Queen Elizabeth is a different kind of person than many of her predecessors. She can withstand pressure like no other.
Her remarkable equilibrium, however, was challenged far more in the 1990s than anyone knew.
One of her friends said she was at her lowest point when Andrew and Charles were divorced. She wondered aloud when her family and the monarchy would get some relief.
The Queen was particularly affected by the separation of Charles and Diana.
It was no longer enough for her to have one dry martini every evening; staff noticed an increase in Her Majesty’s moderate alcohol intake.
The Monarch was silently signalling distress in private. She is well-known for her moderation and iron grip on emotions.
She had to deal with two scandal-ridden sons.
One, she hated divorce and the other was fiercely protective of the dignity, honor, and power of the Crown.
The Queen managed to navigate the turbulent times of royal history.
In 1992, I wrote my most successful book about Diana. This was with Diana’s full cooperation.
Despite her candid, eloquent testimony, it couldn’t tell the entire story.
Diana and Fergie spoke to their mother in law about marital difficulties with Fergie’s sons.
My 40-year-old experience as a journalist on British monarchy has allowed me to use that information, along with largely unrecorded interviews with royal courtiers.
It is clear that her instincts were pushed against all odds into an emotional vortex.
These two young ladies had a great start and impressed their future husbands with their jovial upper-class joie de vivre.
When Sarah Ferguson started dating Prince Andrew, the Queen Mother declared: ‘She’s so English’ — a high compliment in her lexicon.
When Diana Spencer visited Balmoral as Prince Charles’ guest in 1980, she was greeted by some delight.
Lady Fermoy herself, Diana’s grandmother, warned Diana: “Darling you need to understand that their senses of humor and lifestyles are very different and it won’t suit you.”
Diana began to worry about Charles’s ex-mistress, Mrs Camilla Bowles, as Charles was courtship continued.
He proposed to her in February 1981, and she accepted.
The Queen, for her part, was thrilled at Diana’s engagement and believed that Diana’s positive, supportive nature, girlish high spirits, and her sometimes disconsolate son would be a perfect foil.
She went out of her way for Diana to feel at home and sent several courtiers to help her. They then placed her in the main guest room at Windsor Castle while Charles was overseas.
Although Diana was quite busy, the Queen did make a fuss, according to one former courtier. She made sure that she had as much time as possible for her.
Diana, who was then suffering from an eating disorder called bulimia neurosa (bingeing and forcible vomiting), had been diagnosed at the time. The Queen was forced to confront her about her frequent visits to the kitchens. She suspected that she was watching over them and asked her to stop.
She didn’t know that Diana was there to indulge in cream and cereal packets. After that, she would make herself sick.
Fully and enthusiastically invested in her son’s marriage, the Queen herself paid £28,000 for Diana’s oval sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring, and footed the bill for the opulent gala ball held at Buckingham Palace on the week of the wedding.
We know that the couple’s Mediterranean honeymoon turned out to be a failure. The Princess was consumed by jealousy over Charles’s ex-mistress Camilla Parker Bowles and suffered from exhaustion, bulimia, and both.
The next leg was a long stay at Balmoral. She had extreme mood swings and would often choose to stay in her bedroom rather than go with the family on picnics or barbecues.
It irritated Queen Elizabeth.
It was not only a rude gesture to Diana as her host, but it also disrupted the smooth operation of the castle. Therefore, staff had to be changed in order for Diana’s safety.
After photos of the topless Duchess Of York getting her toes sucked by John Bryan (her financial adviser), Diana wrote, “The redhead is in trouble.” Charles and Diana were already in private agreement to split (Pictured: Princess Diana and The Duchess of York Standing Together While They View A Polo Match At Windsor, Berkshire
However, she realized that her daughter-in law required time and space in order to adjust to her drastic changes.
The Queen was thrilled when Diana, her fall pregnancy announcement, said that she would be giving birth to a baby girl.
However, the couple was becoming more and more dysfunctional with every day.
The couple had an explosive row at Sandringham in January 1982 over Charles’s attitude toward Diana.
The Queen was shocked by what happened next.
Diana fell, as per her story, down the North End staircase. This led to Queen Mother’s rooms.
Charles even though she was crying, accused her of being a wolf cryer and chased her out of the home to ride.
Her Majesty, as she lay on her back in a heap of crumpled tissue, was the first one to reach the scene.
Diana later told me: ‘The Queen comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking — she was so frightened.’
Diana’s miscarriage was her immediate concern.
