Diana was simply tired of the kind of attention she and her kids were receiving from the press.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 26, 2022. It has since been updated.
Princess Diana endured a lot during the 36 years of her life. She experienced grief and loss when her marriage to the Prince of Wales crumbled. She was mercilessly targeted by the media in the UK and it was beginning to take a toll on her, so much so that she had actually decided to leave the country and move to the US with her boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, according to her bodyguard, reports Page Six.
While on vacation in St. Tropez in July 1997, Lee Sansum was a member of the security detail looking after Diana and her boys, Princes William and Harry. They were staying on businessman Mohammed Al-Fayed’s luxury yacht, the Jonikal, but they had no privacy as they were constantly disturbed by the paparazzi swarming the boat trying to take a picture of Diana together with Al-Fayed.
“The press were the bane of her life everywhere, not just in St. Tropez,” Sansum writes in his book, Protecting Diana: A Bodyguard’s Story, which was released on August 30, 2022. “And she said to me, ‘There is nothing I can do in the UK. The papers there attack me no matter what I do.’ Then she told me, ‘I want to go to the US and live there so I can get away from it all. At least in America they like me and will leave me alone.'”
Sansum, a former private military contractor, recalled how he asked Diana if she would te her sons, William, then 15, and Harry, 12, but Diana said that she would never be allowed to take them with her, and that, if she moved, “I will probably only be able to see them in their school holidays.”
But Sansum said that her decision to leave her children behind was not because she wanted. to get away from them; in fact, it was for their own protection, he said.
“You could tell Diana was a wonderful mother, so loving and attentive to her two boys but it looked as if she might have to leave them both behind in the UK to escape from the press, who hounded her relentlessly every single day of her life,” Sansum writes. “It was also to free them from all of the attention they got when she was with them.”
A few days into the holiday, Diana surprised Sansum by telling him that she was going to go outside and reveal her plans to move to the US to the press.
“I was alarmed because if we thought the press pack outside was huge now, just for her holiday, it would probably go up ten-fold if she gave them a story as big as this one,” the author writes. “The place would be swarming with paps, desperate to get pictures of the princess who was about to leave it all behind to run off to America.”
Eventually, Diana did go out to speak to the press, but she didn't reveal her plans to them, the book mentioned. He also spoke about how critics had labeled the royal as mentally unstable.
“I can tell you that I spent ten days close to her and she was one of the most balanced people I have ever met,” he writes. “I ought to know. I am trained to spot if someone is unbalanced. It’s part of my job. You look for signs that people give off when they are under stress because it means they might be about to do something. Diana wasn’t excessively angry or out of control. She was normal and very deliberate.”
He also addressed rumors that Al-Fayed was just a summer fling to make Diana’s ex-boyfriend Dr. Hasnat Khan jealous.
“They were really friendly and affectionate towards one another,” he wrote of Diana and Dodi. “The guys on the security team all thought it was game on and would develop into a serious relationship. You wouldn’t see them kissing in public, so some people misread that as if it wasn’t a romantic relationship but her boys were often around and the paparazzi were always there too so that naturally made them more cautious and less demonstrative to one another.”
Unfortunately, Sansum was not assigned to look after the couple as they spent time in Paris at the end of August 1997, when they died in a horrible car crash.
“Diana was one of the nicest people you could meet,” Sansum recalled. “She was lovely, in fact, just a normal person who clearly loved her boys. The poor woman got slagged off for everything she did—even when it was really normal stuff like working out to stay fit, the press gave her grief about that too. It was so unfair.”
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