Shocking things we learned about Princess Diana after her death

When Great Britain woke up on August 31, 1997 to news that their beloved Princess Diana had been killed in a horrific car crash in Paris, an entire nation went into mourning. The stylish, beautiful and endlessly charitable blonde was by far and away the most popular royal of her day, adored by the British public for the way she related to the common man and used her influence to effect change, not only at home, but around the world.

In the wake of her death, numerous Hollywood A-listers including George Clooney and Tom Cruise slammed the paparazzi for chasing Diana's car into a dark tunnel in pursuit of a picture, with Elizabeth Taylor going as far as calling them murderers. What we learned in the months following the tragedy, however, was that the press actually had little to do with Diana's death.

The divorced Princess and her lover Dodi Al-Fayed were being driven by Ritz deputy chief of security Henri Paul that night, with Diana's regular driver having left the swish hotel earlier that evening in an attempt to lead the waiting photographers on a wild goose chase, but when a few failed to take the bait, Paul decided to loose them in the tunnel.

Getting into that car with Paul proved a fatal error on Diana's part, as French authorities later found that the reckless driver (who reportedly goaded paps into giving pursuit by telling them they would never catch him) had the equivalent of 10 glasses of wine in his system when he smashed into a wall at a staggering 120mph. It was just the first of many shocking revelations about Diana to surface after her death, and it turned out to be the tip of the iceberg.

​She had a traumatic childhood

In 2004, NBC aired the first installment of their highly controversial two-part documentary on the late Princess of Wales, which was released under the title Princess Diana: The Secret Tapes. The show was comprised of footage taken at Diana's Kensington Palace home between 1992 and 1993 by her friend Peter Settelen, whom the Princess had decided to confide in.

She talked of many things in their recorded sessions, but started by telling the former voice coach that she suffered a great deal in childhood. "It was a very unhappy childhood," she admitted, "[my] parents were busy sorting themselves out. I remember seeing my father slap my mother across the face and I was crying on the floor…. Mummy was crying an awful lot." The BBC also got their hands on the tapes and planned to release their own documentary on the Princess, but bosses at the broadcasting company decided to axe it over fears it would upset Prince Charles.

​She had an affair with an Army officer

Diana's former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe became one of her closest confidants during his time by her side, though when he left the role (just weeks before her tragic death in Paris) he decided to go ahead with his own personal memoirs. Diana: Closely Guarded Secret blew the lid on a number of stories that had previously been dismissed as nothing but rumor, the most sensational of all being her affair with British Army officer James Hewitt. Wharfe would accompany the Princess to her secret meetings with Hewitt, who she took as her lover after she discovered that her husband was seeing his mistress Camilla Parker Bowles again. "Shattered by her husband's betrayal, the Princess was ready for an affair," Wharfe said in his book (via Daily Mail). "Hewitt, a natural womaniser, gave her the attention and affection she relished, and then the passion she yearned for."

Hewitt couldn't handle the pressure of the affair

In his memoirs, Wharfe made it perfectly clear what he thought of ladies man Hewitt, recalling the first time he took Diana to meet him at his mother's isolated cottage in the Devon countryside, which he referred to as the couple's love nest. Hewitt came out to greet them with an over-enthusiastic welcome, though Diana's bodyguard found his over the top behavior laughable. "It seemed absurd, and confirmed my preconceived ideas: not all Army officers were public-school buffoons, but many seemed to be doing an excellent impersonation," the former Metropolitan police inspector wrote in his book (via Daily Mail).

That enthusiasm would eventually wane, however, and Hewitt later decided to confide in Wharfe when the secretive relationship became too much for him to handle. "Ken, I need some time off," he begged. "The Princess can be so demanding." His chance for some time off came when he was promoted to Major and took a two-year posting in Germany, leaving Diana heartbroken and threatening to approach his commanding officer. "Hewitt was aghast," Wharfe confirmed. "To say the Household Cavalry would have frowned on any officer cuckolding the future king is a massive understatement."

​It wasn't her last extramarital relationship

Wharfe's predecessor, Sergeant Barry Mannakee, was let go for reportedly getting too close to the woman he was supposed to be protecting, though Diana insisted that there was nothing going on with them. Regardless, the Royals sent him packing, and a year later he was dead — killed when a car crashed into a motorcycle he was on the back of. James Hewitt, perhaps worried about his own well being, claimed that Mannakee was murdered, though he never had any evidence to back it up. One thing that could be backed up was Diana's affair with art dealer Oliver Hoare, an old friend of Charles's that offered a shoulder to cry on, and then a lot more than just a shoulder.

