Things We Learned About Princess Diana After Her Death

Princess Diana has long been an object of curiosity and infatuation around the world. Her fashion, friendships, foes and more have gripped our attention spans for more than a decade. Now, years after her death, this statement still holds true. Diana's vibrant personality and playful demeanor have rendered her both a starlet and relatable figure in the eyes of many.

Although every minute detail of Princess Diana's life seems to have been amplified in the press throughout the years — from her 'affairs' to her struggles with mental illness — more secretive information didn't surface until after her tragic death in August 1997. Articles, novels, documentaries, recordings and more have presented little-known facts regarding everything from her friendships to her most vulnerable moments. This information has given the public more of an inside look into the life she lived, making her all the more beloved as a royal icon.

She snuck into a gay bar dressed in drag with Freddie Mercury

In her book The Power of Positive Drinking, comedian Cleo Rocos describes an unusual bunch of friends: Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury, British comedian Kenny Everett and Cleo herself. The hangout that Rocos describes in her book was one filled with The Golden Girls, champagne and a plan to hit up a south-London gay bar.

"Freddie told her that we were going to the Vauxhall Tavern — a rather notorious gay bar in London. Diana said that she had never heard of it and she'd like to come too," details Rocos. In order to avoid potential tabloid drama, the group disguised Diana as a man, allowing her to effortlessly sneak into the bar and enjoy an undercover night out. And thanks to Mercury's overwhelming popularity at the time, she did.

"She just wanted the thrill of going in, undetected, to order one drink and would then leave right away, she promised," wrote Rocos. "By this point, she had tried on the outfit Kenny had intended to wear — a camouflage army jacket, hair tucked up into a leather cap and dark aviator sunglasses."

She secretly recorded her life story on videotape

Sitting in a London cafe one morning, long-time author and journalist Andrew Morton made a discovery that would change his life — and the world — forever. In his book, DIANA: Her True Story – In Her Own Words, Morton details the first time he heard Diana's "unmistakable voice" on an audio recording that had been placed in his possession.

"It was like being transported into a parallel universe, the Princess talking about her unhappiness, her sense of betrayal, her suicide attempts and two things I had never previously heard of: bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder, and a woman called Camilla," wrote Morton. Diana had recorded these tapes with voice coach Peter Settelen as a form of therapy. According to a 2017 Telegraph article, the vocal coach sold Diana's tapes to Britain's Channel 4 after her death — much to the dismay of Diana's family, who claimed ownership of the tapes.

Her tapes were first discovered in a police raid of Diana's former butler

The Telegraph article also details how Diana's personal tapes were first discovered. The former royal butler to Diana, Paul Burrell, was found to have hoarded the princess' personal tapes after a 2001 police raid of his home. Yet, the tapes were considered to have contained exceptionally delicate information and were not used in the prosecution's case against Burrell.

An ABC News article published that Diana's former butler was holding onto more than just her tapes — he also accumulated 300+ items of the late princess. Articles of clothing, photos and letters to family were also discovered in the raid. But in 2002, Burrell was found not guilty after the Queen herself stepped in, explaining that Burrell had previously asked permission to take some of Diana's personal items. The Sun reported that after the news of Diana's tapes was made public, Peter Settelen (the man who helped Diana record the videotapes) sued in order to reclaim the what he believed was rightfully his. Eventually, Diana's tapes were placed in Settelen's possession, only to be sold by him to NBC in 2004.

The surprising reason why her affair with former cavalry officer James Hewitt ended

Many know of Prince Charles' infidelities within his marriage to Diana, but before her death, not many knew of Diana's numerous affairs. Ken Wharfe, Princess Diana's chief bodyguard, wrote of Diana's affair with playboy James Hewitt in his memoir Diana: Closely Guarded Secret. The pair met at a party in 1986, and according to a transcript of Wharfe's memoir, "It was clear from the way she spoke that she adored the man, even after the affair had cooled."

But the affair didn't heat up until after Prince Harry's birth and after Diana became aware of her husband's affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana and Hewitt would sneak off to her mother's countryside home in Devon, and with Wharfe's main responsibility being the protection of Diana, he went along. Unfortunately, the romance ended with Hewitt's stationing in Germany — a decision that Wharfe says was made due to the "emotional pressures placed on him by Diana." In other words, the playboy had had enough of his once-in-a-lifetime affair.

