Princess Diana and I were poles apart. She was fair, me dark. She was tall, me not much over five foot. She grew up in Sandringham, me in Rotherham. She went to posh boarding schools, I’d only ever read about them in Enid Blyton books.
However, there was one thing we had in common. Our vintage. Which means that both of us about to experience hitting 60, she in July, me on August.
Sadly though, she will not be here to celebrate her big day.
I remember her arrival on the scene in 1980, at 19 she seemed to be way too young for Prince Charles who was in his early thirties but seemed so much older.
However, the clock was ticking for him, there were heirs to provide, a Queen was required so he obviously took that on board and proposed to her in the vegetable patch.
The engagement was announced and, on watching the interview, I warmed to Diana quickly.
The interviewer asked if they were in love.
Of course, she replied, to which Charles added, “whatever love means!” That spoke volumes, and quite clearly the love was all on her side.
How I felt for her.
However, the nation brushed it under the carpet, as indeed did she.
After all there was a wedding to organise and as Diana’s sister pointed out when she expressed doubts, “it’s too late now, your face is on all the tea towels”.
We all watched the fairytale wedding, the horse and carriage, walking down the aisle on her fathers arm to Crown Imperial. All the music, pomp, pageantry, crowds, the explosion of red, white and blue.
Less than a year later she and Charles appeared on the hospital doorstep with baby William in her arms.
In a polka dot dress and pop socks, she seemed so woefully young, it, but, oh what the heck they thought, she’d provided the obligatory heir, followed by the spare, in the form of Prince Harry two years later.
Publicly, she thrived, got behind many charities, related wonderfully to everyone she met, but she was thin, gaunt, and the rumours had started some time ago that things were not good between her and Charles.
By the 1990s, it all really unraveled, accelerated by many revelations in the book by Andrew Morton, about her marital problems, eating disorders, her feeling of disconnection from Charles’ family.
The separation soon followed, then the revelations by both parties that they had had an affair, Diana’s in the legendary Panorama interview, which I watched and I sympathised with her, especially as I knew that this was all going to go nuclear.
It didn’t take Mystic Meg to predict that one.
The divorce followed swiftly, and she was stripped of her HRH title.
On the morning of August 31, 1997 I heard the announcement on the radio that ground the whole world to a halt.
Diana had been killed after a paparazzi car chase in Paris, along with her latest lover Dodi Al Fayed.
I remember the wall to wall news reports, the speeches by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and her brother Charles, the latter declaring that the press had blood on their hands.
I recall Hallam FM shutting down for the day. No DJ or shows at all, just sad songs on a loop, notably Everybody Hurts by REM.
I can still hear the horses hooves as her funeral procession took place, the floral tribute on her coffin with an attached card reading “Mummy”.
Those poor young boys, I5 and I2-years-old, following the coffin, how our hearts broke for them.
The weeping and wailing of the crowds.
The highly emotional service, with her brothers impassioned speech and Elton John’s adapted version of Candle in the wind.
Fast forward nearly 24-years, Diana is now a grandmother of fiveThe sad rift behind her two boys is making headlines, as is the hope that they will find some common ground and reconcile for their late mothers 60th birthday commemorations.
I will remember Diana on her special day, and everything she brought to the world.
Happy birthday Diana, you really were the Queen of peoples hearts.