In his memoir, Wharfe recalled a night back in 1992 when the Kensington Palace smoke alarms went off at 3:30 in the morning. "I hared towards the Princess's apartment but before I reached the door I discovered the source of the false alarm. Cowering behind a huge plant in the hallway, clutching a cigar, was Oliver Hoare. Diana, who hated the smell of smoke, must have sent him out of the bedroom. It was not without a twinge of amusement at his expense that I advised him to put it out and go back to bed. He looked almost pathetic as he gathered himself together and left."

​The King of Spain apparently tried it on with her, too

The most famous man to attempt to strike up a relationship with the Princess of Wales was King of Spain Juan Carlos I — at least according to Diana herself. It was during her visit to the then-reigning monarch's state that she began to notice the charming King acting overly friendly, though Prince Charles would not believe it. "It's awful!" Diana said of the situation when discussing it with Wharfe. "Juan Carlos is frightfully charming but, you know … a little too attentive. He is very tactile. I told my husband and he said I am just being silly. I know it's absurd, but I'm sure the King fancies me."

As her personal protector, it was outside of Wharfe's job remit to get involved in Diana's love life, especially when that involved giving a ruling monarch a dressing down in his own back yard. "That threw me, though I made a weak attempt to hide it," he admitted. "Was Diana really suggesting that I should have a quiet word with the King about being over-friendly? I am still not sure whether she was joking, because her sense of humour could be wicked."

​She developed bulimia

Relationship pressure was something that Diana was all too familiar with, having suffered from its side effects long before she even walked down the aisle with the Prince of Wales. Diana developed an eating disorder early on in her relationship with Charles, whose flippant comments about her weight started a chain of events that would affect his wife and marriage for years to come.

"Bulimia started the week after we got engaged," Diana said during the recording of the so-called secret tapes (via BBC). "Charles said 'You're getting a bit chubby', and that triggered something off. The first time I made myself sick I was so thrilled. It relieved me of tension." She went on to reveal that she was making herself throw up her food four times a day even when she was pregnant, but it all came to a head when she fainted during an event in Canada. "They [the Royal Family] all blamed the failure of the marriage on the bulimia and it's taken some time to get them to the think about that differently," she said.

Her wedding was no fairytale

The press referred to it as "the wedding of the century" after thousands upon thousands packed the streets of London to celebrate the new Princess, but the one person who didn't get swept up in the fairytale day was Diana herself. After getting cold feet, but being told by her sisters that she couldn't chicken out because her face was on all the commemorative tea towels, Diana reluctantly made her way to the world famous St. Paul's Cathedral where 750 million people (the highest viewing figures in history at the time) watched her walk down the aisle. But, while she looked a vision of royal beauty, inside the Princess-to-be felt like a lamb to the slaughter. "I knew it, but I could not do anything about it. I thought the whole thing was hysterical, getting married, in the sense that it was so grown-up and here was Diana, a kindergarten teacher. The whole thing was ridiculous… I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world and he was going to look after me. Was I wrong on that assumption."

​She made repeated suicide attempts

As the 90s reached its midway point, it started becoming clear that there was trouble in paradise, though the extent of which wasn't fully known until Diana's secret tapes were released. Not only was the Princess severely depressed about the state of her failing marriage, at times her relationship with Charles left her suicidal. "I was trying to cut my wrists with razor blades… we were trying to hide that from everybody… I was just so desperate."

The Queen even witnessed one of Diana's desperate attempts first hand, leaving Her Majesty visibly shaken. "Charles said I was crying wolf and I said I felt so desperate and I was crying my eyes out. He said: 'I'm not going to listen. You are always doing this to me. I'm going riding now.' So I threw myself down the stairs. Bearing in mind, I was carrying a child. Queen comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking she's so frightened. I knew I was not going to lose the baby, [I was] quite bruised round the stomach and Charles went out riding. When he came back it was just dismissal, total dismissal."

​She liked to speed

According to unnamed sources who spoke with the Daily Mail, the revelations inside Ken Wharfe's memoirs have made him a sworn enemy to the Royal Family, with the establishment seeking to strip him of his royal honors in the wake of his explosive book. One of the most shocking chapters (considering how she met her eventual fate) told of how Diana would encourage her protector to exceed to speed limit while driving her home from the Hewitt family cottage, which almost landed them in a huge PR disaster. "After these clandestine meetings, Diana would be exhilarated. She often insisted on driving much too fast, which is how we came to be stopped by a patrol car when we'd been doing around 100mph. 'Ken, you'll have to sort this out,' said the Princess as we pulled over, but I told her firmly that it wasn't my job to cover up offences—particularly as I had warned her repeatedly about her speed."

