Princess Diana’s Will: What Was Changed & How Much She Was Worth

Wills left behind by members of the Royal Family give us a glimpse into what these famous figures were worth and even a closer look at potential scandals.

In fact, the desire to avoid public spectacle and scandal is why the contents of Prince Philip’s will are being kept secret. A British judge recently decided to seal Philip’s will for a whopping 90 years in order to preserve the “dignity and standing” of Queen Elizabeth (via the BBC).

However, Princess Diana’s will was never sealed, and it is full of amazing secrets about her life and wealth. That her family later changed her will means that Diana is still at the center of public controversy long after she died.

So, what was changed, and how much was Diana really worth? We’ve got the full story!

How much was Princess Diana worth when she died?

Diana was very wealthy when she died. But just how much wealth did she leave behind in her will?

When Diana died in 1997, she had a net worth of £21 million, or $31.5 million. This wealth came from a variety of sources, including a hefty divorce settlement from Prince Charles, ongoing expense payments from the Royal Family, and a $1.65 million personal fortune before the divorce.

Diana died only one year after her divorce, and her estate at the time of death was quite sizeable.

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What did Diana’s estate contain?

Diana’s wealth did not come from simply having cash on hand. Like many wealthy people, she had an estate that was made much larger through a diverse set of investments and valuable possessions.

She also had stock and other investments, and reportedly made $5 million on the stock market in her last year of life. Additionally, she had a dazzling array of dresses, jewels, and other valuable belongings that were collectively worth another £21 million.

But how much money did she get from Prince Charles in the divorce?

How much did Diana get in the divorce?

It’s only natural to ask: just how much of Diana’s wealth at the time of her death came from Prince Charles?

Diana received £17 million (or $23.5 million) from Charles as part of the divorce proceedings. And even for a member of the Royal Family, that is a lot of money.

Back in 2004, the Telegraph reported on a blunt statement made by Charles’ banker Geoffrey Bignell. He said Charles was absolutely “taken to the cleaners” during the divorce. And to get enough money for the divorce, Bignell was “told to liquidate everything, all his investments so that he could give her the cash.”

But you shouldn’t lose any sleep over Prince Charles’ bank account. According to Business Insider, the future King of England has an estimated net worth of $100 million to $400 million dollars as of 2018!

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Did Diana leave behind a will?

Princess Diana tragically and abruptly died in a car crash on Aug. 31, 1997, shocking and saddening the entire world. And because she died so young and so unexpectedly at age 36, you may be wondering if she left a will behind or not.

Diana did have the foresight to write a will, signing it on June 1, 1993, four years before she died. She made her mother, Frances Ruth Shand Kydd, and her personal secretary, Commander Patrick Desmond Christian Jermy Jephson, co-executors and trustees of her estate. But in 1996, a year before she died, she signed a codicil removing the Commander and replacing him with her sister, Lady Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia McCorquodale.

In this way, Diana’s mother and sister had control over executing and interpreting Diana’s will at her death. And this soon led to a brand new controversy when they decided not to honor all of Diana’s wishes.

What was in Diana’s will?

Diana’s will was relatively straightforward, and the full text was made public in 1998.. She left the bulk of her estate to her sons Prince William and Prince Harry (an equal amount for each), held in trust for them to inherit on their 25th birthdays.

She also set up a Discretionary Fund for them and their future spouses and descendants, made up of the following assets: intellectual property rights, Diana’s wardrobe and wedding dress, £100,000, and accumulated income earned by the fund’s assets. Furthermore, Diana showed special care to her longtime butler Paul Burrell, leaving him £50,000 (or $82,000), and named her 17 godchildren beneficiaries as well.

But here’s where things get tricky. In addition to her will, Diana included a document called a “Letter of Wishes,” saying that she wanted 75% of her jewelry and possessions to go to her sons, and the remaining 25% of her possessions to go to her 17 godchildren.

Unfortunately for Diana’s godchildren, her Letter of Wishes didn’t have the exact phrasing required by British law to be legally binding; instead she used terms such as “wishes” and “discretion.” Ultimately, this enabled Diana’s mother and sister to choose to go against her wishes, making changes that are controversial to this day.

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How Diana’s mother and sister changed her will after she died

Princess Diana and her 17 godchildren. | Credit: WSBuzz

Months after Diana died, her mother and sister successfully challenged her estate through probate court. They obtain a variance order from the High Court of Justice to distribute Diana’s estate differently than she wanted. Known as “The Arrangement,” one of the changes stipulated that Diana’s sons could not receive their inheritance, including her possessions and full access to their trust, until they were 30, instead of 25.

However, it was Diana’s godchildren that were hardest hit by her mother and sister’s changes. Instead of receiving 25% of Diana’s personal effects, each of the 17 godchildren only got one item from Diana’s estate. According to Forbes, this robbed them of $160,000 worth of items!

Diana’s original wishes were kept secret from the parents of the godchildren for years, but eventually came out in unrelated court proceedings. When they found out, they were “shocked and outraged,” Forbes wrote. 

William and Harry chose one item of Diana’s for themselves

Although William and Harry had to wait until they turned 30 before receiving most of the possessions Diana left for them, they were each allowed to choose one keepsake from her estate upon her death.

William chose a gold Cartier Tank Francaise watch that Diana was often photographed wearing. Harry chose Diana’s 12-carat sapphire and diamond engagement ring from Prince Charles.

However, the brothers reportedly had an agreement that whoever got engaged first could give the ring to his fiancée. Harry honored that agreement, and William used the ring to propose to Kate Middleton.

What Diana’s brother did with her possessions caused controversy

So, what happened to the rest of Diana’s possessions in the 17 years before Harry turned 30? Diana’s brother Charles Spencer, the 9th Earl Spencer, took the possessions (totaling 150 objects) and put them on display for two months out of every year at Althorp, the Spencer family’s estate. Diana’s fans traveled from around the world to see things like her wedding dress, her family jewels, and, perhaps best of all, her tiaras.

Outside of Althorp, the Spencer family took this exhibition on a global tour. Overall, the exhibition raised more than $2 million, which became another source of controversy.

The Spencer family maintains that the proceeds went to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. But some critics wonder about the intentions behind going against Diana’s wishes, delaying distribution of her possessions to her sons and denying much of them from her godchildren.