These Were Princess Diana's Closest Friends

The following article mentions eating disorders.

It should come as little surprise that the People's Princess had a wide circle of friends. With her progressive outlook and approachable nature, celebs and ordinary folks alike wanted to be in Princess Diana's squad. From the moment it was announced that she was to be King Charles III's wife, the erstwhile Ms Spencer was propelled into the spotlight as both a fashionable it girl and target of the media's ire. But Di opted to do good with her privileged status.

Considering that royal protocol dictates an air of mystery and stoicism when engaging with the public, Diana was a breath of fresh air, mingling with everyone and anyone regardless of their social or economic standing. Famously, she helped dispel AIDS myths, frequently befriending and hugging patients at a time when sections of the tabloid press propagated homophobic fallacies about the virus. And when she tragically died in a car crash in 1997, the public mourned her as if they had lost a dear friend. "People felt so emotional about Diana because she had an extraordinary connection with everybody," Anji Hunter, a former advisor to Tony Blair, told CNN. "People felt a kinship with her; it was like your own beloved friend, mother, sister had died."

Due to her varied interests — from humanitarian causes to being a keen connoisseur of pop culture — Diana acquired a diverse group of besties. Let's see who Princess Di had on her speed dial as we take a look at her closest friends.

Carolyn Bartholomew, Virginia Pitman, and Anne Bolton were among Diana's confidants

Before she entered the house of Windsor, a teenage Princess Diana shared her London apartment with Carolyn Bartholomew, Virginia Pitman, and Anne Bolton. The trio were among Diana's closest pals and she once said that living with them was the happiest time of her life.

Notably, she excitedly confided in them when King Charles III popped the question. "I came back [to the flat] and sat on my bed. 'Girls, guess what?'" she recounted in "Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words." "They said: 'He asked you. What did you say?' 'Yes please.' They screamed and howled and we went for a drive around London with our secret." In a 1981 interview following Charles and Diana's engagement, the girls enthused about their roomie's upcoming nuptials.

On a number of occasions, Diana sent Bartholomew personal letters in which she discussed her eating disorder, per The Economic Times. Testament to the pair's close bond, the princess disclosed that she was desperate to be slimmer, expressing unhappiness with her weight and appearance. Meanwhile, Pitman attended the unveiling of a blue plaque in Diana's honor at the apartment they used to share. "I think it's pretty well known that D was pretty happy when she lived here so it's great to be here to cherish this place in her name," she told The Telegraph.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Paul Burrell was reportedly Diana's BFF

He may have been a member of her staff, but infamous butler Paul Burrell has long claimed that he was Princess Diana's bestie and the only person she spilled all her secrets to. And Burrell also confided in Diana. Prior to him publicly coming out as gay and demonstrative of the duo's intimate bond, Diana was the only person he entrusted with his secret. "He did share it with Diana while he worked with her because they were so close," an insider told The Sun. "But at the time she was the only woman he felt he could tell."

Following Diana's death, Burrell made headlines when he wrote two books about his late friend, 2003's "A Royal Duty" and "The Way We Were" three years later. In both books, he dished on his BFF's most intimate private affairs, including a detailed look at her love life and relationship with Dodi Fayed, who perished in Paris alongside the princess.

Then, in 2007, his public image was further tarnished when he appeared at the princess' inquest and gave credence to conspiracy theories that Diana was murdered. The court was shown a letter, supposedly written by Diana, in which she told Burrell that the royals were planning on having her killed so King Charles III could be with his lover, nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke. But some questioned whether Burrell himself had forged the letter to gain notoriety. Later in the inquest, the ex-butler was exposed for fabricating stories about Di, per Reuters.

Elton John still loves the princess to this day

Immortalized in Elton John's heartbreaking rendition of "Candle in the Wind," Princess Diana counted the erstwhile Reggie Dwight among her closest friends. The singer first met Diana at Prince Andrew's 21st birthday party in 1981. "She said, 'would you like to dance?'" John recalled to Larry King. "And we danced the Charleston... And we had a great time and great fun, and she wrote me a beautiful letter afterwards saying how nice it was, and to meet me." The two hit it off immediately and quickly became friends.

The pair were able to bond over their shared trauma, with John telling King that they both suffered from eating disorders and would exchange letters detailing their struggles. But their relationship was also fraught at times. Despite their closeness, they had a falling out after photos of Diana and other royals were used in the relatively edgy charity book "Rock and Royalty," penned by mutual friend Gianni Versace in honor of John's AIDS foundation. Although a lifelong champion of the gay community, Diana declined to support the book as she feared a backlash from Queen Elizabeth II. However, the friends reconciled in the aftermath of Versace's death.

