Inside Queen’s relationship with ‘lamb to the slaughter’ Princess Diana

In the beginning, the Queen was delighted with the prospect of Lady Diana Spencer becoming her eldest son's wife.

Having learned of Prince Charles' affair with Army officer's wife Camilla Parker Bowles, she felt the 18-year-old, nursery teaching assistant represented a safe choice as a bride with her father Earl "Johnny" Spencer having been a personal attendant to the Queen and her father George VI.

The Queen also believed that, at 31 in 1980, it was time Charles provided an heir to the throne.

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What she overlooked, though, was that her son had been besotted with Camilla since the early 1970s.

Charles proposed at Windsor Castle on only the 13th time he had met Diana in February, 1981.

Cracks appeared even before they walked down the aisle at St Paul’s Cathedral, though, when the couple were asked if they were in love during a television interview.

"Of course," replied Diana, while Charles infamously muttered: "Whatever ‘in love’ means."

A month later, the Queen gave approval to the July marriage, although Diana later confessed she already "felt like a lamb to the slaughter".

Her struggles with bulimia began and, having moved into Buckingham Palace, the Queen's attempts to cultivate a close relationship over lunches only added to Diana's stress levels.

"I don’t know what to say to the Queen," the nervous teenager admitted to friends.

The monarch, in her mid-50s, dismissed the lack of a connection as a sign that her son's fiancee was "highly strung".

Following their spectacular wedding, more alarm bells were ringing for Diana when, on the couple's 11-day Mediterranean honeymoon cruise, she was horrified when photos of Camilla fell out of Charles’ diary.

Equally as upsetting, she found him wearing cufflinks from Camilla, engraved with their initials.

Back in the UK, a miserable Diana would turn up late for family meals or leave them early, as Charles reportedly blamed his parents for ignoring her behaviour and not being more supportive of his young bride.

Prince William and Harry were born in 1982 and 1984 but, by the mid-1980s, their parents were effectively living separate lives.

The princess would reportedly burst into the Queen’s sitting room in floods of tears, often shouting: "Everyone hates me!"

But the Queen was uncomfortable with such emotional displays.

In Andrew Morton's 1992 book Diana, Her True Story, the princess then laid into the Royal Family but still expressed a "deep respect" for Her Majesty's work, having previously promised her mother-in-law: "I will never let you down."

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After Charles and Diana’s "amicable separation" was announced that December, the Queen still hoped they might be reconciled, but both then admitted adultery in explosive TV interviews.

On Panorama, in November 1995, Diana famously claimed: "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

She also added: "I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts."

Almost immediately, the Queen wrote to Charles and Diana, advising them to divorce.

Diana announced she would give up Her Royal Highness title, but then changed her mind, only for the Queen to reject her request.

One of the Queen’s closest friends, Lady Kennard, said: “I was always surprised that they didn’t get on. The Queen wouldn’t have a row with anyone.

"But she was rather surprised by many things. I think the Queen would never quite understand what Princess Diana was about.”

In August 1996, Charles and Diana’s divorce became final and, just over a year later, any hope of the Queen's relationship with her former daughter-in-law becoming less strained was lost when the Princess was tragically killed in a Paris car crash.


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  • Prince Charles
  • Princess Diana
  • Queen
  • Camilla Parker Bowles
  • Royal Family

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