It’s complicated. Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana had a complex relationship with many ups and downs.
The pair met in late 1980, just a few months before Prince Charles proposed to his first wife. Royal biographer Andrew Morton wrote in his book Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words that the relationship between Diana and the queen started off uneasy. It’s nerve-wracking for anyone to meet their future in-laws, and having her boyfriend’s mother be the monarch added even more anxiety.
Morton explained, “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.”
However, the women’s bond changed over the years. Amid Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Princess of Wales leaned on Elizabeth, seeking advice and support.
Morton noted 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.”
As the years wore on, the people’s princess grew tired of being told to suffer in silence. In her 2002 book The Queen and Di, royal expert Ingrid Seward wrote that the queen felt just as irritated by Diana’s emotional responses.
“A footman said, ‘The princess cried three times in a half an hour while she was waiting to see you.’ The queen replied, ‘I had her for an hour — and she cried nonstop,’” Seward wrote.
As Diana gave personal interviews and “went her own way,” she became “more of a liability” for the royal family, the author explained.
“In the end, Diana was the one person the Queen never learned to handle,” Seward explained. “She reacted badly to criticism — any rebuke by the Queen was taken as an instance of the family ganging up on her. Neither patience nor the silent, steely-eyed displeasure Elizabeth had learned to deploy with such withering effect made any impression on Diana. Yet by doing nothing, and by allowing Diana to disregard the constraints of convention that keep the monarchy in place, the Queen unwittingly allowed the Princess to run out of control.”
Ultimately, the queen decided it was best for Charles and Diana to divorce. Diana tragically died in a 1997 car crash one year after the split was finalized.
Her ex-husband went on to remarry Camilla in 2005, but the queen and Prince Philip did not attend the nuptials. The sovereign was long believed to have held a grudge against Camilla for not leaving Charles alone to mend his marriage. However, they later made amends, with Camilla getting the title Duchess of Cornwall. Elizabeth announced in February 2022 that she wanted Camilla to be named queen consort when Charles became king.
Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022, in Scotland, and the official statement from the palace referred to camilla as “queen consort.”
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Scroll down for a timeline of Diana and Elizabeth’s ups and downs: