According to one expert, Queen Elizabeth II ‘evolved’ throughout her long reign as a monarch, learning to prioritize her family’s happiness alongside her royal duties. And her relationship with Princess Diana helped to illustrate that.
How did the queen respond to Diana when she came “sobbing” about her marriage to then-Prince Charles? And how did her view on happiness in life and marriage seemingly change before she died at 96?
Princess Diana was unsatisfied with Queen’s Elizabeth’s response when she asked for help in her marriage
At the start of her courtship with the future King Charles III, Diana reportedly did all she could to assimilate. Arianne Chernock, an associate professor of history at Boston University, told Reader’s Digest, “Diana worked very, very hard to ingratiate herself and to model what she thought being a princess would entail, and she did it very successfully.”
“She was very much a hit with the royal family,” she added. “They really warmed to her.”
But as Diana’s marriage to the prince unraveled, she said she didn’t find the support she’d hoped to find when she went “sobbing” to the queen about her troubles.
“… I went to the top lady and said, ‘I don’t know what I should do,’” she disclosed in tapes revealed in the documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words (per Reader’s Digest). “She said, ‘I don’t know what you should do.’ And that was it. That was ‘help.’”
The moment highlighted that Queen Elizabeth was an excellent royal role model that wasn’t always apt to provide advice on everyday happiness. One of her priorities was how any given story about the family would impact the monarchy. And that didn’t always allow her to focus on her joy or anyone else’s.
The queen likely didn’t want a separation between Charles and Diana at first, Chernock explained. But after the situation expanded over many years, and Diana eventually gave a bombshell interview, the monarch encouraged them to end the marriage. A statement from Buckingham Palace noted that “an early divorce [was] desirable.”
“The Prince of Wales also takes this view and has made this known to the Princess of Wales. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will continue to do all they can to help and support the Prince and Princess of Wales, and most particularly their children, in this difficult period,” the statement concluded.
Queen Elizabeth ‘evolved’ to prioritize her family’s happiness
Queen Elizabeth viewed divorce as a scandal and wasn’t exactly wrong. Media scrutiny over the end of Charles’ marriage to Diana was intense. But according to Chernock, the late queen’s stance on marriage and divorce changed as she got older and focused more on her family’s happiness.
The queen didn’t support her sister, Margaret, in her relationship with a divorced man, Peter Townsend, in the ’50s. But over time, she seemed to notice that happy royals made better royals.
“When you look back at Queen Elizabeth’s strong reaction to her sister Margaret’s desire to marry a divorcé and her opposition to Margaret’s marriage to Townsend, we can see the Queen has certainly evolved in her thinking,” Chernock said, “and I suspect she has come to prioritize the happiness of her family members over time.”
Chernock explained that the queen became “much less rigid in her approach to thinking about marriage and the royal family, and [in] recognizing that the royal family serves its constituents most effectively when its members are fulfilled emotionally as well as in other capacities.”
‘Evolved’ Queen Elizabeth found Princess Diana’s death ‘dreadfully sad’
The queen might not have expressed her feelings to her former daughter-in-law when she needed emotional support in her marriage. But she wrote to a friend about her sorrow over Diana’s death in 1997. She said the response from the public was “inspiring.”
“It was indeed dreadfully sad, and she is a huge loss to the country. But the public reaction to her death and the service in the Abbey seem to have united people around the world in a rather inspiring way,” Elizabeth wrote. “William and Harry have been so brave, and I am very proud of them.”
“… Emotions are still so mixed up,” she added, “but we have all been through a very bad experience!”