Richard Kay, the former royal correspondent at the Daily Mail, published a tribute to his late friend Diana, Princess of Wales, on the 20th anniversary of her death.
“The phone calls could come at any time – last thing at night or in the early hours,” Kay writes.
“They could be a brief hello or a conversation lasting for hours – one spanned the best part of an entire day, completely ignoring the domestic rhythms of meals and drinks.”
When Diana called him on 30 August 1997, Kay picked up the phone.
“I was driving and pulled over so we could talk,” Kay remembers. “I told her I was in Knightsbridge, close to Beauchamp Place, one of her best-loved shopping streets. She asked me to look in the window of a boutique at a dress she had seen to see if I liked the colour.”
The Metropolitan Police, who investigated Diana’s death, said it was one of the last phone calls she made.
“Ricardo,” Diana said, “I’m getting out of all public duties. I’ve just had enough of the constant criticism.”
Shortly before her death, Diana had been criticised for a speech that was seen as critical of the previous government over its landmine policy.
Kay notes that Diana had said this in the past, but there was an urgency in her voice this time. She also spoke of ending her association with the Red Cross.
Instead, she wanted to do something “which she felt would allow her to be in control of her own destiny,” Kay writes.
This would have involved children’s hospices in poorer parts of the world and a landmine charity that would both be funded by Mohamed Fayad, Dodi’s father.
“Looking back, I realise that our final conversation proved she was finding her wings for a new life, just as she longed to – that she had big plans and ambitions.”
Diana also asked her friend about the anti-Dodi sentiments in the media, “Is it because he is rich because he’s a millionaire?”
Kay says she had told him a few days earlier that “I’ve just got out of one marriage and I need another one like a hole in the head,” when he questioned her about the relationship. She also commented on Camilla, now the Duchess of Cornwall, that “she’s really not a nice woman.”
Kay says that his friendship with Diana grew from the days he worked as the royal correspondent for the Daily Mail, covering the “Wars of the Waleses” in the ‘90s.
“We found we had mutual friends and a rapport was formed based in part, but not exclusively, on my journalistic duties. I had written sympathetically at a time when many of her motives were increasingly being questioned.”