Princess Diana was planning to move to the United States without her sons just weeks before she died, one of her former bodyguards claims.
In his memoir, Protecting Diana: A Bodyguard’s Story, Lee Sansum recounts how the princess was about to tell the paparazzi of her plans to move to America in an effort to protect William and Harry from the press as they vacationed with her boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, in St Tropez in July 1997.
The family was staying on businessman Mohammed Al-Fayed’s luxury yacht as paparazzi swarmed the boat daily, according to Sansum, who looked over the royals during their trip.
‘The press were the bane of her life everywhere, not just in St. Tropez,’ Sansum writes. ‘And she said to me, “There is nothing I can do in the UK. The papers there attack me no matter what I do.”
‘Then she told me: “I want to go to the US and live there so I can get away from it all. At least in America, they like me and will leave me alone.”‘
At that point, Sansum said he remembers asking Diana if her sons would be joining her, to which she explained she would never be allowed to take them from their royal duties.
If she moved, Diana reportedly said, ‘I will probably only be able to see them in the school holidays.’
As Sansum writes in his memoir: ‘You could tell Diana was a wonderful mother, so loving and attentive to her two boys, but it looked as if she might have to leave them both behind in the UK to escape from the press, who hounded her relentlessly every single day of her life.
‘It was also to free them from all the attention they got when she was with them.’
Finally, after a few days into the vacation, Sansum writes, Diana announced she was off to tell the press she was leaving the UK for good.
‘I was alarmed because if we thought the press pack outside was huge now, just for her holiday, it would probably go up ten-fold if she gave them a story as big as this one,’ Sansum recounts.
‘The place would be swarming with paps, desperate to get pictures of the princess who was about to leave it all behind to run off to America.’
Sansum said the princess did, indeed, go talk to the press that day — but did not wind up saying anything about a potential move to the US.
Despite her complaints about the press, Diana was known for collaborating with preferred reporters and photographers, and would often tip them off as to her whereabouts if she wanted to be photographed.
In Sansum’s book, the former military contractor fights back against claims that Diana was mentally unstable in the weeks leading up to her August 1997 death in a Paris car crash which also killed Dodi.
‘I can tell you that I spent 10 days close to her, and she was one of the most balanced people I have ever met,’ Sansum writes, adding: ‘I ought to know. I am trained to spot if someone is unbalanced, it’s part of my job.
‘You look for signs that people give when they are under stress because it means they might be about to do something,’ he explained, but noted: ‘Diana wasn’t excessively angry or out of control. She was normal and very deliberate.’
Sansum also dismisses claims that her relationship with Dodi Al-Fayed was just a summer fling to make her ex-boyfriend, Dr Hasnat Khan, jealous.
‘They were really friendly and affectionate towards one another,’ Sansum said of the princess’s relationship with the film producer. ‘The guys on the security team all thought it was game on and would develop into a serious relationship.
‘You wouldn’t see the kissing in public, so some people misread that as if it wasn’t a romantic relationship,’ he notes, ‘but her boys were often around and the paparazzi were always there too, so that naturally made them more cautious and less demonstrative to one another.
Sansum went on to write that it was just by chance he was not assigned to look after Diana and Dodi as they spent time in Paris at the end of August 1997.
Instead, he writes, his good friend Trevor Rees-Jones was tasked with the job and was badly injured in the car accident that killed driver Henri Paul, Dodi and Diana.
Paul had been speeding as he drove under the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in an effort to outrun photographers who had been following their vehicle.
Sansum described the princess in his book as ‘one of the nicest people you could meet.
‘She was lovely, in fact, just a normal person who clearly loved her boys,’ he wrote.