Queen Elizabeth thought someone ‘greased the brakes’ on Princess Diana’s car

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Here are some photos of Queen Elizabeth at the 70th anniversary events for V-J Day (Victory in Japan) in London. The Queen was joined by her husband and her oldest and youngest sons and their wives. Everyone in the UK is doing a countdown on the Queen because in a few weeks’ time, she’s going to become the longest-serving monarch in English history. Because of that, and because of the fact that publishing books about royalty is a lucrative niche industry, Ingrid Seward is about to release a new book about the Queen called The Queen’s Speech: An Intimate Portrait Of The Queen In Her Own Words. Over the weekend, the Daily Mail published some excerpts – go here to read the full piece at the Daily Mail. While none of the information shocked me whatsoever, I realize that I’m a royal-obsessed Anglophile and some of this may be “news” to some people. So here are some highlights:

Diana’s death. When the Queen heard about the car crash in Paris, she said: “Someone must have greased the brakes.”

The Windsors were always close to the Spencer family. Diana’s father had served both the Queen and the Queen’s father, King George VI. When Diana was young, the Queen wrote to a friend regarding Diana: “She is one of us. I am very fond of all three of the Spencer girls.”

Seward swipes at Diana’s “shallowness”: In the early days, “the Queen made a great fuss of her future daughter-in-law, trying to demonstrate that she was interested in Diana for her personal qualities and not just for what she represented, as the wife of the heir to the throne. But Diana ran out of things to say to her. Understandably nervous, she didn’t want to have lunch on her own with ‘Brenda’ — her nickname for the Queen, taken from the satirical magazine Private Eye — and made excuses, even inventing non-existent friends to avoid the invitations.”

Was the Queen jealous of Diana? Seward seems to indicate that the Queen was bothered by the media attention Diana brought to the family, but Seward also says that the Queen looked out for Diana, trying to personally appeal to members of the press to go easier on Diana (who was at the time only 19-20). Seward notes: “This plea from the heart worked — but not for long. It didn’t help that Diana resented any shift of focus away from her.”

The Queen felt bad about her kids’ disastrous marriages: “In later years, the Queen would reproach herself for not seeing how much strain the Wales’s marriage was under…Though never giving way to mawkish regrets, she sometimes blamed the disintegration of not only Charles’s marriage, but Anne and Andrew’s as well on her own remoteness when the children were growing up.”

Charles told his mother that Diana was crazy: Seward writes: “Diana did nothing to dispel the accusation when she started hinting darkly that Palace courtiers were conspiring to smear her by using the Secret services to eavesdrop on her private conversations. The Queen dismissed this as nonsense, but refused to allow the family to discuss the Charles and Diana situation openly.”

The Queen was “bewildered” by the criticisms lodged at her following Diana’s death: “The Queen was bewildered by these criticisms. The business of the flag was mere protocol: she was not in residence, so the flag was not flown. Far more important, she wanted the family to stay in Scotland to give her grandsons a chance to absorb the shock of their mother’s death as far as possible from the public eye. Her first priority was to protect them.”

[From Daily Mail]

Obviously, if one is writing about the Queen, the other women are going to come across as “less than.” It still bugs me that even though Diana has been dead for almost 18 years, the official royal line is to paint Diana as the villain… except when they want to use her as The Cautionary Tale To Get Their Way. Even in death, no one agrees on Diana. For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone greased the brakes on the car in 1997. I don’t think the Queen is to “blame” for what happened in the Paris tunnel, but she deserved to get all of the criticism for how she handled everything in the wake of Diana’s passing. Her actions were cold, bordering on vindictive – instead of showing true concern for her grandsons, she seemed to be saying, “Well, good riddance to bad rubbish.”

Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.

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66 Responses to “Queen Elizabeth thought someone ‘greased the brakes’ on Princess Diana’s car”

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  1. Grace says:

    Sure Jan

    • MoxyLady007 says:

      What did the queen do after Diana’s death that was so bad? I’ve never heard this.

      • ender says:

        The queen basically ignore Diana death even when her advisors were begging her to do something. Anything. She finally did but it was too little too late and totally insincere. Watch The Queen with Helen Mirren (I think that’s what the movie is called. It will explain alot.

