The Truth About Prince Philip, Princess Diana, and His View of Her Divorce

People have always speculated about Princess Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles, and the role that the royal family played behind the scenes. The whole, scandalous situation got messy for everybody involved. And historically, Princess Diana and Prince Philip were reported to have not gotten along very well.

But recently, we’ve learned more about the truth as to how Prince Philip felt about Princess Diana and how he treated her during her divorce. Read on to learn everything we know about what happened between Princess Diana and Prince Philip before her untimely death.

Prince Philip asked Charles to either propose or end it

Princess Diana

Princess Diana | Kevin Larkin/ AFP/ Getty Images

USA Today reports that in January 1981, tabloids reported on a liaison between Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Prince Philip wrote a letter to his son. In that letter, he urged Charles to either propose to Diana or to end the relationship. According to USA Today, Charles interpreted Philip’s letter “as an order to propose.” The next month, the young couple went public with their engagement. In July, they tied the knot.

The Daily Mail reports that a friend of Charles’ said of Philip’s letter said it was “actually very constructive and trying to be helpful. It certainly did not read as an ultimatum.” Nonetheless, The Daily Telegraph reports that Charles didn’t see it that way. “Pressured and panicked, he had rushed into a decision before he was ready.” In a letter to a friend, Charles wrote that he felt confused and anxious. He said that he wanted to “do the right thing for this country and for my family.” But he also felt “terrified sometimes of making a promise and then perhaps living to regret it.”

Years later, the queen ‘ordered’ a divorce, but only after Philip tried to help

Newsweek reports that former royal butler Paul Burrell has said that Princess Diana simply wanted a separation from Prince Charles. But Burrell said that Diana once showed him a letter that came from Queen Elizabeth II. “It was in the queen’s hand, and her writing was, ‘I have consulted with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the prime minister and, of course, with Charles, and we have decided that the best course for you is divorce.'” According to Burrell, Queen Elizabeth II effectively ordered the couple to divorce.

But that isn’t the whole story. The Daily Mail reports that that letter came only after Prince Philip had tried to help the young couple. Prince Philip “tried to talk to Charles about his marital difficulties and the effect they were having on the royal institution.” He also wrote letters to his daughter-in-law, saying that he wished “to do my utmost to help you and Charles to the best of my ability. But I am quite ready to concede that I have no talent as a marriage counsellor!”

Philip wrote sympathetic letters to Princess Diana

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip | Fiona Hanson/AFP/Getty Images

The Daily Mail reports that the dozens of letters that Prince Philip sent to Princess Diana had a “very sympathetic” tone. As the publication points out, Philip had first-hand experience with the challenge of marrying into the British royal family. And when writing to Princess Diana, he even “seemed to place much of the blame for her marital problems on Charles.”

Philip wrote to Diana with suggestions. He advised trying to find things that Diana could do together with Charles. The duke also listed common interests that the couple shared. (The Daily Mail characterizes the approach as “a tried-and-tested method favoured by marriage guidance counsellors.”) The royal family even set up a meeting at Windsor Castle for Prince Charles and Princess Diana to talk about their marriage with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. But things didn’t turn around.

Prince Philip took Princess Diana’s side

Marie Claire reports that “behind closed doors, Prince Philip “was there for Diana during the difficult divorce — to a degree at least.” We know that because, in 2003, Paul Burrell leaked letters that he said Prince Philip and Princess Diana exchanged. And at the time, The Sunday Times reported that Philip wanted to block publication of the letters. Marie Claire notes that that suggests that the letters are authentic.

In his letters to Diana, Prince Philip wrote, “I cannot imagine anyone in their right mind leaving you for Camilla.” He also told Diana, “Charles was silly to risk everything with Camilla for a man in his position. We never dreamed he might feel like leaving you for her. Such a prospect never even entered our heads.” Those statements sound pretty sympathetic. And, endearingly, the duke also signed his letters, “Fondest love, Pa.”

But he didn’t let Princess Diana off the hook entirely

Princess Diana

Princess Diana | Daniel Luna/AFP/Getty Images

The leaked letters suggest that Prince Philip saw Princess Diana’s side of things during her divorce. But the Duke of Edinburgh didn’t let her off the hook entirely. Marie Claire explained one of the less sympathetic lines of logic that Prince Philip employed in his letters.

At one point, Philip allegedly wrote Diana asking, “Can you honestly look into your heart and say that Charles’s relationship with Camilla had nothing to do with your behaviour towards him in your marriage?” In other words: “Isn’t it kind of your fault he cheated on you?” Ugh.

In December 1992, news that Charles and Diana had decided to separate broke. The Daily Mail notes that Princess Diana’s relationship with her father-in-law “degenerated rapidly.” Philip felt “incensed” by the constant headlines about Diana. And he objected to what he saw as Diana’s attempts to upstage the queen.

Diana also tested Queen Elizabeth II’s sympathy by speaking about her marriage to the press. But it wasn’t until 1995 that the queen advised Charles and Diana to divorce. And even then, it was Philip who said that divorce was the only solution. Unhappily, the queen agreed with her husband.

Princess Diana and Prince Philip later ‘patched up their differences’

The Telegraph reports that despite the messiness of Princess Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles, she and her father-in-law managed to get past it. “Today the public perception of the relationship between Prince Philip and his one-time daughter-in-law is that it was fraught, even abusive,” the publication notes. “Yet the truth, say friends of both, is very different. As the paper notes, “They had largely patched up their differences in the final years of her life, to such an extent that he was a figure she turned to” for advice.

In the early years of Diana’s marriage to Charles, Philip “found her difficult, demanding and manipulative. At the time, Diana was suffering from eating disorders, a tendency to self-harm and post-natal depression.” Philip felt unimpressed by her complaining about Prince Charles to the press. However, “friends of the prince suspect that he may have been sympathetic to the princess as she was retaliating for what her then father-in-law deemed to be a foolhardy exercise the year before, when Prince Charles admitted adultery in a TV documentary.”

Conspiracy theorists blamed Prince Philip for Princess Diana’s death

Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer, Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh follow Princess Diana's coffin into Westminster Abbey

Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer, Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh follow Princess Diana’s coffin. | Jeff J. Mitchell/ AFP/ Getty Images

Over the years, most people have thought that Princess Diana and Prince Philip didn’t get along at all. But it’s still surprising that conspiracy theorists — at the provocation of Mohamed Al Fayed, father of Diana’s lover Dodi al Fayed — blamed Prince Philip for a plot to murder Diana and Dodi. The story went that Philip wanted them murdered by secret intelligence service MI6 because Diana was secretly pregnant. But the theory was quickly disproved.

A coroner declared that he found no evidence to support the claim, The Daily Mail reports. “He said the theories were ‘so demonstrably without foundation’ that even the lawyer representing the Harrods boss was no longer pursuing them.”

Read more: The Heartbreaking Reason Princess Diana Almost Called Off Her Wedding to Prince Charles

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