‘Princess Diana Would Spend Christmas Alone’, Former Royal Chef Says

Christmas Day for Princess Diana meant being alone. 

After her split from Prince Charles became official in 1996 — they divorced after 15 years of marriage — the late royal spent Dec. 25 not with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, not in the company of close friends or loved ones but by herself, according to former royal chef Darren McGrady.

Prince William and Prince Harry spent the holiday with their father and the rest of the royal family at their residence, Sandringham House, where the family traditionally marks the occasion with church services where they make the famous walk in front of well-wishers. 

Princess Diana gave her staff the day off 

On Christmas Day, Princess Diana wasn’t surrounded by household staff. Per Yahoo Style, McGrady who sat down with royal reporter Omid Scobie for the Yahoo UK series, The Royal Story, Princess Diana who died at the age of 36 in 1997, gave her staff Christmas Day off so they could spend time with their own families.

Princess Diana on Dec. 23, 1990, at Sandringham Church
Princess Diana on Dec. 23, 1990, at Sandringham Church | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Working for her on Christmas Eve ‘was always quite sad’ 

During the interview, McGrady reflected on what the days were like leading up to Christmas Day in Princess Diana’s home. He remembered the time right before the holiday to be less than joyous because the staff left the royal knowing she’d spend Dec. 25 alone.

He noted that Christmas Eve, in particular, proved to be especially sad. He remembered that staff would prepare meals in advance for Princess Diana — she had a reputation as a terrible cook — that she could reheat. 

“It was always quite sad when you were working with the princess the day before Christmas,” McGrady told Scobie. “William and Harry would go off to Sandringham and Princess Diana was there on her own. And she insisted the staff spending their time with their families over Christmas, so we would leave food in the refrigerator.”

“So there was the princess, on her own, on Christmas Day,” he added. 

Princess Diana didn’t like ‘tight’ quarters at Sandringham 

When Princess Diana and Prince Charles were still married, the couple would travel to Sandringham, one of the royal family’s residences, along with their relatives to celebrate the holiday but the late Princess of Wales didn’t look forward to the stay because, as McGrady put it, “you just couldn’t get away.”

Princess Diana at Sandringham on Dec. 25, 1994
Princess Diana at Sandringham on Dec. 25, 1994 | Martin Keene – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

“Sandringham was so tight, so compact. There were so many people there, all the families,” he said. “You just couldn’t get away. You came out of the dining room and you couldn’t go into the sitting room because there were three or four people in there playing charades or Scrabble or something.” 

He recalled Princess Diana would go outside for a breath of fresh air. “She would go off for a walk on her own and often I would bump into her when she was out walking. So, I think that’s probably what she wasn’t keen on.” 

Aside from Christmas Day, there were other times of the year that could be lonely for the late royal. Typically occasions not spent with Prince William and Prince Harry in the wake of her divorce proved to be especially lonesome. Journalist Katie Couric recalled a moment from a 1996 luncheon that Princess Diana told her she’d be “going home to an empty house,” and therefore, wasn’t excited at the prospect of ending her tour and heading back to England. 

Find out more about how Princess Diana celebrated the holidays