Diana and Philip’s relationship: Duke wanted ‘record set straight’

Diana ‘would never have left royal family’ says Paul Burrell

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Diana, Princess of Wales died tragically in a car crash 25 years ago today. Her death rocked a nation that called the royal ‘The People’s Princess’. It came after a tumultuous period for Diana, whose divorce from Prince Charles had been finalised just a year before. 

The Prince and Princess of Wales had announced their separation in 1992, but Queen Elizabeth II was reluctant to permit their divorce as the head of the Church of England — a position that Charles was destined to take over. 

Diana and Charles had endured turbulent marriage in the years prior, with allegations of adultery surfacing in relation to both parties. 

It has previously been reported that Diana’s relationship with her father-in-law Prince Philip became strained at this time, particularly when the breakdown of the Waleses’ marriage became public knowledge. 

However, a royal expert and acquaintance of members of the Royal Family has recently discussed their relationship, which he claims was actually the “reverse” of previous reports. 

Gyles Brandreth, a broadcaster and author, spoke about the relationship between Diana and Philip on an episode of the To Di For Daily podcast last week.

Host Kinsey Schofield mentioned Mr Brandreth’s book ‘Philip: The Final Portrait’, which talks about Diana and Philip’s relationship. 

Ms Schofield said the author talks “specifically about how protective he [was] — they were both outsiders and he was very protective of Diana, especially in the Eighties”.

Mr Brandreth was “lucky to get to know the Duke of Edinburgh” and published the biography in 2021 with the prince’s blessing. He said Philip was “happy for him to set the record straight on the matter of him and Diana”.

During the special commemoratory episode of the To Di For Daily podcast, Mr Brandreth delved further into the bond the prince shared with his daughter-in-law. 

He explained: “He [Philip] understood the challenges of royalty. And I think he was very sympathetic to Diana. 

“Obviously, like every father, he would have wanted his son’s marriage to have worked and I know it frustrated him in the years when it wasn’t working and when all of that became public. 

“There were newspapers saying he had been tough on her — written her letters that had made her cry — and this was the reverse of the truth.”

Mr Brandreth continued: “In point of fact, he wanted to be helpful. He was a pragmatist, not a romantic. He once said that was the difference between him and Prince Charles…

“He was very much a practical person. He wrote several letters to Diana, really saying: ‘How can I help? What can we do?’

“And I think he sat down with them both, saying: ‘Actually work out what is working and what isn’t working. And try to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work.’

“So I think he and the Queen did, in practical ways, try to be helpful.” 

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Having married into the Royal Family in 1947, Philip understood Diana’s difficulties of being an “outsider” in Britain’s most famous family. 

His letter writing was a gentle approach to influencing the princess to work on her marriage with Charles. 

Philip signed the letters “Pa” and even sympathised with Diana’s marital plight. In one of his notes, he said his son “was silly to risk everything with Camilla”.

He added: “We never dreamed that he might feel like leaving you for her. I cannot imagine anyone in their right mind leaving you for Camilla. Such a prospect never entered our heads.”

In another letter, Philip offered to do everything he could to save the marriage, saying: “If invited, I will always do my utmost to help you and Charles to the best of my ability. 

“But I am quite ready to concede that I have no talent as a marriage counsellor.”

However, despite the Duke’s apparent efforts, the letters failed to heal the rift between the Prince and Princess of Wales. 

Four years after their separation was announced, Charles and Diana divorced with the Queen’s blessing. 

Ingrid Seward, author of ‘Prince Philip Revealed: A Man of His Century’, claimed the relationship between Diana and Philip did begin to crumble at this time.

In her book, she said: “[Philip] realised that Diana’s behaviour was having a detrimental effect on the institute of the monarchy.”

Diana, meanwhile, “came to dislike Prince Philp as she found him impossible to deal with”.

Ms Seward continued: “’He might be entertaining as a dinner guest’ [Diana] explained, ‘but as a father-in-law, he was too judgmental.’”

Eleven of the letters between the princess and Philip were revealed during the 2007/2008 inquest into the tragic deaths of Diana and her partner Dodi Al-Fayed. 

The inquest heard that by 1994 and 1995, Philip’s letters to Diana were of a very different tone.

Her friend, psychic Simone Simmons, told the inquiry Diana showed her “two letters that really upset her”.

However, some of the correspondence showed Diana had appreciated the letters from her father-in-law.

In a reply to the Duke’s “marriage counsellor” letter, Diana wrote: “Dearest Pa, I was particularly touched by your most recent letter, which proved to me, if I did not already know it, that you really do care. 

“You are very modest about your marriage guidance skills, and I disagree with you!”

Another said: “I was so pleased to receive your letter, and particularly so to read that you are desperately anxious to help.”

The princess also said she appreciated her father-in-law’s “great understanding and tact” — qualities Philip did not often show in public. 

She signed off all of her letters to the prince with endearments such as “with my fondest love”.

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