The Queen didn't understand her daughter-in-law's "full-on emotion," The Queen's Speech author Ingrid Seward tells PEOPLE

By Michelle Tauber
Updated August 16, 2015 12:10 PM
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Queen Elizabeth II and her daughter-in-law Princess Diana had a long-troubled relationship – and a new book sheds more light on the disconnect between the two royal women.

In The Queen’s Speech: An Intimate Portrait of the Queen in Her Own Words, author Ingrid Seward details the vast generation gap between Diana, who was just 20 when she wed Prince Charles in 1981, and her formidable mother-in-law.

The two women had a long history together: Diana’s father, the 8th Earl Spencer, had worked for the royal family and Diana herself grew up in Park House on the Queen’s Sandringham estate.

“Diana was like family,” Seward tells PEOPLE. “She had known her since she was a child. It was like the old aristocracy. As the Queen said, ‘She’s one of us.’ ”

But as Diana’s unhappiness mounted and her marriage to Charles unraveled, the stoic monarch found herself frustrated and perplexed by her increasingly unhappy daughter-in-law.

“The Queen was desperate to help Diana but she just didn’t know how,” says Seward, who is editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine. “And Diana couldn’t connect with the Queen.”

Seward continues, “The Queen had never had to confront that type of conundrum. You just didn’t go into the Page’s vestibule and break down and say, ‘Oh, mama’ – because that’s what Diana used to call the Queen – ‘Everybody hates me! Your son hates me!’ ”

“She just broke down in front of the Queen and no one had ever done that before in her life. She just didn’t know how to handle this emotional young woman. She was really just a child.”

Such bare emotion was completely foreign to the Queen. “It’s like a much older woman having lived in an unemotional world of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, where you never said anything more than ‘I’ve got a bit of a tummy pain’ to your mother, suddenly being confronted with this full-on emotion. The Queen was not prepared for it and simply didn’t know how to deal with it. She had no idea.”

Years later, when the Queen was told that Diana had been in a car accident in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, 1997, Seward writes that the monarch responded, “Someone must have greased the brakes.”

“It is a very old-fashioned, English saying,” says Seward. “It is the sort of thing people said if someone went down the hill and had an accident. Her very first reaction was, ‘Oh my God, someone has tampered with the car.’ She obviously very quickly knew it wasn’t true.”

The Queen’s Speech is set to be published Aug. 27.

Reporting by PHILIP BOUCHER

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