Princess Diana Once Stunned the Royal Family into Silence Over Christmas Dinner at Sandringham with This Comment

“The rest of the royal family looked at her as if she were mad,” biographer Andrew Morton writes.

Princess Diana in 1996
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Royal biographer Omid Scobie’s latest, Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival, questions the validity of the monarchy, but he’s certainly not the first to do it. Long before he did in his book (which is out November 28), a member of the family herself asked about the Firm’s relevance—in a very awkward setting.

Princess Diana stunned the royal family into silence during a particularly tense Christmas dinner, The Mirror reports, when she decided to start a debate over its relevance. “She is believed to have raised the question as to whether the royals would remain pertinent in a federal Europe, leaving the likes of the Queen and husband Prince Charles shocked,” the outlet reports. 

80s icons Diana

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Andrew Morton writes in his book Diana: Her True Story that the royal family members with her at Sandringham brushed over her comments during the meal: “The Queen, Prince Charles, and the rest of the royal family looked at her as if she were mad, and continued with their debate on who shot the last pheasant of the day, a discussion which occupied the rest of the evening,” Morton writes. (Though the film Spencer is largely fictional, it’s set during the traditional Christmas at Sandringham—which Diana was known to dislike, as “Diana’s strained relationship with the royal family has been well-documented,” The Mirror reports.)

Kate Middleton and Princess Diana wearing similar outfits

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Morton’s book continues “As a friend says: ‘She finds the monarchy claustrophobic and completely outdated with no relevance to today’s life and problems. She feels that it is a crumbling institution and believes that the family won’t know what has hit it in a few years’ time unless it changes, too.'” (Keep in mind Morton’s book came out in 1992—31 years ago.)

After marrying in 1981, Charles and Diana separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996 after 15 years of marriage. Royal expert Ingrid Seward said in her book The Queen and Di: The Untold Story that, on the day their marriage ended, Diana poignantly asked Charles, while the two were in a first-floor drawing room at Kensington Palace, “Why did this have to happen?” 

Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Balmoral

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Diana died just 368 days after her divorce was finalized, in a Parisian car accident on August 31, 1997. She was 36 years old.

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.