To this day, Diana holds a special place in John's heart. "She made you completely feel at ease, or anybody else in the room," he told King. "There wasn't a stiffness or an awkwardness, which there can be sometimes with other members of the royal family."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Diana and Gianni Versace were tight until the end

Seeing as Princess Diana remains a fashion icon decades after her death, it comes as little surprise that she mingled with those from the highest echelons of the fashion world. One of Diana's closest friends was Gianni Versace, whose beaded blue gown she famously wore on the cover of Harper's Bazaar

In a 1997 Vanity Fair profile, published mere months before Versace and Diana's respective untimely deaths, the designer gushed about his dear friend. "There is a kind of serenity," Versace poignantly reflected. "I had a fitting with her last week for new suits... and she is so serene. It is a moment in her life, I think, when she's found herself—the way she wants to live."

In July 1997, Versace was murdered by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. The iconic designer died just one month before Diana was killed in a car crash. In his book "The Bodyguard," Lee Sansum, a bodyguard to Mohamed Al-Fayed, revealed that Diana was deeply distraught after learning of her friend's murder. "Diana was in tears and looked very distressed," he recalled. The tragedy led to the princess reportedly pondering whether she, too, would meet a similar fate. "She was shaking and it was clear from her tone that she really thought that they might [kill her], whoever they might be," he added. Diana attended Versace's funeral, lamenting, "I am devastated by the loss of a great and talented man," per Hello!

Diana's pal Mary Greenwell helped her create her iconic look

In addition to her impeccable wardrobe, Princess Diana was famed for her charming English rose beauty. As with most celebs in the pre-Insta filters age, Di opted for subtlety when it came to makeup and her close friend Mary Greenwell was at hand to create her iconic look. The pals first crossed paths in 1991 and Greenwell would go on to work as the princess' makeup artist for seven years. "She had this incredible power, beauty and magnetism," she told Stack World.

In an interview with Vogue, Greenwell said that she loved enhancing Di's natural beauty, while also experimenting with bold aesthetics. The makeup artist was responsible for helping to create Di's iconic "revenge" look — dubbed so following revelations of King Charles III's infidelity — for her 1994 appearance at the Serpentine Gallery. "But it wasn't a big deal," she said, "it was like being with a good friend and making her look great before she went out."

To this day, Greenwell has fond memories of working with, and befriending, one of the most iconic women in history. Accordingly, she told Vogue that it's Diana's kindness and gentle spirit that she will remember the most. "I will never forget the experience of being with her. I feel so honored," she mused. "This was a woman who had her own personality and her own vision of how she wanted to look, so she could put her best foot forward when she went out."

George Michael and Diana hit it off from the start

Considering that Princess Diana was an avid pop music enthusiast, it stands to reason that she would count some of the genre's biggest names among her close pals. In addition to being best buds with Sir Elton, Di was friends with George Michael for over a decade. According to James Gavin's book "George Michael: A Life," the friendship began with a crush. The year was 1985 and the first Live Aid concert was being held in London. The hotly anticipated event was attended by the then Prince and Princess of Wales. King Charles III may have been famed for his wandering eye, but two can play at that game. Di was positively smitten with the "Wham!" star, admitting that she found him "gorgeous." "Thank you, ma'am—you're pretty smashing yourself," replied George.

As music columnist Gill Pringle explained in the book, the duo found solace in their shared discomfort in the public eye, both feeling trapped by the ubiquitous press intrusion into their lives. Therefore, considering Di's regal status at the time, theirs was an unusually intimate friendship. "The fact that she had his home number and was calling and chatting with him — that's not a relationship you normally see with the royal family," Pringle said.

When Diana died, Michael was inconsolable. "Diana was the only person that I knew who made me feel like an ordinary person. That's what I thought was so amazing about her," he told The Mirror.

Sarah Ferguson and Diana's close but complicated bond

Having met when they were 14 and 15 respectively, Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson were dear friends for years. In fact, Di was something of a matchmaker, having introduced her flame-haired bestie to Prince Andrew, as Ferguson revealed to People. But the pair's bond was as close as it was complicated.

Constantly being compared to the princess by the media, Ferguson began to feel insecure in the presence of her pal. By her own admission, she struggled not to let the incessant scrutiny get in the way of their friendship. "In the '80s, it was Diana looking beautiful, and there was fat, frumpy Fergie," she bitterly reflected. "We were just there for people to make a lot of money. At the time we both didn't realize that." The pair reportedly fell out after Ferguson included unflattering stories about Di in her first memoir, despite the princess explicitly asking her not to.

