A 36-year-old piece of cake, a signed photo of John Travolta, resort keys and a used bar of soap.
These are items proudly owned by a 44-year-old Florida man who has been collecting memorabilia of Princess Diana for most of his life.
John Hoatson’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is filled with more than 13,000 pieces of Princess Di-related memorabilia. In 2011, a museum valued his collection at $500,000.
Hoatson is the alumni director at Keiser University. Outside the school grounds, he devotes his time to Princess Diana.
Early on the morning of July 29, 1981, then-eight-year-old Hoatson was planted in front of the TV to watch Lady Diana marry Prince Charles.
His mother said it was something he needed to see ‘for historical purposes.’
‘I fell in love with Diana right then. She was the prettiest person in the world,’ Hoatson told DailyMail.com. ‘I followed her entire life. I loved her humanitarian work. I had a photo of her on my nightstand throughout college.’
John Hoatson is pictured holding photo from private tea with Sarah, Duchess of York in 2005. The photo was given to the Duchess of York in 2006 to autograph
Hoatson’s collection includes a piece of cake from the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The box was signed by Diana’s bridesmaids India Hicks and Clementine Hambro. Hambro was five years old at the time of the wedding
A framed photograph shows Diana dancing with John Travolta at the White House in 1985. Travolta signed the image
Princess Diana brought this bar of soap back from a trip to Barbuda in 1997. She gave it to her friend Simone Simmons, who gave it to Hoatson. The keys are from the suite where Diana stayed at the K Club
A spotlight illuminates a portrait of Diana in Hoatson’s home. It sits atop a glass case filled with trinkets
Hoatson fell in love with Diana when he watched her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981
Diana is pictured the 1983 royal tour in Toronto, Canada. ‘She was the prettiest person in the world,’ Hoatson said
Hoatson went to England in 1996 and tried to see the Princess of Wales, but was ‘always one step ahead of or behind her’.
She died the following year in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.
‘It was kind of like losing a family member,’ he said. ‘After the initial reports said she was injured I sat up all night long. When it came across that she had passed, I didn’t believe it.’
‘I drove to the local convenience store at four or five am and saw one of the earliest morning newspapers had the headline “Diana Dead”. That’s when it really hit me,’ he said.
Hoatson doesn’t see any merit in the conspiracy theories surrounding Diana’s death.
‘I think the hardest part was “how does the most famous woman in the world die in such an ordinary way?”‘ he said. ‘That was the most shocking part.’
Following Diana’s death, Hoatson decided to take his collection in a more personal direction.
He started by writing to people who knew Diana with the hope of gathering signatures, along with remembrances. The internet was just taking off, so he Google searched for various people in her life to track them down.
More often than not, people obliged his requests. To his surprise, many started sending other items.
Her friend and confidante Simone Simmons sent signed birthday cards, Diana’s T-shirt and a notepad Diana got when she vacationed at the K Club in Barbuda in 1996.
She also gave him a bar of soap from that trip that Diana had washed her hands with.
Simmons and Hoatson still talk every day.
‘It’s been a labor of love. I’ve gotten to connect with so many people who knew her. The collection really shows the personal side of her,’ he said.
Pictured above is a zipper from the dress Diana wore to the 1985 premiere of the film Back to the Future along with two sequins from another dress she wore
The box pictured above contains a piece of fruitcake from the royal wedding in 1981. John said he has never tasted the cake
Pictured above is a sketch of the famous ‘revenge dress’ that Diana wore after she and Prince Charles separated and he announced that he had committed adultery. Designer Christina Stambolian signed the sketch for Hoatson
Hoatson fell in love with Diana when he watched her wedding to Prince Charles as an eight-year-old
Henry Kissinger signed this photo of him and Princess Diana specifically for John Hoatson. It was taken at the Christies dress preview in 1997
Diana is pictured at a Christies Dress Auction Preview in 1997 in New York with Lord Baron Hindlip, the company’s CEO and auctioneer that night. Hindlip signed the photograph for John Hoatson
The cards above contain specific instructions for guests at Lady Diana and Prince Charles’s wedding in 1981
A floor plan of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London shows where guests sat during Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding
Hoatson says the market for Diana items is busy because the 20th anniversary of her death is at the end of this month. However he thinks that people gifted items to him because they knew they could trust him with her legacy.
‘People know I’m not going to sell any of it,’ he said. ‘That’s not what this is about.’
Hoatson’s favorite item is the slice of fruitcake from Diana and Charles’s wedding. The box is signed by two of Diana’s bridesmaids, India Hicks and Clemmie Hambro. He said it’s probably the most expensive piece of the collection.