Others recall having a more casual encounter.
According to some, Diana tripped while walking down the steps and ended up near the bottom of the staircase at the foot of the food bowls for corgis. The Queen Mother was refilling the meal at that time.
By a page, the Queen and other relatives were made aware of the situation.
Diana already had her makeup done when they arrived.
She apologized for all the attention and stated that she was fine.
A few months after William’s birth, public opinion began to shift against Princess Diana.
A gossip columnist alleged her to be a monster’ and a ‘fiend’ and she was then attributed for the departure of many staff members, such as Charles’s private secretary, valet, and bodyguard.
At this point, the Queen decided to show her confidence in her daughter.
Diana asked Charles, the Queen’s private secretary, if she was available to be the representative of the family for the Princess Grace funeral in Monaco. But they declined.
Now the Queen gave Diana her permission to go ahead — a ringing endorsement that did not go unnoticed.
In July 1986, there was even more reason for optimism when Prince Andrew watched Sarah Ferguson’s walk down Westminster Abbey’s aisle.
In a letter to the Queen, the Queen Mother complimented the bride: ‘She is such a cheerful person, and seems to be so thankful & pleased to be part of a united family, & is truly devoted to darling Andrew.
This seems to be the most optimistic thing, which can also serve as a source of comfort.
It was not spoken, but it was understood that the marriage would succeed, and that is different from the one between the Prince of Wales and the Princess of Wales.
They were separated by July 1986. Charles had returned to Camilla, while Diana found comfort in Barry Mannakee’s arms.
The Princess was unusually distraught during the wedding of Andrew and Sarah.
Because Mannakee was informed by a colleague protection officer that Mannakee had been removed from her specific.
The fervent wish of her mother-in law was for Fergie to lift the Princess of Wales from her sulky moods.
And to a large extent she did — though not in a way that the Queen ultimately welcomed.
The gang began their joint adventures on Andrew’s bachelorette party. Diana, Fergie, and other friends dressed up as policewomen to “arrest” the Prince at his house.
Following the event, Annabel’s Nightclub hosted them, where they enjoyed cocktails.
The Monarch became very upset when the Monarch learned that the future queen of England was seen roaming London in the disguise of a police officer. This was technically a crime.
Diana called Diana to meet her.
However, Princess defends her actions as light-hearted fun.
The Queen was as usual allergic to emotional confrontation and did not press the issue further.
Charles was begged by Diana to get a divorce.
The silliness didn’t stop there. Later that year Fergie invited Diana to go along in Windsor Castle’s can-can. Next year they shoved and pushed one another during a photocall at Klosters. Prince Charles rebuked them.
A few months later at Royal Ascot the pair were photographed pushing a friend in the back with their rolled umbrellas.
All eyes were on the world and screamed disapproval.
A newspaper said, “Far too many frivolity,” while commentators suggested that women behaved like soap-opera actresses.
The Duchess of York was singled out for the most criticism — namely for her poor judgment, bad dress sense and blatant freeloading.
But Diana was quickly forgiven any Fergie-inspired daftness after she shook hands, ungloved, with an Aids patient in April 1987 — an act that resulted in international headlines and widespread approval.
Her courage won her more accolades after it was revealed that both the Queen and her advisors advised caution.
Diana was, according to many, different from the other royals. In touch with the modern realities, Diana seemed to really care for those on the street.
In 1991, four years later, the Queen realized that she was facing full-scale rebellion against her royal majesty.
One night, at the Balmoral annual royal holiday, Diana & Fergie went for a spin in the Queen Mother’s Daimler with a four wheel-drive Estate vehicle. Then they raced along private roads.
Another occasion saw them take a quadbike and race over the course to the finish, speeding the greens.
They were plotting together to end their marriages.
They even took it in turns to bend their mother-in-law’s ear about their marital problems — ‘the kind of chats,’ according to a former servant, ‘the Queen had come to dread’.
Diana had an affair with Major James Hewitt at the time, and Fergie was with Steve Wyatt while Fergie was still five months pregnant.
During their relationship, she’d arranged for the head of Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organisation to pay a private visit to Buckingham Palace — sometime between Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the start of the first Gulf War.
The duchess was accompanied by her American lover and he shared dinner.
After the Queen was made aware of Fergie’s reckless behavior, Sir Robert Fellowes (Queen’s Private Secretary) summoned Fergie for a formal dress-down.
He told her that she had abused her Majesty’s kindness and her power to say so, highlighting his full authority as the Monarch to do this to her.