Unfortunately, the two were unable to mend the rift prior to Diana's death. "It is true that our friendship was periodically strained," Ferguson wrote in her 2011 memoir, "Finding Sarah." "Sadly, at the end we hadn't spoken for a year, though I never knew the reason, except that once Diana got something in her head, it stuck there for a while." The day before the princess died, she was apparently looking to reconcile their estranged friendship. "I really miss Diana. I loved her so much," the duchess told Harper's Bazaar.

Julia Samuel was devastated by the loss of her friend

In 1987, Princess Diana met a grief therapist named Julia Samuel, and thus began a lifelong friendship. "We started laughing together," Samuel told the Daily Mail. "There was something about her and something about me that just worked. It was a lovely thing."

Despite her privileged background and ascent into the royal family, it was Diana's down-to-earth nature that endeared Samuel towards her. She recalled how the pair would at once have fun doing ordinary household tasks, before setting off to hang out with A-listers and attend glamorous events. 

In an interview with The Guardian, Samuel said that she cherished her friendship with Di and was honored to be the godmother of the grandson the princess never met, Prince George. For all her stoic musings on grief, however, Samuel became palpably overwhelmed when asked about the aftermath of Diana's death. Famously, members of the British public and beyond flocked to Kensington Palace Gardens to lay wreaths and cards in memory of the late princess. But the whole spectacle made Samuel deeply uncomfortable. "I felt angry," she reflected. "I was angry that she died, and shocked and I couldn't really understand it all. I mean, I understand it better now. I understand that people felt they really knew and loved her. But I still feel sad today."

Jemima Khan rejected The Crown out of respect for her late friend

Princess Diana and her friend Jemima Khan bonded over their shared passion for philanthropic endeavors. They grew close in 1996 after visiting a cancer hospital in Pakistan, which was founded by Khan's then husband, Imran. "Of course, the whole country fell in love with her, but that's where I sort of really fell in love with her as well because she was such a special person," Khan said during a red carpet interview.

Since Diana's death, Khan has never shied away from divulging her often contentious views regarding the way the late princess was treated. During an appearance on British talk show "Lorraine" (via Newsweek) in 2023, she claimed that Diana's marriage to King Charles III was essentially an arranged marriage. "Pretty much... in that it was an appropriate match chosen by the parents and a sort of committee of family members," she declared.

Two years earlier, Khan announced that she no longer wanted to be associated with Netflix's "The Crown," on which she had worked as an advisor to showrunner Peter Morgan, as she felt the depiction of her late friend was disrespectful. "It was really important to me that the final years of my friend's life be portrayed accurately and with compassion, as has not always happened in the past," she told The Times. However, when she felt that Morgan did not honor her wishes, she requested that her name be removed from the writing credits.

Liza Minnelli and Diana were close pals

When it comes to iconic divas, Princess Diana and Liza Minnelli undoubtedly sound like a force to reckon with. After meeting at a concert in London, the two women hit it off and became fast friends, realizing that they, surprisingly, had a lot in common. For instance, Diana was just 19 when she became engaged to King Charles III; Minnelli, meanwhile, began performing with her mom as a child and famously played the London Palladium when she was a mere 18 years old. 

Consequently, the pair bonded over both being thrust into the limelight at such young ages. Accordingly, despite their disparate backgrounds, the "Cabaret" star said that she identified with Diana on a profound level. "All my life, I've had bowing and scraping. I haven't encouraged it. That's just how it's been," she said, per The Telegraph. "Well, Princess Di got pretty used to people bowing and scraping. So it was a relief to both of us that we could just be ourselves around each other."

As such, Minnelli felt a great deal for Diana, whom she noted was particularly vulnerable to the cruelty of the public gaze. "We'd fall into conversation then we'd meet for tea," she recalled. "Later on, she'd come to my hotel and we'd have lunch, just the two of us. I think she liked that. I certainly did. My instinct was to protect her. We talked about everything under the sun."

Princess Diana helped Rosa Monckton during the most difficult moment of her life

Rosa Monckton was drawn to Princess Diana's compassionate and humanitarian nature. As Monckton is the mother of a disabled child, these qualities were invaluable to her. "She'd much rather go to the heart of what she wants to do rather than be dressed up at a film premiere," Monckton told Vanity Fair in the aforementioned 1997 profile. "She's godmother to my little daughter, who has Down's syndrome, and she's very active on Domenica's behalf... She spent the whole morning at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, where we take Domenica."

