Osteopath and friend: On an early-morning visit to my office, she found me giving a cup of tea to one of the local homeless I have come to know. She got out of her car and came over to him, shaking his hand and telling him she was glad I looked after him so well. She said I also looked after her, but that she was never given a cup of tea. His eyes filled with tears as he said, “Thank you. You’ve made a gentleman of me again.”
Guitarist, Queen: The last time I saw her was at a luncheon for the Lighthouse, an AIDS hospice in London. That morning the papers had this image from a supposed video of her with her legs up in the air, riding around on the back of a man. It was a fake, but even so, if that’s your first thing in the morning, well, you or I would have stayed in bed. Not her. She must have been hurt, but it never showed. She breezed in all smiles. I asked her, “How do you do it?” She shrugged, gave a little smile, then said, “I don’t know. Some days are easier than others.”
She was someone who listened to people. Someone who opened her heart. But you always felt that she was very alone. I always felt, “This is a person I’d like to know better.” I often thought I’d like to hug her or invite her around to tea. Now I wish I had.
Seamstress who hand-stitched Diana’s wedding gown: She was so sweet, so shy. When she first came to see me, she didn’t want to take off her clothes so I could take her measurements. I told her if she didn’t, the dress would be too big, so she did. As I was pinning the pattern to her, I could tell it was very new for her, to be fitted. When she tried the gown on for the first time, she got very emotional and cried.
Singer: I had a dressing room across the hall from her at a charity concert for Bosnian children in 1995 in Italy. She was unbelievably gracious. She talked about my last record, she asked about my children. She even told me she’d been to a couple of my concerts in London. I said, “Oh, jeez, I didn’t know that. Nobody ever told me.” And she goes, “Well, we have ways of getting in.”
Oscar de la Renta
Designer: I was seated next to her at a charity luncheon in England. For the first half hour she talked to the lady next to her and never turned to me. A friend at another table sent me a note that said, “We are all noticing what a hit you are with the Princess of Wales.” Finally she turned to me and took my hand and said, “You know, I’ve wanted to talk to you for such a long time but was too shy.” I showed her the note and she roared with laughter. She said, “Well, now we have to create a completely different impression,” and for the rest of the meal she never talked to anybody else.
Former Headmistress of Silfield School, which Diana attended for two years: I saw her after she was married, when she came down to the King’s Lynn festival and asked to meet me. I thought to myself it would be funny dropping a curtsy to an ex-pupil. But no, she put both hands out. That was Diana. She put people straight at ease. She wouldn’t let me curtsy.
Entrepreneur: She once asked me how I handled the press during my divorce. She said, “You came out of your divorce with dignity and pride, and that’s how I would like to come out of mine.”
Comedian: The day I met her, Prince William had just gone off to Eton, and I said, “Have you redecorated his room yet?” She laughed and said, “I don’t know whether to make it a sauna or a gym.”
Her hairdresser for 10 years: She had a great sense of humor. One time in Venice she was going down the Grand Canal on the royal barge, and she saw a can of hair spray bobbing around. She said to the prince, “Oh, I think Richard has just fallen into the canal.”
I was visiting my parents in Scotland one time when the prince and princess came through town. The whole village turned out to wave at them, and I was telling a farmer to get his cows in when I heard a voice behind me yell, “Richard!” I turned around, and there’s the Princess of Wales hanging out the car window shouting, “Which ones are your mum and dad?” My mother was totally beside herself. She curtsied to the princess and said, “Oh, Your Majesty, it’s so wonderful to meet you.” When I got back to London, the princess told me, “I really love your mother because she thinks I’m already the Queen.”
Sometimes she was really upset. I hated it when she cried. If somebody’s crying, you can put = your hand on their shoulder and say, “Come on, you’ll be fine,” but with her, you couldn’t do that because she was royal.
Founder, AIDS Crisis Trust: She told me a story about how she’d gone walking in the park by herself early one morning and an American boy had come up to her and asked where Harrods was. They walked together and she gave him directions. After a moment, the boy looked at her and said, “Gosh, are you Princess Diana?” She said yes, and he couldn’t believe it. He said, “Would you mind asking that lady over there to take a picture of us together, because my friends won’t believe we went walking together.” She went over to this lady and said, “Would you mind taking a picture of us?” And that lady of course was just amazed.
Designer: She was a very passionate friend. She would show up on my boat in the summer with gifts, mostly great English food. She had an almost childish need to show friendship in the sweetest way.
Codirector of Young England Kindergarten, where Diana worked before the wedding: She was very practical. She was very happy to put on the rubber gloves and settle down to washing up. I remember her doing it once when she came back to see us! Elbowing the lady who was at the sink, saying, “Come on, I can do this.”
Singer: There was a gentle sweetness in her voice, a vulnerability. And she was very straightforward. She looked you straight in the eye. And she was a toucher. I appreciated that in her.
Newswoman: Once or twice she telephoned, and when my office asked who was calling, she would say, kind of shyly, Diana of London. I felt protective of her. I was in London when it was announced that she was doing that interview, and I had lunch with her that day. I asked how her sons would feel about it. She said that she had discussed it with her sons, and what she cared most about was that she did not want people to think that she was this irresponsible, mentally ill person. That was what was uppermost in her mind.
Deputy executive director, English National Ballet: She saw the dancers as real people with real lives. She was interested in their health and careers. Once, at a lunch, we were having a light conversation when she cut right to the chase. She had observed a dancer who she thought was anorexic and she asked, in a determined, respectful way, “What is the company going to do about it?” No one had told her this dancer had a problem. She noticed it.
