mother and his wife Meghan Markle. The Duke of Sussex visited the continent just after the death of Diana, and then, decades later, took Meghan to Botswana for one of their first dates. During his keynote address to an informal gathering of the United Nations general assembly, he said: “Since I first visited Africa at 13 years old, I’ve always found hope on the continent.
“In fact, for most of my life, it has been my lifeline, a place where I have found peace and healing time and time again. “It is where I have felt closest to my mother and sought solace after she died and where I knew I had found a soulmate in my wife. “It’s why so much of my work is based there.” Both William and Harry continue to honour the legacy and work of their mother through the charities and organisations they choose to support and associate with. James Patterson’s book ‘Diana, William and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother’ will be published by Little, Brown and Company on August 15. ‘The Princess’ will air on Sky Documentaries on August 14 and will also be available to stream on NOW.