Diana took it upon herself to resolve the situation, using her status and good looks to influence the policeman. "The traffic officer got the shock of his life when he realized who he'd stopped," Wharfe confirmed. "Diana, with her eyes at their most doe-like and her head tilted to one side, was let off with a polite reprimand."

​Having Harry killed her marriage to Charles

It was during a royal vacation to Majorca that the Princess first started to confide in Wharfe, who was still relatively new to his role as her protector at the time, and felt a little uncomfortable with Diana's informality. Wharfe discussed his first on-the-job holiday in great details in his memoirs, recalling how the bikini-clad princess began to open up about the past attempts at her life as the pair sat by the pool of Palma's royal palace.

"It was a cry for help, but nobody ever listened," Diana told Wharfe in confidence before going on to discuss the reasons behind her and Charles drifting apart in the way that they did. "After Harry was born, my marriage to Charles just died," she said with a genuine sadness. "I tried, I honestly tried, but he just did not want me. We haven't slept in the same bed for two years."

Questions over Harry's parentage drove her crazy

That wasn't the first time Harry had caused his mother heartache, through no fault of his own, as Wharfe found out first hand. Diana's biggest regret about her affair with Hewitt was that it brought the legitimacy of her second son into question, with many assuming that the child was not Charles's doing when he popped out with a fiery head of red hair, remarkably similar in color to Hewitt's.

Despite being generally thick-skinned when it came to the media, the rumors about Harry drove her to tears on many occasions, meaning Wharfe avoided the topic like the plague where possible. The one time he did discuss the stories with the Princess she told him that it was nothing but a malicious lie. "I don't know how my husband and I did have Harry," she said, "because by then he had gone back to his lady, but one thing that is certain is that we did." While Wharfe is no longer on the Windsor Christmas card list, he has always backed the Princess up on this one, claiming that it is "mathematically wrong" for Hewitt to be the father as he didn't meet Diana until 1986, two years after Harry was born.

​She took a sex toy on royal visits

Let's hope that Queen Elizabeth never plans to read Wharfe's memoirs from cover to cover, because this little snippet about her former daughter-in-law's "mascot" would probably give her a heart attack. According to her former bodyguard, the Princess was a big fan of practical jokes, and Wharfe conspired with Diana's sister and acting lady-in-waiting Sarah McCorquodale to play one on her. During an alcohol fueled staff night out in Paris, McCorquodale decided to purchase a vibrator and, encouraged by Wharfe, slipped the sex toy into her sister's handbag the following morning.

"The Princess discovered it while going through her bag, between meetings with the French president Jacques Chirac and Paul McCartney," Wharfe revealed. "Far from being offended, she thought it very funny, and from that moment Le Gaget became her secret mascot on all royal visits abroad. She attached almost superstitious importance to it and, when we arrived in Nepal the following March, she turned to me and said: 'I hope we've got Le Gaget, Ken. You know everything will go wrong without it.'"

​She predicted her own death

After her divorce from Charles was finalized in 1996, Diana became convinced that there was a plot afoot to have her killed. During the inquest into her death, her lawyer Lord Mischon testified that the Princess had heard from "reliable sources" that she would be murdered in a staged accident, though it later transpired that those sources were a series of mediums, psychics and astrologists. Rita Rogers was just one of the numerous spiritualists who had regular sessions with Diana during the height of her obsession with the otherworldly, and in these meetings she reportedly told the Princess about a premonition she had in which she saw the brakes of a black Mercedes being tampered with and added that she "felt a connection with France."

The paranoid Princess went as far as writing a letter to her friend Simone Simmons (a holistic healer by trade) that read: "Dear Simone, as you know, the brakes of my car have been tampered with. If something does happen to me it will be MI5 or MI6 who will have done it." The note was written in response to a minor fender bender she had on the streets of London that a mechanic later confirmed was simply down to normal wear and tear, though Sally Morgan (Diana's most trusted psychic) still maintains there was something fishy about her death. "The truth will come out," she told Now in 2013. "Diana would definitely want the facts to be revealed. She'd be torn between it all being dragged up again and upsetting her boys, but William and Harry are men now, so they can handle it. I think they want the truth, too. But I think it'll be 200 years before it comes out. It'll be Prince George's grandchildren who'll allow the truth to be printed."