Shocking things we learned about Princess Diana after her death

When Britain woke up on Aug. 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 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 the city's dark Pont de l'Alma tunnel in pursuit of a picture, with Elizabeth Taylor going so far as to call them murderers. What we learned in the following months, however, was that the press may have actually had little to do with Diana's death. The divorced People's Princess and her billionaire boyfriend, 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 in an attempt to lead the waiting photographers on a wild goose chase. When a few failed to take the bait, Paul decided to loose them in the tunnel. However, he was reportedly driving at a high speed while under the influence of alcohol, per the Daily Mail.

The first of many shocking revelations about Diana to surface after her death, it turned out to be the tip of the iceberg.

Princess Diana 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 docuseries was comprised of footage taken at Princess Diana's Kensington Palace home between 1992 and 1993 by her friend Peter Settelen, whom the princess had decided to confide in.

She spoke of many things in their recorded interview sessions, but the beloved royal began by telling her former voice coach that she suffered a great deal in childhood. "It was a very unhappy childhood," Princess Diana admitted (via BBC News). "[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 its hands on the tapes and reoprtedly planned to release its own documentary on the princess at the time, but bosses at the broadcasting company decided to axe it over fears it would upset her ex-husband, Prince Charles, per Express.

Princess Diana reportedly had an affair with an Army officer

Princess Diana's former royal protection officer, Ken Wharfe, became one of her closest confidants during his time by her side — though after he left the role (just weeks before her tragic death in Paris), he decided to go ahead with his own personal memoirs in 2002. 

Diana: Closely Guarded Secret blew the lid on a number of stories that had previously been dismissed as nothing but rumors, the most sensational of all being Princess Diana's alleged affair with British Army officer James Hewitt. Wharfe would reportedly accompany the princess to her secret meetings with Hewitt, who she took as her lover after she discovered that her then-husband, Prince Charles, was seeing his then-mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, again. "Shattered by her husband's betrayal, the Princess was ready for an affair," Wharfe wrote in his book (via the Daily Mail). "Hewitt, a natural womaniser, gave her the attention and affection she relished, and then the passion she yearned for."

James Hewitt couldn't handle the pressure of the alleged affair

In his memoir, Diana: Closely Guarded Secret, Ken Wharfe made it perfectly clear what he thought of ladies man James Hewitt, recalling the first time he took Princess Diana to meet him at his mother's isolated cottage in the Devon countryside, which he referred to as the couple's love nest (via the Daily Mail). Hewitt reportedly 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.

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," Hewitt reportedly begged. "The Princess can be so demanding." His chance for a break came when he was promoted to Major and took a two-year posting in Germany, reportedly 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 supposedly wasn't Princess Diana's last extramarital relationship

Ken Wharfe's predecessor, Sergeant Barry Mannakee, was let go for reportedly getting too close to the woman he was supposed to be protecting, though Princess Diana insisted that there was nothing going on between them, according to Diana: Closely Guarded Secret (via the Daily Mail). Regardless, the royals sent him packing, and a year later he was dead — killed when a car crashed into a motorcycle he was riding. 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 apparently be backed up was Diana's affair with art dealer Oliver Hoare, an old friend of Prince Charles' who 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," Wharfe wrote. "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 Princess 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 reportedly said of the situation when discussing it with Ken Wharfe, he wrote in Diana: Closely Guarded Secret (via the Daily Mail). "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," Wharfe 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 [humor] could be wicked."

Princess Diana developed bulimia

Relationship pressure was something that Princess 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 reported 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," Princess Diana said during the recording of the so-called secret tapes (via BBC News). "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 multiple times a day, 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 to Prince Charles was no fairy tale

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 fairy tale royal wedding day was Princess Diana herself. After getting cold feet, she revealed in those secret tapes that she'd confided in her sisters: "I said, 'I can't marry him. I can't do this. This is absolutely unbelievable.' And they were wonderful and said, 'Well, bad luck, Duch. Your face is on the tea towel, so you're too late to chicken out'" (via Today). It was later revealed that Prince Charles reportedly shared similar doubts about their compatibility, per the Daily Mail.

