Here's Why Princess Diana Was Feuding With Elton John—and How It Ended
The princess and the singer reconciled just before her death.
Princess Diana was dealing with several highly fraught relationships during the last summer of her life. When she died in August 1997, she was not speaking to her former close friend Sarah Ferguson (who had overshared in her memoir published the previous year), nor her mother, Frances Shand Kydd (who had given a paid interview to Hello magazine in which she said she was happy her daughter had lost her "Her Royal Highness" title after divorcing Prince Charles). And while those relationships did not get repaired before her untimely death, Diana was able to mend things with her longtime friend Elton John, whom she'd gone radio silent on in February of that year.
According to a close friend of Diana's, she was quick to anger when she felt she'd been betrayed. "Diana would just cut a friend off completely, often with no explanation. In that last year of her life, there were people who she had been very close to her in the past, but she just dropped them," the insider said.
Specifically, the princess had put John in the deep freeze over an incident involving mutual friend Gianni Versace's coffee table book Rock and Royalty, which was produced to raise money for John's AIDS foundation.
Diana had written a glowing tribute to the designer for the book's foreword without seeing the layout. She wrote: "From the optimism that shines from the pages of the book, one can tell [Versace] loves mankind." Those words took on new meaning when the princess finally received an advance copy of the book and discovered racy photographs of naked men interspersed with images of the royal family.
"She was very worried that her involvement in the book would upset the Queen," revealed a royal insider. "Diana was furious because she felt she'd been used and misled."
Diana was so distressed about the potential fall-out from the book, that she pulled the foreword she had written and withdrew her name from the invitation for the book party, which John then canceled.
But, as it turned out, Versace also unwittingly played a role in Diana and John's reconciliation. After she got the news that the designer was murdered by serial killer Andrew Cunanan in July 1997, Diana called John, whom she hadn't spoken to in six months.
At the designer's funeral in Milan, Diana was seated in the front row next to John. Seeing how distraught he was over Versace's death, Diana reached out and put a comforting arm around the singer as he silently sobbed throughout the service. Afterwards, they spoke quietly in church, coming together again in the wake of a tragedy.
Diana's friendship with John dated back to 1981 when they met at Windsor Castle where John was performing at Prince Andrew's birthday party. "She adored his music," said my source. "They laughed a lot together. Then, when she introduced him to [Prince] William and [Prince] Harry, he got on with them very well."
John famously rewrote his hit "Candle in the Wind" as a tribute to Diana and sang it at her funeral in September 1997. He recalled that terribly sad time in a 2018 interview on the British series Lorraine where he said, "It was an extraordinary summer. Gianni Versace was murdered [on July 15, 1997], and then Diana rang me up and we reconciled," John said. "And six weeks later, I'm in the same house, and she's dead. I just couldn't believe what was going on."
Today, John remains close with Diana's sons; he attended both princes' weddings and performed at Harry and Meghan Markle's reception. "It was very, very wonderful to be there," he told CNN. We can only imagine Diana would've agreed. And for more on what you don't know about Diana, here are 23 Facts About Princess Diana Only Her Closest Friends Knew.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.
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