      • Sarah says:

        The royals completely misjudged the public mood after Diana’s death. They issued no statement. Showed no regret. Even a brief statement about the boys and WHY they were staying in Scotland for a few days would probably have sufficed.

        I second a recommendation to watch The Queen. It was fascinating. I just watched it again a couple of weeks ago. I do think in that movie, the Queen ends up coming off well. More of a woman who had been raised to be a certain way – behave in a certain way – because that’s what she thought people wanted. When she realized that they didn’t want a remote, unfeeling monarch, she was both shocked and hurt. I do think that since Diana’s death and this realization, the Queen has been much more approachable and open.

      • Carmen says:

        Really excellent movie, with a magnificent performance by Helen Mirren. I’ve watched it several times. The Queen didn’t come off looking too badly, and Charles’s character seemed quite sympathetic. But Philip and the Queen Mother — yikes!!

      • K says:

        She had no clue how to handle the public, but I think keeping the boys hidden at Balmoral and protected from the hooha was absolutely the right thing to do for them. To cope with mass hysteria from people who had for the most part never even met her, on top of the grief of losing your mother so young, is so much to ask. I hate that they were put on display as they were, but the family had no choice by the end.

        The flag nonsense above was the tin ear – she was so focused on protocol, she couldn’t see past the fact that it wasn’t important in that context and with the public mood so very febrile. She also bowed to the coffin as it processed past Buckingham Palace to the Abbey, which was meant to be this huge deal as the monarch doesn’t bow to anyone – the fact they thought the average person would notice or care about that detail is part of why they had a problem to begin with.

        I really can’t blame the Queen, though. I mean, Diana was her son’s ex-wife, the divorce horribly acrimonious, and Diana hadn’t long made that Panorama. She was busily engaged in smashing up all the Queen had spent her life sustaining. And then she had to pretend she just adored her when she died.

        Charles’ press office throwing her sons under the bus as they maligned her was cold as ice, though.

        All in all, I want a republic when the Queen dies. It’s not fair on the children born into it, and warped by that crazy life, and it’s not fair on the rest of us who have to pay for it.

    • Mrsjennyk says:

      Awesome

  2. Shelley says:

    So basically nothing new is going to be in this book.

  3. HeatherAnn says:

    Whenever I think of Diana, I have more sympathy for her boys. No wonder they aren’t so close to Charles and in some ways, I am glad they continue to protect her. She isn’t here to speak up for herself.

    • wolfie says:

      I wonder how her Diana’s boys feel about her “dismissal” from the royal family, and the very cold, vindictive way that the royals bullied her after her death. How could they not feel some resentment? Charles really trashed Diana, for his consort…

      • Anne says:

        She was treated quite vindictively, especially by Charles’ press office. I suppose they were threatened by the extraordinary media power she held – and frequently welded – against them. She could be quite vindictive herself, remember.

        I expect the experience would leave the boys with some mistrust of both the press and the establishment they have been born into. They’ve seen the power plays when things go wrong. . I think the effect is most evident in William, who seems to share Diana’s sensitivity.

      • HeatherAnn says:

        I think Charles trashed her too and the royals keep trashing her, every chance they get. It just seems like “and another thing. . .” all the time, every time anything related to Diana comes up. The thing is- they are still around and she can’t defend herself so even if they have a point, they shouldn’t make it.

    • notasugarhere says:

      “No wonder they aren’t so close to Charles” You fell for Diana’s PR. Charles was an active and engaged father, but didn’t parade it for the photographers like Diana. I’d say Harry is closer to Charles overall, but that may be due to William’s “I hate my royal life, give me more money!” attitude.

      • HeatherAnn says:

        You could be right- I could totally be falling for Diana’s PR. I don’t know, it still seems so unfair to me how she was treated. If I were Harry or William, I would struggle with my father.

      • RainbowBrite says:

        Or, maybe you fell for Charles’ PR.

  4. NewWester says:

    Hard to believe it is eighteen years since Diana died.

