Princess Diana "was extremely modern ... there wasn't anyone else like her," Joan Collins writes in PEOPLE Royals' fall issue, out September 10

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Princess Diana Joan Collins
Credit: Alpha

Princess Diana was exquisite. We were both wearing Bruce Oldfield gowns that night. She was in silver lamé with big shoulder pads, and I was in white silk, also with big shoulder pads. The next day the tabloids all had Dynasty Di meets Alexis. She was called Dynasty Di a lot because some of the clothes that she wore were quite similar to what I wore on Dynasty.

I met her five or six more times after that, and she was always exceedingly charming, very down-to-earth, very real, not at all stuffy. She asked about the paparazzi because there was an absolute barrage on the red carpet. She said, "Oh my God, is it always like this?" I said, "You'll get used to it." She said, "I don't know if I will."

The last time I saw her, we were both having lunch at Harry's Bar in London. I think she was dining with King Juan Carlos of Spain and somebody else. When she left, she passed by and winked and said, "One of the most boring lunches I've ever had."

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I think she brought the royal family into the 21st century. She was extremely modern. She was the first person to hold the hands of AIDS patients and walk along the road where there had been landmines. There wasn't anyone else like her.

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She would be 60 years old now. When I think of all the life that she could have lived, it's just very sad. I cried for days after hearing she had died. The only other person, other than my parents, whom I was so upset about was President Kennedy when he was assassinated. She was very natural and unaffected and real. I think that that has rubbed off on her sons, particularly Prince William, and also I think that Princess Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is following in her footsteps. I can't think of anybody who has been as popular. Of course, the Queen is exceedingly popular. But Diana, she was a phenomenon.

British actress Joan Collins, who has appeared in film and television for seven decades — including her iconic 1980s series Dynasty — was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth in 2015 for her charity work.

  • As told to Liz McNeil