However, the royal couple made their way to the world famous St. Paul's Cathedral, where 750 million people (the highest viewing figures in history at the time) watched Diana walk down the aisle. While the bride looked a vision of royal beauty, inside the princess-to-be felt like a "lamb to the slaughter," according to The Telegraph. "My wedding day," Diana said (via CNN), "I think that was the worst day of my life."

Princess Diana made repeated suicide attempts

As the '90s reached its midway point, it started becoming clear that this royal marriage had faced major trouble in paradise, the extent of which wasn't fully known until Princess Diana's secret tapes were released. Not only was the princess admittedly severely depressed about the state of her failing marriage, at times her relationship with Prince Charles left her feeling suicidal. 

"I hated myself so much, I didn't think I was good enough for Charles. My husband made me feel so inadequate in every possible way," Diana revealed (via BBC News). She added, "I was trying to cut my wrists with razor blades ... I was just so desperate." Queen Elizabeth II even witnessed one of Diana's attempts first hand during her pregnancy with Prince William following an argument with Charles (per the Daily Mail): "I was crying my eyes out. He said I was crying wolf. 'I'm not going to listen,' he said. 'You're always doing this to me. I'm going riding now.' So I threw myself down the stairs. The Queen comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking — she was so frightened ... When he came back, you know, it was just dismissal, total dismissal. He just carried on out of the door."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Princess Diana reportedly 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. Perhaps one of the most shocking chapters (considering how Princess Diana met her eventual fate) claimed that the princess 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," Wharfe wrote. "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 100 mph. '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 reportedly 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 continued. "Diana, with her eyes at their most doe-like and her head tilted to one side, was let off with a polite reprimand."

​Having Prince Harry killed her marriage to Prince Charles

It was during a royal vacation to Majorca that Princess Diana first started to confide in Ken Wharfe, who was still relatively new to his role as her protector at the time, and felt a little uncomfortable with her 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 on her life as the pair sat by the pool of Palma's royal palace, per the Daily Mail.

"It was a cry for help, but nobody ever listened," Diana reportedly told Wharfe in confidence, before going on to discuss the reasons behind her and Prince Charles drifting apart in the way that they did. "After Harry was born, my marriage to Charles just died," she reportedly continued, "I tried, I honestly tried, but he just did not want me. We haven't slept in the same bed for two years." Biographer Andrew Morton's book, Diana: Her True Story, echoed these claims, noting how Charles was reportedly "so disappointed" following the birth of his second son, Prince Harry, because he desperately wanted a daughter (via The Sun). "Oh God, it's a boy," Charles allegedly said after the ginger prince was born. However, it's worth noting that he would later claim he was joking.

Questions over Prince Harry's parentage drove her crazy

Through no fault of his own, this wasn't the first time reports surrounding Prince Harry caused his mother heartache, as Ken Wharfe found out first hand. Princess Diana's biggest regret about her affair with James Hewitt was that it brought the legitimacy of her second son into question, with many assuming that the child was not Prince Charles' 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 reportedly drove Princess Diana 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 supposedly told him that it was nothing but a malicious lie. "I don't know how my husband and I did have Harry," she said (via the Daily Mail), "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.

Princess Diana reportedly took a sex toy on royal visits

Let's hope that Queen Elizabeth never plans to read Ken 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, Princess Diana 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 reportedly 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 (via the Daily Mail). "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.'"

Did Princess Diana predict her own death?

After her divorce from Prince Charles was finalized in 1996, Princess Diana reportedly 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, according to the Mirror. It later transpired that those sources were a series of mediums, psychics, and astrologists — one of whom reportedly told Diana about a premonition she had in which she saw the brakes of a black Mercedes being tampered with, adding that she "felt a connection with France."

The paranoid princess reportedly went as far as writing a letter to friend Simone Simmons (a holistic healer by trade), claiming "the brakes of my car have been tampered with" following a minor fender bender she had in London. A mechanic later confirmed it 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," Morgan told CelebsNow 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."