Chauffeur to London’s Brazilian Embassy, who often drove Lucia Flecha de Lima, the former ambassador’s wife, and her friend Diana: The princess talked to everyone like they were a friend. When she’d come to the embassy, she’d go downstairs to the kitchen to talk to the cook. When she’d drive by the embassy in her own car, she’d sound the horn and stop to wave at me. People were always so surprised to see the Princess of Wales waving to a chauffeur.
Shoe designer: After I had an appointment with her, she always helped me put all the shoes back in my suitcase and carry my case to the car. At first I told her not to come out to the car park because I was embarrassed. I’m not like those designers who drive BMWs. I have an old banger, a 1981 Volkswagen Scirocco. But when she saw it, she said, “Oh, my sister has the same car.”
Founder, Gilda’s Club: We sat together at a luncheon in Chicago in 1996 and were talking about what it was like to be a woman alone. I’d been in New York for five years and hadn’t been asked out on a single date. She reached out and gave me a hug. Everyone in the room was looking at us, wondering what had happened. But it was just the princess showing her kindness and caring.
Five months later, I toured the Royal Marsden cancer hospital in London with her and saw her sit directly on the beds, touch people and, with just the right word, make them feel special and understood. As I was talking to the executive director, I heard a whistle. I turned around and the princess asked me to come and take over a bed so she could move on to someone else and not leave that person uncared for. After we left the room, I said, “Did you actually whistle at me?” She laughed and said, “Oh, I’d never do a thing like that.”
Owner, London’s La Famiglia restaurant: It didn’t matter who she met or talked to, she would come down to your level and make you feel so comfortable. Even my waiters felt she was one of us. She came down and sat next to you.
She had the greatest memory. My granddaughter Amy was here with me once when she came and always after that she’d ask, “How’s Amy?” She came mostly with the children. And she loved them, she really loved them. Sometimes you see parents bring in their children, and they sit down, and there can be no conversation at all, or they’re telling them what to do all the time. Eat this, eat that. She and they always talked.
Cofounder with Ken Rutherford of the Landmine Survivors Network: We flew from London to Sarajevo in a Lear jet that seated six persons. In any plane it’s more comfortable to take off your prosthesis. So she wouldn’t be surprised, Ken and I described how we do these trips, that we would be in shorts and that we take our prostheses on and off. She laughed and said, “Oh, my God, you’re taking off your legs?” She went with the program.
Director, National AIDS Trust: She was very informal. As several of us were leaving a meeting at Kensington Palace, she was rushing around getting us a taxi. The taxi came up the drive, and she came out to say goodbye. The cab driver turned his head slightly to see who was getting in, and there he was, eye level with the most famous woman in the world. As he nodded, he bashed his head on the taxi door. This set Diana off in a fit of giggles and that set everyone else off. When she recovered, she had him roll down the window and made sure he was all right.
Author of 13 books on the Windsors, who accompanied Diana on a 1990 visit to Wales: When we got in the car to head back to the plane, there was a collection of flowers, handed to her during the trip, on the backseat. It was Feb. 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, and she chose two for herself and handed the rest to the police officers who were accompanying us to give to their wives.
Designer: In 1990, she sat beside me at a gala dinner outside London. She said, “Would you like me to sign your menu?” I said that would be great. Then I said, “At the White House, the menus go around the table and everyone signs. Why don’t we do that?” She thought it was a great idea. She said, “When I was in Washington visiting the Reagans, whatever wasn’t tied down they asked me to sign. I know Americans like you to sign things.”
Model: I was impressed with her down-to-earthness and her relationship with her children. She took chances in defining herself as she was growing up in a very public arena. I think that made her the modern and accessible woman to whom everybody around the world could relate.
Portrait painter: She was coming to the U.S., and I suggested we go to dinner with Luciano Pavarotti. Luciano started eating off her plate. Diana looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, “I’m not used to this.” And meanwhile he’s cleaning off her plate. I don’t think it bothered her at all.
Lead singer, Duran Duran: At the Pavarotti and Friends concert for Bosnian children in September 1995, one of her ladies-in-waiting asked me for an autographed poster. I signed it, then I took it around and had Pavarotti and U2 sign it. Then I went to Diana and said, “You’ve got to sign it too.” She said, “All fight, but I’m not going to sign next to Duran Duran.” I said, “Why not? You said we’re your favorite band, and we’ve had to live with it.” She said, “I know I said it. I’ve had to live with it ever since as well.” Then we both rolled about the floor laughing.
Organizer of Diana’s 1996 Chicago visit: She was truly remarkable. She got off the plane, went right to the university and toured the campus and was up first thing in the morning going on with her program right straight through a very big evening. I asked her, “How do you do it?” And she said, “I am so tired right now I could put my head down on the table and fall asleep.” And then she sort of pulled herself up and said, “Commitment and duty.”
Columnist: The last time I saw her was at the reception for her clothing auction. I was looking at the gowns and I said to her, “How is it possible that your gowns don’t look any the worse for wear? Didn’t you ever get gravy on them? Don’t you spill like the rest of us?” And she said, “Of course I did. I’ve spilled gravy, and I’ve spilled shrimps down my front. I’m just like everybody else. But the palace has wonderful cleaners.”
Chairman, Virgin Group of Companies: She was very quick and very funny. I remember one time she was flying on Virgin Atlantic and she swapped clothing with a stewardess. And as we were crossing over Windsor Castle, she got on the cabin speaker, telling the passengers, “If you’ll look out your right-hand window, you’ll see Granny’s place.”