Fergie asked her mom-in-law on Sunday why she was given this tongue-lashing.
The Queen chose to ignore the Duchess and pretend ignorance, rather than face her.
Her refusal to accept the help of extended relatives, even when they were in wrong, enraged senior executives.
The next thing was that it became clear that Fergie’s boyfriend had started a relationship also with Lesley Player, a polo playing businesswoman, who happened to also be Fergie’s mistress, Major Ronald Ferguson.
Soon after, Fergie had another affair with Wyatt’s financial advisor, John Bryan.
She was now content with her marriage, and thought of Diana leaving the royal family at the same moment.
But, The Princess was not satisfied.
Unbeknown to Fergie, Diana was secretly working with me — via an intermediary — on a no-holds-barred biography of her life in which she openly discussed her eating disorder, her half-hearted suicide attempts and her husband’s adultery.
She kept complaining to Charles about his behavior.
Her real desire was to have her conduct ignored and for her mother to make a sham of her son for cheating on Camilla.
The Queen had to face many tantrums, tears, and embarrassment during her numerous interactions with Diana.
But, she acknowledged that Charles wasn’t in the right direction, that Charles could act strangely and out of control.
Fergie, Andrew and the Queen made an official appointment in January 1992 for a discussion about their unsuccessful five year marriage.
The Monarch gave the couple the riot act, and they were persuaded to continue their marriage for another six months.
They agreed — in part, Fergie reflected later, because they’d never seen her looking so sad.
Unfortunately, Her Majesty’s wish for reconciliation was crushed within weeks after photos of the duchess holidaying with Steve Wyatt were published.
Prince Philip for his part stated that he did not want to go back in the same room with Fergie.
Earl Spencer, Diana’s father, died unexpectedly in March after suffering a sudden heart attack. He was with Charles and his sons while Diana was skiing in Austria.
After being told of her husband’s death, she refused to come home and said that she did not want to be part of a hypocritical show.
Only after Queen Elizabeth II called Windsor and insisted the couple present a united front, did she relent.
In June 1992 the dam burst with publication of Diana: Her True Story.
When it was first serialised — under the front-page headline ‘Diana driven to five suicide bids by ‘uncaring’ Charles’ — the response was explosive.
Diana declined to sign a statement in the palace denouncing this book for being inaccurate or distorted.
Fergie said that Queen Elizabeth’s anger “wounded” her core (Pictured). Diana, Princess Of Wales (L), dressed in a navy and white silk striped suit by Roland Klein, with a Philip Somerville hat, attended Royal Ascot (June 18, 1987) at Ascot.
However, she also lied about it to her private secretary.
As far as the Queen was concerned, this marriage could not conceivably end in the divorce courts — so she steeled herself for a meeting at Windsor with Diana and Charles.
It was frustrating and tiring.
The Queen insisted that the Waleses give their marriage extra time and try to make peace with their differences.
Privately, though, Charles and Diana had already agreed to separate — so the Princess was horrified when her husband agreed to his mother’s proposal.
Fergie was the next to be fired.
Diana sent a text message to a friend via his pager messenger: “The redhead is in trouble,”
It was a long-range paparazzi photo of the Duchess of York looking on as her financial adviser John Bryan sucked her toes while she looked on.
The story broke while Fergie — now formally separated from Andrew — was at Balmoral to discuss access arrangements for the children.
The rest of the Royal Family studiously examined the tabloid stories at the table as she sat down to breakfast.
This was quite an embarrassment even for her.
In her autobiography, she recalls that porridge was starting to get cold. . . My true self was exposed. Worthless. Unfit. It is a national shame.
Furious, she called her mother-inlaw to summon her to her sitting area.
Andrew had divorced his wife, but it didn’t matter. The Queen was worried that Fergie had retained a royal title and was called ‘Her Royal Hness’. Her behavior exposed the monarchy’s contempt.
She was uncharacteristically cold when the Queen listed the mistakes of the duchess as well as the damages she did to the institution.
Her son was made to look like a fool, she said to be deeply disturbed.
Fergie later recalled that the Queen’s anger — so rarely expressed — had ‘wounded me to the core’.
Family scandals that were almost every week strained the Queen’s ability to remain calm.
Balmoral’s most senior courtier said she looked ‘grey and flat. She was absolutely horrible.
The music was Diana’s next challenge three days later when she published a recording of her conversation with James Gilbey via her cell phone.
Gilbey affectionately called her ‘Squidgy’ during the late-night chat. This led to this new scandal being nicknamed ‘Squidgygate.
