While George Michael will always be remembered for his monumental contributions to music, his personal life — including his relationship with Princess Diana before her death in 1997 — also garnered international attention. Before the British singer came out as gay in a 1998 CNN interview, there was gossip that he and Princess Di’s friendship went a bit further.
“I was invited to the Palace many, many times before I actually met with her because I was so afraid of the publicity if we did become friends,” he said. “And when we did meet, I think we clicked in way that was a little bit intangible, and it probably had probably more to do with our up bringing than anything else. She was very like a lot of women that have been attracted to me in my life because they see something non-threatening. Maybe because I take care of my sisters and I’m so protective of my sisters, women seem to smell that. So women who had a hard time growing up or feel that they were not… you know… when I was still sleeping with women my God it was absolutely all of the time.”
Although Michael coyly avoided answering how far their relationship went, he made it clear that their feelings extended further than friendship.
“There were certain things that happened that made it clear she was very attracted to me. There was no question,” he shared, adding that he knew sleeping together “would have been a disastrous thing to do.”
Still, Diana and Michael remained close — and she likely knew he was gay before he publicly spoke out about his sexuality. ITV reports that a former royal aide wrote in the autobiography On Duty with the Queen that Diana almost outed him to a guest at a reception in 1992.
“Isn’t it a shame he doesn’t like the ladies?” Diana reportedly said before realizing an 8-year-old Prince Harry was sitting nearby.
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However, Michael often avoided reaching out to Diana in her most delicate times for fear that she would doubt his intentions.
“I was very upset when I saw the Panorama documentary, because she really didn’t seem well at the time,” he told The Huffington Post. “It did really me because I thought people saw her at her most vulnerable … and I kind of feel guilty because she did really like me as a person, and I tended to shy away from calling her because I thought she must have so many people calling her for all the wrong reasons. I knew she was so suspicious of people by then, so I would almost treat her the way I know some people treat me. I would presume it was an intrusion to call, when actually you know they’re lonely and would love to hear a friendly voice.”
Although Michael attended her 1997 funeral, he revealed that he hadn’t seen her for several years leading up to her death.
“We nearly got together on that St. Tropez trip,” he said. “I was supposed to go onto the boat, and I’m quite glad I didn’t because it would have been so fresh when she died.”
He continued, “I mean I was so upset by it anyway, but had I seen her just before I think it would have been even more upsetting.”
Michael passed away at age 53 on Christmas Day, his publicist confirmed to PEOPLE. He died from heart failure.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period,” he said. “The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time.”