Were Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth friends or enemies? Prince Charles’ wife enjoyed his mum’s support and understanding, say palace insiders … until after the Panorama interview

Diana, Princess of Wales, and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth outside Clarence House in London in August 1987 – but were the two of them ever friends? (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver, File)
Much has been made over the years about the true nature of the relationship between the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and her former mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth. Some say that the pair never got on, while others maintain that initially there was a bond between the two which soured after the divorce between Diana and Prince Charles. Here we look back at the stages of their relationship, from initial meeting to the sad, sorry end.

How the British royals celebrate their birthdays

The Spencers and Windsors’ historical ties

Queen Elizabeth poses with her son, Prince Charles, and his then-fiancée, Lady Diana Spencer, at Buckingham Palace in March 1981. Photo: AFP

Members of the Spencer and Windsor families have a connection that goes quite a way back. Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, is actually the queen’s godson, and her maternal grandmother, Lady Fermoy, was a lady-in-waiting to the queen’s late mother, Queen Elizabeth. It stands to reason then that the monarch would’ve known then-Lady Diana Spencer’s aristocratic heritage, something she would have realised would serve her well in her forthcoming royal life.

Peek inside Prince Harry’s cousin Kitty Spencer’s US$26 million home

Initially, the rapport between the two was good

Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth. Photo: @princessdibooks/Twitter

According to royal biographer Andrew Morton, in his book Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words, the relationship between Diana and the queen started off rather formally, having been “governed by the fact that she was married to her older son and a future monarch”. Morton went on to write: “In the early days, Diana was quite simply terrified of her mother-in-law. She kept the formal obsequies – dropping a deep curtsy each time they met – but otherwise kept her distance.”

But the fact that the queen allowed Diana to represent the family at events (such as the 1982 funeral of former Hollywood star, Princess Grace of Monaco, which she attended alone), signified the confidence the queen had in her daughter-in-law.

BFFs for life? 9 times Queen Elizabeth showed her true love for Meghan

Matrimonial troubles

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, with his arm around Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, as they sit on a style during their honeymoon at Balmoral in Scotland in August 1981. Photo: Getty Images

As the marriage between Prince Charles and Diana began to disintegrate, it was widely reported that the princess initially relied heavily on the queen for advice and support. Morton also confirms this in his biography, adding that Diana found “perhaps a rather unlikely ally at the palace in the queen whose understanding and helpful attitude did much to encourage Diana to soldier on”.

Were these 5 women the only ones Princess Diana could really trust?

Calling it quits

Princess Diana’s interview with Panorama is said to be featured in the upcoming fifth season of Netflix series The Crown. Photo:@FilmUpdates/Twitter
In 1995, following the broadcast of Princess Diana’s bombshell Panorama interview, it was widely reported that the queen formally intervened between the Wales’, and encouraged them to end their marriage.
Britain’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer pose following the announcement of their engagement in February 1981. Photo: AP Photo

Another royal biographer, Robert Jobson, said in an Us Weekly podcast: “The truth is Diana was flip-flopping a lot around the marriage. Yes, they were separated and then we had the Panorama interview and other things like that. But obviously this marriage was a car crash.” The couple’s divorce was finalised in 1996.

Princesses in distress: is royalty lagging behind with gender equality?

The final tragedy

An official picture for the birth of Diana’s second son Prince Harry: from left, the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Photo: Alpha

Perhaps the most poignant words the queen shared about Diana were those following the princess’ shock passing in a car accident in Paris in 1997. Speaking from Buckingham Palace, after a now-famous public outcry about the monarch’s silence in the days immediately following the accident, the sovereign said: “First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness,” adding: “I share in your determination to cherish her memory.”

6 Princess Diana statues and memorials – touching homages or tacky kitsch?

The queen also quietly paid respect to her former daughter-in-law on the day of Diana’s funeral, subtly but sincerely bowing her head as the coffin passed in front of the royal family.

Want more stories like this? Sign up here. Follow STYLE on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

  • The mother of Princes Harry and William came clean about the state of her marriage to Prince Charles in a Panorama interview – describing it as ‘a bit crowded’
  • Diana’s brother Charles Spencer is the queen’s godson and her maternal grandmother Lady Fermoy was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother