Former Palace Press Secretary Recalls Princess Diana Frantically Calling Him at 5 a.m. the Day Andrew Morton’s Bombshell Biography About Her Came Out, Seemingly Questioning Her Decision to Participate In the Project

“I told her it couldn’t be undone now,” Dickie Arbiter said of the infamous 1992 tell-all.

Princess Diana
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to legendary former employees of the Royal Household, Dickie Arbiter—a former press secretary at the Palace—comes immediately to mind. Arbiter worked for the royal family for 12 years, until 2000, and in that time saw the disintegration of the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and their separation in 1992, their divorce ultimately being finalized in 1996, and Diana’s death in a Parisian car accident in 1997. 

90s beauty - princess diana

Diana apparently initially regretted her participation in Morton's bombshell "Diana: Her True Story," released in 1992 to much fanfare.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

And that’s only the beginning, really, as Arbiter was also around for the 1992 release of Andrew Morton’s bombshell book Diana: Her True Story, which, at the time of its publication, was thought to be a biography of the Princess of Wales—but turned out to be more of an autobiography, as Diana participated in it heavily. (She sent tapes via a third party to Morton, answering questions that helped shape the book.) During his tenure with the Firm from 1988 to 2000, Arbiter served Queen Elizabeth, Charles, and Diana and, per The Daily Mail, recalled a 5 a.m. crisis call from Diana and the advice Arbiter gave her after Morton’s tell-all was released.

Diana was anxious about the press coverage of the book, and in her panic-stricken call in the wee hours of the morning, Arbiter said “Diana called me at 5 a.m. asking what she should do, and I told her it couldn’t be undone now,” he told The Telegraph. On the day the book was released, Arbiter went to Charing Cross station to pick up the morning newspapers and said he was “gobsmacked” by what Diana had said. 

Dickie Arbiter

Arbiter at Trooping the Colour in 1992.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Arbiter also told Diana to keep a low profile ahead of her royal engagement at Ashworth Hospice in Liverpool a couple of days later: “[I told her to] just to keep schtum, not answer her phone, and I would accompany her on her next engagement two days later to keep people at bay,” Arbiter said. 

As she visited the Liverpool hospital in June 1992, Diana “was visibly distressed and broke down in tears as she returned to her car,” The Daily Mail reports.

The separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales wasn’t made public until after the publication of the book, and “the revelations—condemned by many as sensationalist—were so damaging for the royals’ public image that many book shops and supermarkets banned it, totally unaware that Diana was the main source behind the work,” according to The Daily Mail. The book included revelations about Diana confronting the then Camilla Parker-Bowles about her longstanding affair with Charles, and Diana’s—in her words—“ridiculous” 1981 wedding to the future king. 

Princess Diana In Argentina.

Diana's participation in Morton's book wasn't fully known until after her death in 1997.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Diana: Her True Story sold more than 5 million copies in 1992, and in it “Diana detailed her marital health struggles and the breakdown of her marriage to King Charles,” The Daily Mail writes. Morton released Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words just months after her death in 1997, and the book featured transcripts of their conversations, officially outing her as the main source material of the bombshell book.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.