    • wolfie says:

      Diana’s the one who actually brought the British crown into worldwide stardom. Charles, thinking himself “the most desirable bachelor in the world”, and entitled to royal consorts, (due to the “rights” of all previous Princes of Wales – and phooey to marital vows); didn’t seem to see her as a real person, and resented that she was charismatic, and people loved her (for good reason). How do her boys feel about how she was dragged thru the mud by the hand of the royal family itself? What a corundum. Surely they have a gut reaction to the Queen’s comment, that someone must have greased Diana’s brakes. That is outright hostility.

      • LAK says:

        Every few generations, there is always a star royal who reinvigorate their star rating to a world wide audience.

        The past 100yrs, it’s been David, QM, Margaret and Diana.

      • Anne says:

        Oh, I didn’t hear the queens comment as hostility. I may be misinterpreting, but I heard it as curious suspicion.

      • notasugarhere says:

        Anne, that’s how I read it too. They are so surrounded by security and security checks. Natural for HM to think something might have been tampered with to cause that security to fail. See Lord Mounbatten example.

      • lou says:

        I read it as suspicion, too. Royals are very well-protected, it’s so weird to think their drivers could get away with being drunk.

    • Maria A. says:

      It still gets me that if she’d been wearing her seat belt, she might still be here.

  5. India says:

    Seward does not win any favors by bad mouthing Diana. Diana was mistreated from the get go. End of.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Agree. I don’t think that the Queen initially had bad intentions toward her, but the whole family is just cold and incapable of understanding what a 19 year old girl would be going through in that transition, so she was totally alone.

    • Anne says:

      Patrick Jephson, Diana’s Private Secretary, wrote a book some time ago, which described her – I thought – quite fairly. He saw her light and her darkness. She did suffer quite a bit and was thrown into an uncaring environment at too young an age. That is all true. But, when she was hurt or threatened, Diana could react with a striking emotional immaturity and vindictiveness that often drew the worst out of people.

      • notasugarhere says:

        Calling the paps to get Fergie caught sunbathing topless being one example of that behavior. She was human, very human. When someone strikes at you that hard and meanly, it is difficult to step back and see where they (Diana) might be suffering or coming from.

      • RainbowBrite says:

        Can you provide proof of that, notasugarhere? Or is it as I suspect, tabloid lies to smear Diana and you fell for it?

  6. perplexed says:

    It’s hard to know what the Queen was thinking at the time of Diana’s death. She’s famous, but never reveals herself — not even in her facial expressions.

    I never really thought she was vindictive, but just maybe a little removed from what people wanted to see media-wise in 1997.

    If Diana had nothing to say to the Queen, I have no idea what Kate talks about with her. Diana never struck me as a bad conversationalist, but I don’t know who at 20 would want to sit down and talk to Elizabeth. Like I said, she’s a bit unfathomable.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I would be intimidated to have lunch with her, even though I like her, usually.

    • notasugarhere says:

      She’s said a bit about her facial expressions through the years. The staff and her husband refer to a Miss Piggy one, which is the one she makes when she’s trying not to cry in public.

      “I’ve got the kind of face that if I’m not smiling I look cross.” HM during a tour of Australia

      Another time:
      ‘Ma’am, you sat through all that happy-clappy stuff with a face like an axe!’

      ‘Oh dear, did I?’ she replied. ‘I’m afraid that sort of thing is not really to my taste, but I’m sorry that it was so obvious. The trouble is that, unlike my mother, I don’t have a naturally smiley face.’

  7. Suze says:

    Certainly Diana had many interests so I can’t imagine she would lack for interesting things to say to the Queen. Particularly in later years. More likely they had nothing in common. The Queen likes dogs and horses and her art collection, and Diana liked her charities and her boys and shopping. The Queen liked to vacation in Scotland, Diana enjoyed every minute of her sunshine cruises. The Queen retreats to the country and Diana was a total city lights woman.

    I think the Seward release will lack nuance, like all previous Seward books.

    • LAK says:

      I quite agree.

      There doesn’t have to be a saint or a sinner here.

      Two women with different personalities and interests didn’t get on.

      Pity that Diana’s marriage was also a marriage between two people with different personalities and interests.

      Both relationships were always going to end in tears.