People often ask Hoatson if he’s tried any of the cake, but he hasn’t.
‘It’s 36-year-old fruitcake, and it looks really bad,’ he said.
Hoatson also loves the letters and cards.
‘She was a huge card writer,’ he said. ‘I have an engagement letter from right after she was engaged to Charles. It’s signed “Lady Diana”.’
The collection includes a Christmas card with a photo of Di and Prince Charles, signed by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
This is the birthday card given to chauffeur Steve Davis from Diana and young Prince Harry
Pictured above is an engagement letter signed by Lady Diana Spencer on Buckingham Palace Stationary
Pictured in the top left is an invitation to a BBQ at Highgrove written in Diana’s handwriting. This invitation was from Trevor Jacobs, a gardener at Highgrove House. In the top right is a handwritten thank you letter from the Lord Chamberlain to Delores Monreal for all of her help coordinating the Royal Wedding details. Bottom left is a special Christmas Card from the Prince and Princess of Wales
Hoatson doesn’t have his eye on anything right now, but he is always looking for new items.
‘As a collector you know whats out there that you would like to have. I look for the affordable things, and make sure what I do find is needed for the collection,’ he said. ‘As time goes on since her death it’s going to get harder and harder to find things.’
‘I always have to keep it in check. It’s sometimes tough to remember that you have to live, too,’ he added.
As his collection grows, he has had to start sticking photographs on the ceiling to make space in his home.
Hoatson said he couldn’t possibly estimate the amount of money he’s spent on the collection in the last 36 years. He did, however, say it was nowhere near $500,000.
‘I’ve seen signed pictures of her, and people are asking $20,000, or cards are going for $8,000. I don’t like people who are trying to cash in on her,’ he said.
‘Memorabilia should be affordable because that’s what she would have wanted,’ he said.
Hoatson estimates that a little less than half of the collection was gifted to him. The remaining items were bought on Ebay, at auctions, or just whenever he came across them.
The weirdest item in his collection, he said, is a knife with her picture on the blade. He found it in Tampa shortly after her death.
Hoatson said that when he ran out of space he started hanging photographs on his ceiling
This chair is part of a furniture collection made in the style of Diana’s family home the Althorp estate. It was signed by her brother Charles Spencer when he visited Tampa, Florida to promote the furniture collection
The photo above was taken by Mario Testino. It hangs in Hoatson’s living room next to other pieces of Diana memorabilia
He said that there was a drought in coverage of Diana in recent years, and he’s happy that it has increased in 2017 because of the 20th anniversary of her death.
In 2010, Hoatson displayed his collection in a museum in Branson, Missouri, along with a few of her dresses. Unfortunately the location wasn’t great, so the museum was closed after a year.
He currently has a few items on loan at an exhibit in Long Beach, California.
Hoatson said he has noticed a change in the younger generation.
‘I was in a store and I told the cashier that I had a 13,000-piece collection of Princess Diana items and she said “Who’s that?” Sometimes I forget that this generation didn’t grow up with her the way I did.’
Hoatson attended the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
He is excited that William, Kate, Harry, George and Charlotte are carrying on the royal legacy.
Hoatson looks adoringly up at a tapestry of Diana, who is pictured at an armistice service in Paris in November 1988
Diana is photographed walking in a mine field. This photo was signed by Guy Willoughby, former CEO of the Halo Trust, who is barely visible in the left of the picture
Hoatson has several items from when Prince Charles and Princess Diana went on their world tour in 1983
A large wedding banner of young Diana and Charles hangs in John Hoatson’s house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
This is a presentation photo of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1992. Hoatson said it is sad to see the separation between the two of them in the photograph
Hoatson has been collecting Princess Diana memorabilia for 36 years
An invitation for the wedding breakfast following the main event on Wednesday, July 29, 1981, is pictured left. A table plan for the luncheon marked for guest Michael Pattison is pictured right
The card pictured is a personalized piece of the invitations to the royal wedding in 1981
Pictured above is a notice referring to the special telephone that was installed in St. Paul’s Cathedral for the wedding. This notice once belonged to Delores Monreal, coordinator of the Royal Wedding
Pictured above is a menu booklet from Charles and Diana’s honeymoon flight from London to Gibraltar. This was donated to the collection by one of the stewards on the flight
Pictured above is an invitation to the wedding reception on the night of Diana’s wedding, addressed to Dolores Monreal
The list above shows where each international ambassador was seated during Diana’s wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral