With the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death on Thursday, at age 96, many have Princess Diana’s tragic passing also on their mind.
“I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts, in people’s hearts, but I don’t see myself being the queen of this country,” Princess Diana told journalist Martin Bashir in her famous tell-all TV interview in 1995.
Even though by then she had already been formally separated from her husband for nearly three years, it was a bombshell that sent reverberations around the nation. And it was a prediction that proved correct.
When Diana and Prince Charles divorced eight months later, the Princess gave up her right to be the next Queen of England. She also had to surrender the title of “HRH” (Her Royal Highness). After the divorce, it was agreed that her new title would be Diana, Princess of Wales.
Although the Queen had been willing to let Diana keep the HRH, according to reports, Prince Charles insisted she give it up. The loss officially obliged Diana to curtsy to others with an HRH — including her ex-husband and even her own children, Prince William and Prince Harry.
Whether this rule was enforced or not is unknown. At the time of the divorce, the palace said cryptically that Princess Diana would continue to be “regarded as a member of the royal family.”
But would Queen Elizabeth’s passing have affected Diana’s title had the princess not died in a car crash in 1997?
“She would have kept her Princess of Wales title, as that was part of the original divorce agreement,” constitution expert Dr. Robert Morris of University College London’s Constitution Unit told The Post. If the princess had remarried, however, she would have lost her title and most likely gone back to being Lady Diana.
According to Diana’s butler Paul Burrell, when Diana lost her HRH, a 14 year-old Prince William told his upset mom: “Don’t worry Mummy, I will give it back to you one day when I am king.”
Indeed, some believe Diana would have qualified for the title of “Queen Mother” had she been alive when that happens. But her eligibility would have been complicated by the divorce, plus the Queen Mother title, which Queen Elizabeth’s mother — the widow of King George VI — bore, also means “‘widowed Queen Consort,” which wouldn’t have applied to Diana.
However, as king, William will have the power to bend the rules, so chances are high that he would have wanted to celebrate his mom’s status in some meaningful way.
And it would not likely have changed anything for Camilla, Charles’ current wife.
When the two married in 2005, Buckingham Palace announced that Camilla would become HRH The Princess Consort when Charles succeeded to the throne, a move thought to be out of respect for Diana. However, in February 2022, the Queen reversed the decision, stating her desire for Camilla to become Queen Consort, meaning Camilla would take the title Queen Camilla.
Royal author Stewart Pearce, a close friend of Diana’s in her final years, believes that Diana would have given her blessing. “I am sure that Diana would be in full support of it … She would have had 26 years of living with the idea of separation.”
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