A Newly Discovered Letter Sheds Light on the Queen’s Reaction to Princess Diana’s Death

She called the tragedy “dreadfully sad.”

The Queen and Princess Diana
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Diana’s death was a tragedy that shook the world, and the royal family was certainly no exception. At the time, the Queen reluctance to make an immediate public statement—and to mourn openly—was met with harsh criticism, but she too was dealing with a profound loss. And, as ABC News reports, a newly-surfaced letter sheds some light on her grief.

The letter was written in response to condolences from Lady Henriette Abel Smith, a lady in waiting and close confidante to the Queen. Most of the letter was typed, but there was a written postscript. The letter was obtained by the Daily Mail after it was auctioned off following Lady Abel Smith’s death in 2005.

"It was indeed dreadfully sad, and she is a huge loss to the country,” the Queen wrote in the typed portion, which may have been more of a form letter. “But the public reaction to her death, and the service in the Abbey, seem to have united people round the world in a rather inspiring way. She also talked about the strength of her grandchildren during the traumatic time: “William and Harry have been so brave and I am very proud of them.”

But it was the written postscript, clearly with a more casual, familiar tone, that reflected her emotional response to the horrific event. "I think your letter was one of the first I opened—emotions are still so mixed up but we have all been through a very bad experience,” the monarch wrote.

The Queen, and much of the royal family, were criticized at the time for not showing enough emotion after Diana’s death. But this letter makes it clear that her grief was deeply felt in private.

Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.