Reflecting on the lonely life of Princess Diana

In the years after her separation, the People’s Princess lived a surprisingly solitary existence behind the walls of Kensington Palace.
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Diana wakes on the stroke of seven. Morning is her favourite time of day because that is when everything comes to life. She looks out of her bedroom window; all is quiet, but in places she can see the stirrings of human activity outside the Palace.

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She throws on a T-shirt, a pair of leggings and some trainers, and slips out into Kensington Palace gardens for her early morning jog. It is a daily ritual she rarely misses, no matter what the weather.

Kensington Palace is on the western edge of London’s magnificent Hyde Park. It is a vast complex of gloriously proportioned apartments, each with their own private courts and garden areas.

Returning to the Palace, Diana has a quick coffee, which she drinks with her butler Paul Burrell, assuming he has arrived for work by then.

Diana visted the gym daily. (Credit: Getty)

She is a keep-fit fanatic, and visits a gym every day in her search for physical perfection and the desire to cultivate her outward appearance. Her extended health routine occupies a great part of days that would otherwise be empty.

By nine o’clock she is back at the Palace. The hairdresser from Daniel Galvin has already arrived and is waiting to give Diana her daily shampoo and blow-dry.

If she hasn’t already done so, Diana calls up a couple of friends. She tells them, usually at some length, how she is feeling, what she is doing and what she will be doing later on. The telephone has become her trusted friend and greatest ally. It is just as well she has no worries about the phone bill because her calls to friends will sometimes last for many hours.

She has redecorated since Charles left. Now her home is feminine and looks lived in. It has lost its severity now that the carpets with their swirling pattern of Prince of Wales feathers have gone, to be replaced with her own choice of pastel shades. It is very cosy.

Diana redecorated her home after Prince Charles left. (Credit: Getty)

She makes her way to her ‘little lounge’, or personal sitting room. This is one of her favourite rooms in the apartment, and is crammed full of mementoes and knick-knacks, as well as hundreds of photographs of all the family. These are the people she can hold on to, they are there with her even when she is alone.

She moves to her desk by the window. The telephone is readily at hand, of course, and the blotter is standing by in case the ink on her letters runs wild.

There is always a pile of correspondence to deal with, but this is no chore. Diana loves writing letters; it puts her in touch with people. Today’s letters finished, it is time to visit a therapist. This morning she is having a Thai massage. In recent years she has increasingly turned to new age medicine, as a source of strength in dealing with her insecurities.

Diana dabbles with osteopathy, reflexology, acupuncture, shiatsu, massage, colonic irrigation, aromatherapy, acupressure, Thai massage, energy healing, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homoeopathic medicine, cranial osteopathy, psychotherapy and hypnosis.

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On top of all of this, she also tries out special diets: macrobiotic and microbiotic. She goes on juice fasts, and after her breakup with Charles has been taking sleeping pills to knock her out in the evening and pep-up pills to revive her the following morning.

Years later, Diana will admit that despite the plethora of diverse attentions, she did not feel any better. In truth, the therapies were often cancelling each other out.

After lunch the letters she wrote earlier in the day are signed; then it is time for the rest of the day’s business. Diana moves to the informal lounge where there is a meeting with journalists, followed by a visit from charity representatives.

This is life as Diana lives it at Kensington Palace following her separation from Charles. She compares her life here to being shut in a prison or a gilded cage; the little bird is surrounded by gold bars; it can see the outside world, but all it can do is stare from its perch and long for freedom.

Diana had a close relationship with Paul Burrell. (Credit: Getty)

If she goes out of the ‘gilded cage’ she will be surrounded by hundreds of photographers, but if she stays in she is by herself. The reality is that if she wants to have the boys with her, she has no choice about where she can live.

She is the most photographed woman in the world – no other celebrity has ever had such a global impact. She is a phenomenon, and an icon of the times; she has hundreds of millions of admirers and is surrounded by cheering crowds wherever she goes and yet something is missing.

At the heart of her fame lies a paradox; that of a vulnerable insecure woman who cannot believe she is liked, and who feels very lonely and isolated. Such feelings are heightened every time she returns home to her empty palace apartment.

She may have been to a celebrity gala or charity event where thousands of people love her, but the reality is that she comes home to a TV supper, and is left with the sense of not having anyone to talk to.

Friends said Diana’s loneliness was palpable. (Credit: Getty)

Diana’s friends say her loneliness was palpable; it was something that attached itself to her.

In the gilded cage that was Kensington Palace, where she felt unloved and isolated from the world, the telephone became one of her chief allies.

It was her prime means of communicating with the outside world, and as the years progressed, Diana spent an increasingly large amount of time talking on it, and not just while she was inside the Palace.

By means of assorted landline, mobile and satellite phones, in whatever part of the world she happened to be, Diana would give a running commentary on her life.

Edited extract from Diana: Her Last Love by Kate Snell, published by Welbeck

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