The Real Reason Queen Elizabeth Didn’t Immediately Address Princess Diana’s Death in 1997

When Princess Diana died in August 1997, the earth stood still. Around the world, the Princess of Wales was known as an icon. Though her marriage to Prince Charles had crumbled several years back, she was still widely respected by millions — if not billions — of people. But when she passed, people quickly accused Queen Elizabeth of not handling the tragic news properly. But there was a reason the queen took so long to make a statement about the princess’ passing.

Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth
Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princess Diana died in a car accident in 1997

Diana’s life wasn’t easy. The princess had wed Prince Charles in 1981, though something was always off about their relationship. Charles had actually been in love with Camilla Parker Bowles, but when he was away in the Navy, Camilla had decided to marry someone else. With that, Charles was forced to move on. He was introduced to Diana, and the royal family felt she would make an ideal wife for the future king. The two wed, though Charles never seemed in love with her. And several years after they married, he rekindled his romance with Camilla behind Diana’s back.

The affair eventually leaked, and it led to the downfall of Charles and Diana’s marriage. They separated for several years before finalizing their divorce in August 1996. But Diana didn’t have much of a chance to move on. Almost exactly a year later, Diana was in the car when her driver, Henri Paul, lost control of the vehicle. Paul was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time and was supposedly trying to outrun the paparazzi. Diana did not survive the crash.

At the time of the crash, Prince William and Prince Harry were staying with the queen

When tragedy struck, Prince William and Prince Harry were (thankfully) not with their mother. They had been spending the summer at Balmoral Castle in Scotland with the queen. The queen didn’t receive the news until well after midnight, and the boys had already gone to bed. Rather than wake them up and tell them, Queen Elizabeth decided to let the boys get one last good night’s sleep; she told them when they woke up in the morning. Needless to say, the news hit very hard — Diana’s sons grieved for years and still grieve today. 

The queen didn’t address Diana’s death because she was allowing her grandsons to grieve

When the queen told William and Harry, she knew it would be the worst news they could ever receive. And rather than be the ruler of the British Monarch, the queen decided to simply be a grandmother. She reportedly had all of the televisions and radios removed from the castle so that William and Harry wouldn’t hear any rumors about what had happened to their mother. She wanted Diana’s sons to mourn the loss as naturally as possible, despite being from one of the most famous families in the world.

Queen Elizabeth at Princess Diana's funeral
Queen Elizabeth, center, at Princess Diana’s funeral | Jeff Overs/Current Affairs via Getty Images

The queen didn’t address Diana’s death for five days, but according to her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, it’s because she was putting William and Harry first. She received criticism for staying quiet about Diana’s passing, however, she stayed up at Balmoral to make sure the boys were alright. Margaret said that Elizabeth was overwhelmingly concerned for the welfare of William and Harry and decided that the public could wait. She eventually released a statement about Diana’s death nearly a week after it had occurred.