Who was the true love of Princess Diana’s life?
The question is harder to answer than you might think. While we all know about her famous marriage to Prince Charles in 1981, the entire world also watched that marriage fall apart in a spectacular way. They officially separated in 1992 and their divorce was finalized in 1996. And in the years before and after their divorce, Diana had infamous relationships with other men.
In order to figure out who Diana truly loved, you need to understand who these men were. Keep reading to learn all about 10 men Princess Diana loved besides Prince Charles!
Diana’s relationship with Barry Mannakee was like something out of a movie or TV show (which makes it ironic that The Crown doesn’t delve into this). Their affair began in 1985 when he became her bodyguard. But their relationship was discovered a year later and he was fired by Buckingham Palace. Sadly, he died months later in a motorcycle accident in 1987.
But their brief time together had a major impact on Princess Diana. In tapes released after her death, Diana claimed a bodyguard “was the “greatest love” of her life (via Oprah Daily).
“I was only happy when he was around… I was like a little girl in front of him the whole time,” she said. While she didn’t refer to him by name, this was almost certainly Mannakee and these quotes reveal the depth of Diana’s feelings.
After falling in love with her former bodyguard, Diana went on to have an affair with cavalry officer James Hewitt. They met in 1986 and she asked him to give her riding lessons. “Only one thing went wrong,” Hewitt later wrote in his book Love and War (via Oprah Daily). “We fell in love.”
The affair lasted for five years, and Hewitt kept 64 handwritten letters from Diana while he was stationed abroad.
One of Diana’s letters shows how in love she was with Hewitt: “I have lain awake at night loving you desperately and thanking God for bringing you into my life—my darling one, you are the most magical and special person I’ve ever met, and how extraordinarily lucky I am to have been loved by you,” Diana wrote (via The Daily Mail).
Eventually Diana called it quits in 1991 when Hewitt was serving in the Gulf War, later saying she had been “very let down” by him. Still, her affair with Hewitt is notorious for sparking rumors that he is Prince Harry’s real father (due to a passing resemblance and their matching red hair). However, Hewitt denies it and the timeline does not match up. Harry was born in 1984, two years before Diana met Hewitt.
In his own way, James Gilbey may be the most notorious man on this list. As a gin fortune heir, he seemed respectable enough when he and Diana met in the late 1980s. But he shared many scandalous phone conversations with Diana, and one of their 1989 phone calls was recorded and leaked to the press.
As Tatler reports, this recording made real waves when it leaked in 1992 because it involved Diana confessing to Gilbey that Prince Charles “makes my life real, real torture.” But the most notorious part of the explicit phone call was that Gilbey kept calling Diana “Squidge” or “Squidgy” as a nickname, leading this scandal to be dubbed “Squidgygate.”
Still, Gilbey maintained that he and Diana never actually dated, making it hard to clock when this relationship came to an end.
In 1992, Diana separated from Prince Charles and began dating Oliver Hoare, an art dealer 16 years her senior, which was controversial for two reasons. Not only was he married, he was also a longtime friend of Prince Charles.
“Diana became seriously obsessed with Oliver Hoare — almost to a deranged extent,” a palace employee revealed via the Daily Mail. “She’d wander around Kensington in disguise, looking for telephone boxes from which she made hundreds of calls to him.”
This affair came to a messy end in 1993 after Hoare’s wife threatened to divorce him. A distraught Diana reportedly made 300 harassing phone calls to his household for months after the relationship ended (mostly calling and hanging up, but one time screaming abuse at Hoare’s wife), prompting a police investigation (via News.com.au). It was one of Diana’s biggest scandals.
Theodore Forstmann was a billionaire entrepreneur who could certainly keep up with Diana’s world-traveling lifestyle. In fact, these two met at a fancy black-tie dinner in 1994 at Diana’s ancestral home the Spencer House.
Twenty years Diana’s senior, Forstmann effectively juggled a relationship with Diana and with his fiancée Debbie Hagerty at the same time. The Daily Mail reports that Forstmann actually proposed to Diana at one point, but she turned him down, thinking he wanted to marry her to boost his chances at a potential presidential run. Still, Forstmann reportedly sent her a bouquet of flowers once a week for three years. It’s also claimed that when Forstmann found out about Diana’s relationship with Dodi Fayed, he called her to tell her (perhaps jokingly) that he was going to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.
Though their relationship ended in 1995, Diana and Forstmann remained close friends. In summer 1997, Diana even planned to vacation with William and Harry near Forstmann’s beach mansion in the Hamptons, at a house that Forstmann had recommended to her. But British Intelligence vetoed the location out of safety concerns. Tragically, she spent that summer in France instead where she died in a car accident.
