Princess Diana Was Laid to Rest Holding This Treasured Gift

It was a gift from Mother Theresa.

After receiving the shocking news that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, those closest to her had to put aside their shock and grief in order to bring her body back to England for her funeral and burial.

In the early morning hours of September 1, her extremely emotional butler Paul Burrell was driven to Diana's Kensington Palace apartment by her driver, Colin Tebbutt, to retrieve a precious item belonging to Diana before before flying to Paris. Tebbutt has said in interviews that he "went into policeman mode," while virtually everyone around him was completely distraught over the news of Diana's death.

In his book, A Royal Duty, Burrell describes the surreal experience of walking into Diana's "KP" apartment and being stunned by the silence. Then, as he looked around Diana's dressing room, he found the item he was looking for.

Burrell writes that he walked over to Diana's writing desk and took the rosary beads that had been draped over a small statue of Jesus Christ and put them in his pocket. He also selected a tube of lipstick and a powder compact to bring with him.

The princess had received the rosary beads earlier that year as a gift from Mother Theresa, when the two women met in June in New York City.

When Burrell and Tebbutt arrived at the hospital in Paris where Diana's body lay under a white sheet in a secluded room, the men gave the nurses the rosary beads and asked that they be placed in the Princess' hands.

Ironically, the woman who was the world's biggest style star did not wear her own clothes for her final journey back to England. Because she had been on a summer holiday (and was no longer an HRH), she was not traveling with a black dress as dictated by royal protocol. Instead, Diana was dressed in a three-quarter length black dress with a shawl collar that belonged to Lady Sylvia Jay, the wife of the British ambassador to France, who lived in Paris. Burrell accompanied Jay back to her apartment and selected the dress and a pair of black pumps for the somber occasion.

"Diana and Mother Theresa had a very special, very touching relationship," said a royal insider. "It was fitting and touching that the princess was buried holding something that represented the deeply spiritual connection between them."

Mother Theresa died on September 5, 1997—the day before Diana's funeral. And for more on the late princess, here's The Shocking Reason Why Princess Diana Wasn't Speaking to Her Mother When She Died.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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