Memories of her life were sparked by 14 Christmas cards, two personal letters and several photos which Diana sent to the late Bill Pashley, a fashion designer who famously created the tweed suit worn during her Balmoral honeymoon in 1981.
He treasured his royal memorabilia for life. Sadly, as well as an invitation to her Royal Wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981 he kept his Order of Service from her funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997 following her death, aged 36, in a car crash. The collection achieved nearly £10,000 in Hansons Auctioneers’ Christmas Library sale.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “The result underlines the enduring popularity of Diana, Queen of Hearts. She was a national icon adored by millions thanks to her humanitarian work, human touch, beauty, elegance and dazzling smile.
“Her caring spirit was demonstrated in many ways and this collection provided another glimpse of that. Despite her busy royal life she made time for those who helped her, Bill being one of those people. He created the iconic Balmoral honeymoon outfit she was pictured wearing in newspapers all over the world. Incredibly she wrote him a thank-you letter during her honeymoon.
“She sent Bill lovely informal photos of her wearing the tweed suit with a thank-you letter, dated August 17, 1981. It was the top-selling lot in the collection achieving £1,700.
On Balmoral Castle paper, the letter reads: ‘Dear Bill … A million thanks for doing all the skirts & generally everything so quickly. They’ll keep me going for a while! Ever since our return, I have remained a light blue from the cold as the places where we went were boiling & for once I’ve gone a decent colour!! I do hope that you had a good view at St Paul’s [of the wedding], funnily enough I remember most of what went on! Dearest Bill, you are just the kindest of people to have done all my Scottish wear & it’s enormously appreciated’.
Another letter from Diana, written in 1980, achieved £1,600. She wrote: ‘Dear Bill, You must think me the most useless person in the world! I’ve just been digging through a very untidy drawer and found these photographs which I could have sworn I had already given to you. Anyway hugest apologies and very many thanks again for doing such a wonderful job. Hope to see you soon. Love, Diana’.
Charles said: “Bill’s photos of Diana are compelling. They show her as a shy 16-year-bridesmaid at her sister Jane Fellowes’ wedding in 1978 and as an excited newlywed. However, these contrast sharply with official press images of her watching Charles play polo in 1981. Face down, or in her hands, she is desperately trying to keep a low profile. The captions recording her distress at the press attention. When news of her royal engagement emerged, Diana was thrust into the limelight and hounded by paparazzi.
“Perhaps that’s one of the reasons people like Bill meant so much to her. He knew her before the madness began. He certainly well and truly made her Christmas card list. Every year he received a personally signed card. They always had a royal family photo on the front, offering a timeline of events from fresh-faced bride to devoted mother.
“The first card, sent in 1981, featured Charles and Diana as bride and groom on their wedding day. But soon there was three with the arrival of Prince William, then four with Prince Harry. Diana’s sheer joy at being a mother shines bright in those images.
“The Christmas card photos show the two princes growing up fast. But then we reach 1992 and things change. The Christmas card shows only William and Harry. Diana separated from Charles in 1992. In similar fashion the 1993 and 1995 Christmas cards picture Diana with her two sons only. You can’t help but view this with sadness.
“Life has many ups and downs. Being rich or royal cannot protect you from that. But true friends remain steadfast and Bill appeared to be one of them. He treasured every memento from his friendship with Diana and she never forgot him.
“Amid the sadness of her premature loss, it’s heart-warming to know that 26 years after her death she is remembered so fondly. Items relating to her are sought after. The two letters alone achieved £3,300 while the Christmas cards sold for between £320 and £500 each. Diana is still bringing joy into people’s lives.”