The Secret Changes to Princess Diana’s Will—Against Her Wishes
Princess Diana endured an unhappy marriage and died young in a tragic car crash. And it gets worse: members of her own family secretly disregarded her final wishes. Here’s the story.
Princess Diana’s will
Princess Diana should have led a storybook life: At age 20, she married Prince Charles and went on to have two handsome sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, whom she loved dearly. But then her marriage unravelled, and Princess Diana’s suffering eventually became public knowledge. It was only after she finally broke free of her unhappy marriage that she had a chance at happiness. Then, sadly, her life was tragically cut short just one year after her divorce, when she was killed in a car crash on the last day of August 1997. She was only 36. (Find out how Princess Diana really spent the last weeks of her life.)
All that was left of the princess were her final wishes, as set forth in her last will and testament. Sadly, even those never came to fruition.
Princess Diana’s will, which she’d signed four years earlier and then modified several months after her divorce, according to Cheat Sheet, provided that
- 75 per cent of her jewelry and possessions should be divided between Prince William and Prince Harry, with the remaining 25 per cent divided among Diana’s 17 godchildren.
- £50,000 should go to her butler.
- The remainder of her estate (£21 million, which would be the equivalent of $31.5 million now) should be placed in trust for the princes until each turned 25.
The will named Princess Diana’s mother and sister as the executors, meaning that the two were tasked with distributing Diana’s estate… in accordance with her wishes. And therein lies the rub.
A Princess’s wishes… overridden
In December of 1997, Diana’s mother and sister went to court and obtained a “variation order,” permitting them to distribute the princess’s estate differently from how she’d specified: Under the variation order:
- The two princes would not receive their shares of Diana’s estate until the age of 30 (although they would begin receiving income distributions at age 25).
- Instead of splitting 25 per cent of Princess Diana’s jewels and possessions, each of the godchildren would receive a single memento, chosen by the executors. And none of that would happen until the younger prince, Harry, turned 30 in 2014.
Fast forward to 2014
In 2014, Prince Harry received his share of his mum’s estate (two years earlier, Prince William had received his). During the intervening 17 years following the variation order, 150 items from Princess Diana’s possessions were travelling the world as part of an exhibition put together by Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer. Proceeds from the exhibition (admissions and such) raised more than $2 million.
Diana’s family say the proceeds went to a charitable fund created in Diana’s memory. Since Princess Diana was highly charitable during her lifetime, one could argue that her wishes weren’t entirely trounced.
What remains a mystery is why Diana’s family ignored her wishes. What would Diana have said? How do Prince Willam and Harry feel about the way their mum’s wishes were disregarded? All we know right now is that Prince William found ways to honour Princess Diana at his wedding to Kate Middleton, as did Prince Harry. And here’s a window into how Prince Harry coped with the loss of his mum.