Princess Diana devotees gather at the gates of Kensington Palace to mark 22 years after her death

Petronella Wyatt 


‘A few years after Diana and Dodi died, I was supposed to interview Mohamed Al-Fayed for this newspaper. I had gone to his flat in Park Lane. He opened the door, shook my hand but declined to do the interview after all (he was notoriously capricious). However, he said he would like to show me something, but I was not to write about it.

‘The ‘something’ turned out to be Dodi’s flat, which was next door to his own. I was horrified by the sight of it. It was the creepiest, most unnatural thing I had ever seen, like something out of Edgar Allan Poe. 

‘Nothing had been touched since Dodi had last left it. There were his cigar butts in filmy ashtrays, and mouldy half-eaten chocolates in dishes on tables with plastic coverings. Dodi’s shoes were on the floor and some of his clothes lay about. A maid made the bed all the time, as if Dodi was about to get back into it. Pyjamas were laid out on the pillow. The place smelt of decay and preservative.

Michael Whitlam, former director general of the British Red Cross, said: ‘Since her death, I’ve had to look back many, many times on the ten years or so that I knew Diana, and think: ‘What kind of person was she? Was she a helpful, positive person?’ And she gets nine out of ten most times’

‘And Diana was everywhere. It was as if Fayed had married them in death. Ghastly chocolate-box paintings of her (some full-length) covered the walls. 

‘God knows who had done them, but they were hideous. She and Dodi grinned out of them holding hands (I think in one, she wore a ring), or she stood alone in a floaty pastel confection like something out of a Barbara Cartland romance — nothing like she was in real life. 

‘Fayed showed me around this fantastical shrine, room by room, as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. He even turned to a maid to make sure she was making Dodi’s bed properly.

‘For the first time I pitied him. I thought he had literally gone mad with grief.’

Michael Whitlam

Former director general of the British Red Cross

‘Since her death, I’ve had to look back many, many times on the ten years or so that I knew Diana, and think: ‘What kind of person was she? Was she a helpful, positive person?’ And she gets nine out of ten most times. 

Yes, there were occasions when she wasn’t feeling particularly happy and where she and I might have had a difference of view. 

But across the time, she — as all the Royal Family who get involved in charitable work do — added greatly to the charity’s ability to do its job. And from that point of view, those who criticise are probably criticising for reasons best known to themselves.’

Patrick Jephson

Former private secretary

‘It’s too soon to say if she has changed the Royal Family, but the evidence so far is that she will definitely live on. She will always be a significant historical figure. 

This is all the more apparent when you travel and see that she is still, for many people, the prism through which the monarchy is viewed. I think that will continue down the generations. 

There are elements in Britain who would be happy for her to be forgotten because there will be a different queen consort now. I think that’s a minority.’

David Sassoon

Fashion designer

‘There is a definite Diana legacy — her children, and the behaviour of the young royals has become much more relaxed, outgoing and warm. She was a compassionate, caring woman. 

What she did that is most extraordinary is that she changed the face of royal behaviour, she made it warmer, more intimate and more caring. 

There is no question that the old guard of royals were very formal; she was a breath of fresh air. 

The new, young generation have so much to thank her for because that’s how their behaviour is today. 

You wouldn’t get William and Harry doing what they do if their mother hadn’t set the formula for future royalty. The other person who has learned from her is Charles.’

Bishop Hugh Montefiore

The late Bishop of Birmingham

‘He who had been vastly unpopular when his wife was alive was becoming vastly popular within a couple of years of her death. It’s extraordinary, the volatility of public opinion.

‘For some reason, the media have decided to boost Prince Charles. But there is also a feeling, now that some of the truth about Diana is coming out, that he was as much sinned against as sinning.

‘And the realisation of the quite wonderful work he has done with the Prince’s Trust, which is generally not known as it should have been, has done more for the young, unemployed in this country than any government, or any other group of people.

‘And the number of causes he’s championed is really splendid, and this is beginning to percolate.’