When Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris in August 1997, the Royal Family was heavily criticized for the way her death was handled.
Queen Elizabeth II took some of the harshest criticism for what people said was her very business-as-usual attitude in the wake of tragedy. She was in Scotland with Diana’s two young sons, Princes William and Harry, at the time of the accident, and she chose to stay there with the boys rather than return to England immediately. This decision drew ire from many of Diana’s supporters, who felt she should have returned immediately to England.
But now, a newly discovered letter written by the Queen to her close aid Lady Henriette Abel Smith just days after Diana died sheds more light on that time than ever before. It explains the Queen’s reasoning behind staying in Scotland and shows how deeply hurt she actually was by the tragedy, even though she remained stoic in public.
“It was indeed dreadfully sad, and she is a huge loss to the country. But the public reaction to her death, and the service in the Abbey, seem to have united people round the world in a rather inspiring way. William and Harry have been so brave and I am very proud of them,” the queen wrote.
She went on to say that she chose to stay in Scotland with Prince William and Prince Harry because she believed it was in their best interest at the time to have some distance from the media circus surrounding Buckingham Palace.
“I think your letter was one of the first I opened — emotions are still so mixed up but we have all been through a very bad experience!” she wrote.
Despite how the public interpreted that event, Elizabeth’s decision to do right by the boys above all else was not wrong.
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