The name Princess Diana reportedly muttered moments before her death

A number of conspiracy theories sprang up following Princess Diana's death, and even now, more than two decades after her fatal Paris car crash, many still suspect foul play. Trevor Rees-Jones, bodyguard to Dodi Al-Fayed and the sole survivor of the crash, has often been at the center of the speculation. Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul were declared dead at the scene, and Diana would later succumb to her injuries in the hospital. Rees-Jones suffered extensive facial injuries, but he lived. The trouble was, he couldn't remember what happened.

Psychiatrists confirmed that Rees-Jones suffered from amnesia. He was unable to recall anything after getting into the limo that night, which didn't go down well with Dodi's billionaire father, Mohamed Al-Fayed. The Egyptian businessman called Rees-Jones' memoir a "tissue of lies" and claimed that the bodyguard "knew exactly what happened" to Diana and Dodi (via Sky News). Rees-Jones criticized the conspiracy theories for many years, but then, out of the blue, he came forward with some new info.

"I remember having heard somebody moaning and the name Dodi was uttered, but I don't know who said it," Rees-Jones said in 2008 (via Express). "If there was no one else there apart from us, I conclude that it was Princess Diana as it was a female voice." Rees-Jones reiterated that his memories aren't entirely reliable, but he wanted to mention this particular memory because it was "repeatedly" coming back to him.

Princess Diana had a royal feud with Princess Michael of Kent

Princess Diana is said to have clashed with Princess Michael of Kent (the wife of Queen Elizabeth II's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent) on numerous occasions. The people that knew her best claim Diana often took issue with Princess Michael's rigid approach to royal life. According to Diana's former bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, the free-spirited princess had a less than flattering nickname for her stuffy elder. "Diana used to refer to her as the U-Boat Commander," Wharfe revealed in the 2019 documentary, The Royal Family at War (via Express). "It was really common knowledge."

The two princesses were once neighbors at Kensington Palace. They would act friendly toward one another whenever they crossed paths, but "it was all a bit of a facade," according to Wharfe, who wasn't the only royal insider to come forward about this unspoken feud. Diana's former personal trainer claimed she used to enjoy embarrassing Princess Michael by greeting her while wearing skimpy gym outfits. "Diana had a huge sense of humor," Carolan Brown told the Daily Mail. "She hated any kind of stuffiness and she thought Princess Michael liked to be very regal."

In 2005, Princess Michael's true feelings on Diana came out in a scandalous fashion. The unwitting princess told notorious undercover journalist Mazher "Fake Sheikh" Mahmood that Diana was "nasty and bitter" in a recorded sting, claiming that the People's Princess was just a "womb" for Charles, according to Express.

Princess Diana loved to play pranks on people

According to the people who knew her personally, Princess Diana was quite the prankster. 22 years after her shocking and untimely death, the Daily Mail published a series of stories shared by some of Diana's contemporaries and closest confidants. It was always said that the princess had a wicked sense of humor, and these first-hand accounts prove that this was most definitely the case.

"She was always playing practical jokes," personal trainer Jenni Rivett said in 2019, something to which Diana's old friend, Dr. James Colthurst, could also attest. Colthurst told the Daily Mail that he once attached a string of tin cans to Diana's car as a joke, and the princess got him back big time. "That evening she rang up and I said, 'How's your car?' and she said, 'My car's fine, how's yours?'" Colthurst recalled. "I moved to the window and saw my car under the streetlight covered in flour with eggs on top ... That was fairly much Diana's line of fun."

When Princess Diana wasn't planning a prank of some kind, she would still be cracking jokes. "She used to tell quite a few dirty ones," royal photographer Jayne Fincher said. Diana's former personal trainer Carolan Brown backed this up, telling the Daily Mail, "There was no edge or snobbery about her and she really loved a dirty joke and to play pranks on people." It seems Diana loved making people laugh, and people loved her for it.