      Ps: i’ve been thinking lately that some of Diana’s personality was the famous Spencer temperament. *I think William has it too. Sadly, it isn’t a compliment because the Spencer temperament = very difficult personalities to deal with.

      *Johnnie and Charles Spencer also have that Spencer temperament. As much as I enjoy grumpy PGtips, I wonder if he that is just his Spencer inheritance coming through.

      • COSquared says:

        I think still to this day people follow the whole Villains vs Saint thing. HM & Diana are/were two different people w/ different interests. Do you think things would have been different w/o Uncle Dickie’s influence being grated into PC? Dickie believed in sowing oats and virginal young brides. The W&K marriage seems like a case of like father like son: only settles simply because of pressure.

  8. Kiddo says:

    Fer Crissakes, they weren’t and aren’t a perfect family, with no perfect people in it. They are, now, and always were bonkers, including Diana. You HAVE to be, to be part of a ridiculous and useless figurehead arrangement. Just because you die, doesn’t mean you should be canonized.

  9. teehee says:

    MI6 was undoubtedly involved, not the queen herself, but the levels of policital and financial power that had stakes in Dianas very strong social and political swaying power for social causes. Diana was (and is) a very strong figure who could easily sway public opinion and rip open long held secrets, and this is a big threat to a longstanding system of power.
    If you watch a few candid interviews of Diana you realize they had a typical big generational gap- Diana thought outside of the box ad per heart, and we all know the Queen is wholeheartedly dedicated to teh box and serving it– so of course they could not get along— but it does not mean either of them was evil or meant any harm to each other. Its a typical mother in law situation. They both really had different missions and interests in life.
    From teh quotes above I get that the Queen is very out of touch with what Diana was going through — greassed her brakes? Is that all she can say… and then the “dont discuss” policy- thats why they couldnt talk. Diana needed to talk about the marriage, the kids, her fate- and the Queen thinks, none of their matters should have been discussed. WELL DUH!!

  10. My Two Cents says:

    18 years later and I think they should honor Princess Di and let her name rest in peace. There can’t possibly be anything said that hasn’t already been covered.

    • Citresse says:

      Well, with the passage of time, some individuals may be willing to share more (new) information, but yeah, pretty much everything has been discussed by now.

  11. Citresse says:

    I can understand the Queen wanting the stay in Balmoral protecting her grandsons after Diana died. It was the fact there didn’t seem to be an official statement from her for so long which caused the anger in London. And the fact Diana wasn’t mentioned at the church service at Balmoral.

    • Anne says:

      Yes, it was the lack of acknowledgement, that’s all. I, too, think there were arguments for staying in Scotland, but the handling did reveal a striking misunderstanding of public expectations. I feel for her, I suppose, she was raised in a very different time. Can one really fault her for meaning well and being out of touch?

  12. Betti says:

    I have to disagree with u Kaiser on the comment that the Queen deserved all the negativity aimed at her after Diana’s death. She put those boys first as any grandmother would but it’s a case of whatever she did she would’ve got stick for it. The way the public behaved was embarrassing with the attitude that they were more important than the 2 now motherless children. The RF are not known for being emotionally transparent. She did what she thought was best for the boys whether good or bad, wouldn’t u! There were things that could have been handled better am not disagreeing on that point but she was protecting them from the media madness that was erupting in London.

    • LAK says:

      Now *i’m* going to disagree with you and sort of side with Kaiser.

      I lived through that week. The issue was that there was no response from BP. At all.

      The least she could have done was raise the flag. That became the point of contention. The fact that she addressed the nation was purely self preservation strategy to appease the pitchfork peasants at the gate.

      She let the media whip the public into a frenzy on the point of the flag. Raising the flag would have allowed her to remain in Scotland, and come down to London to a less hostile public.

      Instead she dug her heels in, and the lack of flag swiftly came to symbolise her lack of feeling towards Diana who had just been anointed the people’s princess.

