Princess Diana’s personal letters on ‘ugly’ Charles divorce go up for auction

On February 16, Lay’s Auctioneers will sell 32 letters that Lady Di sent to her friends, Susie and Tarek Kassem

Diana of Wales in the office of her residence at Kensington Palace, in London, in a file image.
Diana of Wales in the office of her residence at Kensington Palace, in London, in a file image.Tim Graham (via Getty Images)

“I am having a very difficult time and pressure is serious and coming from all sides. It’s too difficult sometimes to keep one’s head up and today I am on my knees and just longing for this divorce to go through as the possible cost is tremendous.” That’s what is read on a handwritten letter signed “Diana,” better known to the world as Princess Diana or Lady Di.

The letter is dated April 26, 1996, just a few months before Princess Diana finalized her divorce from then-Prince Charles (now King Charles III) on August 28, 1996, and it is addressed to her friends Susie and Tarek Kassem. On February 16, Lay’s Auctioneers will auction 32 letters that the late Princess of Wales sent to the couple during the last two years of her life.

“Susie and Tarek Kassem, as very close friends of Diana, Princess of Wales, have treasured these letters for over 25 years. They reflect the special and loving relationship they had with the most unique women that they had ever known,” Lay’s said in a statement. “Now, in 2023, the ownership of these poignant documents is a responsibility that the Kassems do not wish to pass on to their children or grandchildren. They have decided to sell the letters and use proceeds of the sale to support some of the charities that were close to Susie and Diana’s hearts.”

Prince Charles and Diana Spencer were married on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. In December 1992, then-prime minister John Major announced before the House of Commons that the Prince and Princess of Wales were separating – news that shocked British society. “This decision has been reached amicably,” Major said, “and they will both continue to participate fully in the upbringing of their children.”

In 1995, Princess Diana was interviewed by journalist Martin Bashir on the BBC program Panorama, and delivered the immortal line: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” The statement, a reference to Prince Charles’ relationship with Camila Parker-Bowles, was delivered before 23 million television viewers. A year later, Charles and Diana were divorced.

Princess Diana’s previously unseen letters to the Kassems shed new light on how she was affected by the divorce. She writes: “If I’d known a year ago what I’d experience going through this divorce, I never would have consented. It’s desperate and ugly.”

Princess Diana and Susie and Tarek Kassem met in August 1995, during one of the princess’s frequent visits to the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. The couple has always been enormously supportive of Lady Di, as evidenced in their correspondence. “I may have been described as a butterfly but I don’t want to fly away from this lovely family,” the princess wrote to them.

On several occasions, Diana also thanks the Kassems for their support: “I’m immensely touched by how protective you both are of me... I’m not used to that!”

One of Princess Diana's letters that will go up for sale on February 16.
One of Princess Diana's letters that will go up for sale on February 16.Lay’s Auctioneers

“Susie and Tarek feel extremely privileged that they had the opportunity to get to know the Princess so closely,” Lay’s said in a statement. “Throughout their friendship the Kassems were always amazed at the incredible effect Diana had on anyone who came into contact with her, whether in the street, theater, restaurant or elsewhere. Her electrifying presence transcends time. People’s fascination with Princess Diana has hardly waned since her tragic death.” According to the main British tabloids, the correspondence could sell for £900,000 (around $1.1 million).

This is not the first time that Princess Diana’s personal letters have been auctioned off. In 2021, Lay’s Auctioneers put around 40 letters the princess sent to her friend Roger Bramble between 1990 and 1997 under the hammer. A 1996 letter describing the late Queen Elizabeth as “the boss” sold for the highest amount, fetching £7,200 ($8,900). Another 1996 missive, which described Roger Bramble as a “much welcomed distraction from the mundane activities that are associated with an impending divorce,” was sold for £6,500 ($8,000). In total, the entire correspondence reached £67,900 ($83,890) at auction.

Other items belonging to the princess have also been auctioned off, such as her 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo S1, which sold for £722,500 ($892,560). Social media influencer Kim Kardashian also recently bought Princess Diana’s iconic cross pendant for £163,800 ($202,000) – double the starting bid.

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