She also had an affair with Barry Mannakee... who was allegedly killed because of it

Barry Mannakee was a bodyguard and alleged lover of Princess Diana. Curiously enough, in the spring of 1987, Mannakee was killed during a motorcycle accident after being thrown off the back on his colleague's bike. In tapes recorded by the Princess' voice coach Peter Settelen, and later partially transcribed and published by BBC, Diana spoke coyly of Mannakee. "I just, you know, wore my heart on my sleeve. I was only happy when he was around," she said.

Also via the tapes, Diana voiced her suspicions surrounding Mannakee's death, saying she believed he was purposely killed off so the royal family could save face regarding their inappropriate relationship. In fact, Nicola Chopp, the woman charged with the death of Manneakee, doesn't fully believe that she herself is guilty of the death. Chopp told the Daily Mail, "I believe, with conviction, I was not the cause of Barry Mannakee's death," adding, "accidents can be arranged and something suspicious happened that night. Words that sounded like police jargon were inserted into my police interview, such as 'offside', a term that I have never used."

Her tumultuous friendship with Elton John

You might know of Diana's friendship with legendary singer Elton John, but you might not know of the rough patches that dotted their relationship. In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Elton revealed, "I loved her because she did so much for AIDS and was a great friend to me. We had out falling-outs but reconciled at the end."

According to a 2007 Vanity Fair article, Elton and Diana's brawl began after the publishing of Rock and Royalty, a coffee table book by Gianni Versace. The campy publication, whose royalties donated to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, placed photos of the royal family around images of seemingly nude models — a creative liberty that surely would have angered members of the royal family, predominantly the Queen. Elton and Diana's friendship almost permanently ended in a tiff, had they not reunited over the death of their mutual friend, Gianni Versace, later that year. "...Gianni Versace was murdered then Diana rang me and we reconciled then, six weeks later, she's dead," Elton told The Sun.

We know her sister dated Prince Charles, but here's why it ended

You might've known that Diana wasn't the first in her family to date Prince Charles. In fact, her older sister Lady Sarah was, but it didn't get very far. According to a 2011 Mirror article written by the James Whitaker, the journalist who supposedly squandered the possibility of nuptials between Lady Sarah and Prince Charles, "Sarah was disarmingly frank about her boyfriend and declared she would not marry Charles 'if he were the dustman or the King of England.'"

As stated in the article, the journalist met the couple and a 16-year-old Diana in Klosters, a Swiss ski resort. He was then invited to a lunch in London where all of the juicy details of Sarah and Charles' short and sweet relationship would come to light — and subsequently be published. Allegedly, Prince Charles wildly upset once he saw the published article and swiftly berated Lady Sarah for her thoughtless rambling. 

She attempted suicide... more than once

In tapes released after her death, Diana starkly recounted her suicide attempts after having suffered from depression, bulimia and the effects of Prince Charles' affair. Marie Claire published some of the audio transcripts from these tapes. "We stayed up there [at Balmoral] from August to October. I got terribly, terribly thin. People started commenting: 'Your bones are showing.' By October, I was in a very bad way. I was so depressed, and I was trying to cut my wrists with razor blades. ... I came down early [to London] to seek treatment, not because I hated Balmoral, but because I was in such a bad way," Diana revealed.

But the attempts didn't stop there. In a Daily Mail article written by Andrew Morton, author of DIANA: Her True Story, Morton references a second suicide attempt as detailed in the Diana tapes provided to him. "When I was four months pregnant with William I threw myself downstairs, trying to get my husband's attention, for him to listen to me," said Diana. Unfortunately, the attempt didn't phase Charles. "When he came back, you know, it was just dismissal..."

Her last words

In an interview with The Sun, firefighter Xavier Gourmelon revealed what it was like to spend the last moments of Diana's life with her. On the night of August 31st, 1997, the princess was involved in a Paris car crash. 

"The car was in a mess and we just dealt with it like any road accident. We got straight to work to see who needed help and who was alive," he recounted to The Sun. According to Gourmelon, the princess was initially breathing, only to suffer cardiac arrest. "I held her hand and told her to be calm and keep still, I said I was there to help and reassured her. She said, 'My God, what's happened?” described Gourmelon.

Sadly, the princess died from internal bleeding complications the following morning. Diana's lover, Dodi Fayed, and driver, Herni Paul, also perished in the crash, with the sole survivor being bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones. "To be honest I thought she would live. ...But I found out later she had died in hospital. It was very upsetting," Gourmelon told The Sun.