      • Betti says:

        I disagree about the flag – the only person that its raised for is the Monarch and I don’t think she should have given in to a hysterical press, they were out of control as it was. She should have at least released a statement from Balmoral, as i said she didn’t deserve all the negativity, there were things that should have been done better but if she had fled straight to London and left the boys in Scotland she would have been ripped apart as a heartless grandmother. Whatever she may have done (or not done in this case) it would never have been enough – the press were out for blood, someone to paint as the sinner. They would have crucified her regardless. There were only losers in this situation.

        All things said about her relationship with Diana, she was probably in shock and grieving herself and appeasing the hordes was that last thing she probably wanted to think about. We are all human and make errors of judgement, she is no different.

        When i watch footage of that week back it makes me cringe as the press and the people behaved as if they were more important than 2 young boys who just lost their mother in a violent way.

      • COSquared says:

        +1 Betti. HM only gave in because it was pretty clear, in the eyes of the press, she was the devil. The people who were flag-mad seemed as if they didn’t know royal flag-protocol. Dang, almost expected a royal lynching.

      • notasugarhere says:

        She is protocol-bound, she lives by it and always has. Is that flag ever flown at Balmoral, or only at official residences? I’d be interested to know if any flags at Balmoral were flown at half staff during that period.

      • LAK says:

        Nota: there were no flags anywhere except the business as usual ones.

        They didn’t even mention Diana in their Balmoral church service despite already knowing she was dead.

        There are times when I think protocol is needed and times when I remember that protocol is whatever the institution decides it is.

        This is an example of HM sticking to rules made up by her own father or grandfather rather than creating her own. And it was a stark demonstration how little she considers the public she’s supposed to reign over. It all works as long as the public doesn’t demand anymore than has been laid out in archaic protocol rules.

        No wonder Diana was able to walk all over her and them.

    • RainbowBrite says:

      I STRONGLY disagree! HM *used* those boys as an excuse. Her excuse made NO sense! The boys didn’t need her, they had their father. She was remote and stifled and aloof and could not relate to her own children when they were young, let alone William and Harry. I can’t imagine she’d even know what to say to them or do, she wouldn’t be much use. Besides, as I said, they had their FATHER. Did they really, *really* need their grandmother (who they probably rarely associated with) 24/7? Come on! Just….come on! Lets get real. What, the Queen could not take TWO HOURS out of ONE afternoon, and do a quick fly down to London, by herself? Really? She didn’t have to take the boys with her. Two hours, then straight back? The boys would not have even known she was gone, she’d be back before they got back from a stalking trip. She did NOT need to be with the boys 60/24/7. It was an absurd EXCUSE that made no logical sense, whatsoever, and most saw through it as the sheer bullshit it was.

      As for the flag, she is the QUEEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM! She can make any rules, or break any rules or protocol that she damn well likes. People who dislike Diana and have bought into the whole anti-Diana PR and brainwashing lies and smear are simply making every excuse possible (even suggesting she needs to be glued to two boys’ hips 60/24/7 for a week, two boys she barely even knew!) to give her a free pass for everything, to justify their anti-Diana narrative.

      • MinnFinn says:

        That’s pretty much how I viewed it then and now. Brenda saw no need to interrupt her annual Balmoral vacation.

      • Betti says:

        I don’t have an anti-Diana narrative, i actually quite liked her – she was interesting. I may not have agreed with some of the decisions she made but it was her life.

        TQ is actually very close to her grandchildren, Wills and Harry have both said that they are close to both grandparents. Also backed up by the York Princesses. Sometimes grandparents are closer to their grandchildren than children – its sad i know but it happens more than we admit to.

        And as for the comments about them not needing the grandmother, am sure you will agree whenever there is a tragedy families come together – the RF is just another family who closed ranks to protect the boys. And they would have needed their grandmother, who was the only ‘mother’ type figure they now had left and am sure Charles needed her there to support him as well. We don’t know what happened but i think its unfair to say that she’s a monster because that’s the picture the press choose to paint. There were no winners from what happened – only losers all round.

  13. Idon'tCare says:

    I adored Diana. It’s so hard to believe she’s gone. She was one year older than me, and our lives paralleled each other in some ways, minus marrying royalty and the money of course. I’m not sure of the conspiracy theories surrounding Diana’s death, but I do find it odd that after all these years, that white Fiat was never located. That is suspicious. Diana will be forever missed, and forever loved. May she RIP.