Diana criticized Prince Charles, Fergie and Queen Mother in the secretly taped conversation.
She said that her husband made her life “real and real torture.”
Additionally, she felt that the Royal Family didn’t appreciate her for all of their efforts.
Although not quite as embarrassing as Fergie’s photos, the Squidgygate tape severely compromised the Princess.
The next blow came when Diana declined to accompany her husband on the first ever royal visit to South Korea — even when her mother-in-law implored her to change her mind.
After a coordinated campaign from Prince Charles and the Queen, she agreed to leave.
It was not worth it: South Korea’s royal couple couldn’t even smile and their tour was called a failure.
Opinion polls showed a growing dissatisfaction among the masses with the monarchy in this turbulent time.
Many Church leaders also criticized the Royal Family’s failure to lead a healthy family life.
In the midst of this, Windsor Castle — the Queen’s home for most of her life — caught fire, leaving her utterly devastated.
Prince Charles made an angry call to end a terrible year.
William and Harry were scheduled to attend the Sandringham shooting party.
Diana however insisted on taking her boys to Windsor.
A phone conversation later, the Prince informed his mother that this was it.
She advised patience once again but Charles was at the end of his rope.
He shouted: “Don’t she realize that she’s mad mad mad?” Then he slammed on the telephone.
Reluctantly, the Queen was coming to accept that a separation — the solution that Diana had been arguing in favour of for months — was the only workable way forward.
Captain James Hewitt is presented by Princess Diana with the Captain & Subalterns cup after he led an army polo squad to victory at Tidworth, in 1989.
The mood of the Sovereign was observed by a clergyman who knows her for many years.
“She was feeling that everything was falling away, that terrible things were occurring, and that it would end soon.
“In a way, she felt like she was losing her control.” This was the sum of all her personal tragedies.
Diana made an appointment at Buckingham Palace to visit the Queen just days after her separation announcement.
She cried so hard that she couldn’t breathe as everyone tried to stop her from entering the suite of the Sovereign.
“The Queen did not know what to do,” recalled a lady in waiting.
“She’s hated these kinds of emotions since childhood and hasn’t had to confront them in the past.
The flames were lit at Prince Charles’s feet in the early part of the next year.
“Just when you thought that things could not get any worse, they did. . .’ According to legend, the Queen made wearily.
Camilla and Prince were captured having a chat with Camilla in the Camillagate tapes. He talked about his desire to become a tampon within his lover.
The majority of people believed Diana to be a mistress, even if they didn’t believe it before.
Over the following years, the “War of the Waleses” consumed the media. It also agitated the Queen.
Everybody hid behind Diana to avoid further harming the now-defunct institution.
Contrary to the advice of her sisters and mother, the Queen attempted to keep Princess Anne in the fold while still hopeful for reconciliation between Charles and his wife.
Although other Royal Family members had left her, she continued to be there for the Princess and was always concerned about her health.
She would occasionally call Princess Kensington Palace to make sure she was okay.
The Queen hosted a banquet for the President of Portugal in honor of Diana in late April 1993.
Charles was furious to learn the news.
The Queen even invited Diana to Sandringham, despite the fact that the couple was officially divorced for twelve months.
She would always make sure to clear her calendar if the Princess wanted William or Harry to Gan-Gan (as the boys called her) for afternoon tea.
Diana found these meetings very helpful.
She insisted that Charles would never ask her for a divorce and hoped the Queen would encourage Charles to initiate it.
The Monarch was not deterred by her attempts to fix the marriage.
In November 1995 Diana, the BBC Panorama host, spoke out about Diana’s husband’s infidelity, her belief that King wasn’t fit for the “top job” and her longing to be the queen of all people’s hearts.
The Princess found her interview inexcusable. Diana had crossed a line — notably in challenging the Sovereign by speaking of herself as a ‘queen’ of hearts, and by articulating her doubts about Charles’s fitness to be King.
Something had to be done for the benefit of the monarchy as well as the grandchildren.
The following month, the Queen sent Diana a handwritten note saying she’d consulted with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister and Charles — ‘and we have decided that the best course for you is divorce’.
This was an important decision.
The Queen’s prevarication policy had, in the end only served to prolong a marital dispute and do long-term damage to the Crown.
Adapted by Corinna Honan from The Queen by Andrew Morton, published by Michael O’Mara on May 24 at £20
To order a copy for £18 (offer valid until May 28, 2022; UK P&P free on orders over £20), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937