The Little-Known Letter Queen Elizabeth II Wrote After Princess Diana’s Death

Her heartfelt words reveal just how devastated she and her family really were.

PRINCESS DIANA QUEEN, LONDON, United Kingdom EnglandMartin Cleaver/AP/Shutterstock

When news broke about Princess Diana’s tragic death on August 31, 1997, the entire world mourned her loss. Cards, notes, and flowers flooded into London from across the globe as people paid their condolences to the British royals. And yet, Queen Elizabeth II remained quiet at Balmoral Castle in Scotland with her grandsons, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12. Many critics accused her of appearing detached and aloof at a time of tragedy. But a little-known letter that she wrote reveals the Queen felt anything but detached. Here’s how Queen Elizabeth found out about Princess Diana’s death.

Six days after Princess Diana’s death, the Queen wrote to one of her closest aides, Lady Henriette Abel Smith. Her heartfelt words offer a rare glimpse into the Queen’s other role: a grandmother consoling her grieving grandsons.

“It was indeed dreadfully sad, and she is a huge loss to the country. But the public reaction to her death, and the service in the Abbey, seem to have united people round the world in a rather inspiring way. William and Harry have been so brave and I am very proud of them,” Queen Elizabeth wrote. “Emotions are still so mixed up but we have all been through a very bad experience!” Learn why Prince William and Prince Harry’s last phone call with their mother still haunts them.

Those close to her have revealed even more insights into Her Majesty’s seemingly cold reaction to Diana’s death. “She was being a proper granny. What was the point of bringing the boys down to sit in London with nothing to do but sit there feeling sad about mum?” Margaret Rhodes, the queen’s cousin and close friend told CNN in 2012. “Personally, I think I would have behaved in the same way.”

Queen Elizabeth II finally broke her silence during a live broadcast from Buckingham Palace the night before Princess Diana’s funeral at Westminster Abbey. “[Diana] was an exceptional and gifted human being,” Queen Elizabeth said. “In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.” Read on to learn the secrets about Princess Diana no one knew until after her death.

Popular Videos

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.