  14. K says:

    I’m not seeing any badmouthing of Diana in this, it’s just a recount of what happened from the queens perspective or this person’s perspective of the queen’s feelings. I can easily believe 19 year old Diana struggled to chat with the queen and sorry but it was PAINFULLY OBVIOUS DIANE LOVED THE MEDIA ATTENTION. She went looking for it and used it for her own advantage like any other celebrity.

    • perplexed says:

      I didn’t come away thinking that anybody was badmouthing Diana either. I was actually surprised that the Queen seemed to rather like Diana.

  15. Jaded says:

    Diana actually predicted her own death in a letter to her butler Paul Burrell and in a meeting with her divorce solicitor, the late Lord Mischon. He was so concerned that he took his notes to the police after her death. She did have some bombshell news that she wanted to reveal so one really wonders was she really set up? We’ll never know, there are valid arguments, both pro and for an “arranged” demise. Despite the facade of cordiality she established with both Charles and Camilla after the divorce dust settled, she did have a treasure trove of information on the royal family and “revenge is a dish best served cold” as they say.

  16. BooBooLaRue says:

    Sigh, I miss Diana’s sense of style and star quality.

  17. Matador says:

    I am Team Queen. Diana was a HUGE attention hog who relished airing her dirty laundry about the royal family before sympathetic cameras, always willing to lap it up. The Queen is not that sort of woman; you won’t find her on television, tearfully recounting how she threw herself down a flight of stairs. Just because her manner and methods are more reserved is no basis for presuming she’s an uncaring person. The Queen displays a dignity that many of us which was more common in current culture. She doesn’t let it all hang out. Diana was a pioneer of over-sharing or what I believe Hitchens called a professional hysteric. The Queen is the exact opposite. Personally, we could use more examples like her.

    • RdyfrmycloseupmrDvlle says:

      ++++1000 MATADOR……..Very elegantly put. Im actually very shocked on this thread of the blind adoration of this clearly self-destructive, spoilt, hysteric. If one actually reads about Diana and her upbringing and her life you will learn she knew FULL WELL what she was getting herself into. Her incessant attention seeking, back stabbing of the royal family and constant drama and toxicity was absolute poison for all of them. I am amazed at how the public continues to buy the “woe-as-me” marter act she had down to perfection. Sheesh! It was an ACT people.
      The Queen, for her part in all of the mess and hell she put that family through…behaved perfectly….like the dignified QUEEN she is. I think she behaved exemplary. I disagree with flying the flag at half staff. This was a totally inappropriate expectation. She ought to have, however, issued a statement immediately.

  18. Narek says:

    When Diana was killed with her boyfriend, after having left Charles and gone on tv basically saying how horrible her life was, Charles was the one who had to fly to Paris to claim her body -with the eyes of the works on him. That must have been a nightmare.

    • notasugarhere says:

      He was criticized for wearing a blue suit to the funeral too. He did it out of deference to Diana, but nobody bothered to remember that. He wore her favorite blue suit, one that she had particularly liked him in.

  19. Colleen says:

    One could argue that Charles was a bit of a whore himself, but I guess his actions were never considered disgraceful because, well, you know, male privilege.

    • Alice says:

      Oh come on, why does everything have to be about feminisim? There is a reason why he is hated by the people. Everyone considers him a whore. He and Camilla, nobody likes them. He will never be king for a reason.

  20. Bread and Circuses says:

    It still blows my mind how much alike Diana and William look. So much so that looking at that photo of her in a suit-style jacket is a bit disorienting. “What’s William doing — wait, that’s not William.”

  21. Lala says:

    Ha! The old bag should know since she’s the one who wanted her killed…

  22. Alice says:

    British people asked for Diana’s death to be treated as a queen’s death when she wasn’t even a royal anymore, and she never even was a queen. I agree with everything the Queen did, she was following royal protocol. Her only “mistake” was to not give in fast enough to the fit the Brits were throwing because their favorite celebrity had died. Bunch of wackos sobbing over some ungrateful woman they never even met in their lives. Diana’s PR did a great job, and it’s evident from 99% of the comments to this.