It was Diana's altruistic inclination that led to her helping her friend out during the darkest period of her life. As Monckton recounted to Sunday Night (via The Irish Mirror), she suffered a stillbirth in 1993. With Diana's help, she was able to bury the baby's body at Kensington Palace. "It was an extraordinary thing to do," Monckton conceded. The pair kept their plans a secret, with Diana telling palace security that they were burying a deceased pet.

Considering how kind Di reportedly was to her friends, it's understandable that Monckton remains extremely protective of the late princess. Writing for the Daily Mail, she revealed that she blamed the infamous Martin Bashir interview for her friend's downward spiral. "The deceit, the manipulation, the cold-eyed reeling-in of someone so emotionally fragile shocked me profoundly, while at the same time explaining to me the switch in Diana's behavior," she argued.

James Colthurst was Diana's confidant to the end

Dr. James Colthurst was one of Princess Diana's nearest and dearest friends. In an essay for The Telegraph, he recalled how a chance medical emergency led to him bonding with a then 17-year-old Di. Having met through mutuals, their respective friend groups went on a skiing trip during which Diana twisted her ankle. "They brought her back to our apartment... telling her I would look at it as I was a medical student at the time," he wrote. "Good fun, bright and mischievous, it was hard not to hit it off with Diana straight away, and so began the friendship she and I maintained for the rest of her short, eventful life."

The princess frequently confided in Colthurst about her unhappy marriage, calling him up to ten times a day. In 1992, Colthurst helped Andrew Morton pen his book "Diana: Her True Story," which included numerous bombshell revelations about her relationship with King Charles III, as well as the eating disorder that he allegedly catalyzed. The doctor's involvement in the book apparently led to Diana fearing for his personal safety.

Discussing the loss of his friend in an interview with NBC News, Colthurst sought solace from the enduring positive impact Diana had on the world. "There was a kind of aura around her... She just entertained and warmed people up," he said. "And I don't think that was directly imposed by the role she was in. I think that's the extraordinary lady she was."

Simone Simmons offered Diana spiritual support

Exemplifying Princess Diana's diverse circle of friends, Simone Simmons is unlike any of the other pals in this rundown. A psychic and energy "healer," she met Di in 1993 and offered the princess spiritual support for four years until shortly before her death. Chatting to the Evening Standard, Simmons revealed that she and Diana would speak for hours on the phone on a regular basis, with Diana discussing her most intimate fears to her pal. 

In particular, Diana allegedly demonstrated increasing agitation, believing that someone was out to kill her (as previously noted, many friends offered similar anecdotes about the princess). However, Simmons has emphasized that she does not believe in conspiracies that King Charles III was plotting to kill his ex, claiming that he and Diana had reconciled in the lead up to her death. "In 1994 she was convinced... that the Saudi royal family wanted to kill her," she claimed. "It was just a feeling she had. Another time she thought the CIA wanted to bump her off."

Simmons blames this paranoia on Martin Bashir. Like the aforementioned Rosa Monckton, she believes that her friend would still be here today were it not for Bashir's contentious interview. "He destroyed her psychologically and made her paranoid — saying the royals wanted to bump her off and distrust her loyal staff and friends... There is no doubt in my mind that Diana would still be alive today if she hadn't spoken to Bashir," she told The Sun.

The princess confided in Susie and Tarek Kassem during her darkest moments

Struggling with personal turmoil, Princess Diana befriended couple Susie and Tarek Kassem, who swiftly became her close confidants. The paps snapped Diana and Susie on chic outings in London towards the end of the former's all too brief life.

Diana frequently wrote detailed letters to the couple, seemingly finding solace in divulging her deepest anxieties. In one correspondence, she discussed the bitter aftermath of her divorce, and expressed her fear that the royals were bugging her phone, per The Telegraph. Ostracized from the Windsors, she referred to the Kassems as her second family, and spent Christmas 1995 with them. "I may have been described as a butterfly but I don't want to fly away from this loving family," she told the couple, continuing, "I'm immensely touched by how protective you both are of me... I'm not used to that!"

In a statement on Lay's Auctioneers' website, the couple revealed that, while they held onto the deeply intimate letters for 25 years, they felt that they should be sold off to benefit charities dear to Diana's heart. "Susie and Tarek feel extremely privileged that they had the opportunity to get to know the Princess so closely," the statement read. "Throughout their friendship the Kassems were always amazed at the incredible effect Diana had on anyone who came into contact with her... Her electrifying presence transcends time." The letters were sold at auction in 2023, fetching a whopping $170,000.