John F. Kennedy Jr.
While all of the men on this list are rich and famous in their own way, John F. Kennedy Jr. is certainly the most famous of Diana’s alleged affairs. However, he is also the alleged affair that is least likely to have actually happened!
The rumors about Diana and JFK Jr. started thanks to gossip from Diana’s former “energy healer” Simone Simmons, who claimed Diana lusted after Kennedy in 1995, culminating in a one-night stand. But as The Mirror reports, Diana’s former butler (who certainly knew her mind and affairs better than Simmons) dismissed this as “a fantastical story of nonsense.”
It is true that Diana and JFK Jr. once met secretly at her suite at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City in 1995 (via People). But the 90-minute meeting was to convince Diana to pose for the cover of JFK Jr.’s political magazine George. Diana declined.
Since singer Bryan Adams’ hit song “Diana” was released in 1985, there have been rumors about him and Princess Diana. The lyrics appear to confirm Adams was obsessed with her, with lyrics like “The first time I saw you was in a magazine / The next time was you was walkin’ ‘cross my television screen / I knew right there that I had to make you mine / The day that you married him I nearly lost my mind.” Not long after, Adams and Diana did meet; they were photographed together at a public event in May 1986.
But did Bryan Adams and Diana ever actually have an affair? According to Adams’ former girlfriend Cecilie Thomsen, yes. In 2012, the Tomorrow Never Dies actress claimed, “Ours was a stormy relationship and Bryan’s affair with Diana didn’t make it easier. The affair was in 1996 after Diana’s divorce with Prince Charles” (via the Evening Standard).
Still, Bryan Adams has denied an affair with Diana. In a 2018 appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, he claimed that he and Diana were simply “great friends” (via E!).
Will Carling is another alleged Diana affair where people still wonder “Did they or didn’t they?” He was a famous English rugby star that Diana met in 1995. She was definitely impressed with him, going so far as to take her sons to watch him play.
The rumor goes that Diana requested private rugby lessons and eventually had an affair with Carling, who later divorced his wife. However, Carling and Diana both denied their friendship ever became physical (via People).
Still, Carling’s wife Julia did not appreciate the rumors surrounding her husband and Diana. As Buffalo News reports, she once said, “I am sad that Will put himself in that position, and that the Princess did as well. This has happened to her before, and you hope she won’t do these things again, but obviously she does.”
Hasnat Khan was a lung and heart surgeon who really won over Princess Diana. They met in 1995 and had a relationship that lasted until 1997. According to Vanity Fair, Diana was so taken with Khan that she gave him an adorable nickname: “Mr. Wonderful.”
Why, then, did “Mr. Wonderful” not marry Diana and have their own “happily ever after?” It was because Khan knew full well what a media circus it would be if he married a princess, and he wanted to keep a relatively normal life. Nonetheless, he was in attendance at Diana’s funeral in 1997.
Dodi al Fayed
Dodi al Fayed was sadly the final relationship of Diana’s life. Though the two met back in 1986 at a polo match, Diana and the Egyptian filmmaker (who was the son of a billionaire) didn’t begin a relationship until July 1997. Their relationship created a media firestorm. On Aug. 10, 1997, paparazzi snagged a photo of the two passionately kissing, which sold for a reported £1M (via The Mirror).
But the huge media interest in Diana and Fayed’s relationship led to tragedy. On Aug. 30, 1997, while trying to flee paparazzi in Paris, Diana and Fayed’s car crashed. Fayed and the driver died instantly, with Diana dying soon after.
That Diana and Fayed’s relationship only lasted two months before they died has led to question about how serious they actually were. Diana’s private secretary Michael Gibbins told The Sun in 2017 that Diana was not in love with Fayed, and he claimed the relationship would not have lasted more than a few weeks longer if they had not died.
Still, a number of conspiracy theories have arisen around the relationship, and one of the most ardent proponents is Dodi’s father Mohamed al Fayed, who maintains the relationship was more serious than Gibbins would have you believe. He told an inquest looking into Diana’s death that she was actually pregnant at the time of the crash and she and Dodi had plans to marry (via The Guardian). However, Marie Claire reports that a blood test confirmed that Diana was not pregnant when she died.
The elder Fayed also supports other conspiracy theories about Diana’s death, including the theory that she was murdered by people who disapproved of her relationship with his son. But France’s highest court shot down his claims of murder, stating that the crash occurred because Diana’s driver was intoxicated and speeding (via CNN).