A new trove of personal letters written by Princess Diana to two of her closest friends are going up for sale.
Lay’s Auctioneers announced that it will auction off 32 letters from the late royal to Susie and Tarek Kassem around the time of her divorce from King Charles in August 1996. After 11 years of marriage, the pair decided to separate in 1992, making their split official four years later. Diana died the following year in a car accident in Paris at age 37. The house describes these pieces of correspondence as “astonishing, confidential,” and “highly personal,” adding in a statement, “Susie & Tarek Kassem, as very close friends of Diana, Princess of Wales, have treasured these letters for over 25 years. They reflect the special and loving relationship they had with the most unique women that they had ever known. Now, in 2023, the ownership of these poignant documents is a responsibility that the Kassems do not wish to pass on to their children or grandchildren. They have decided to sell the letters and use proceeds of the sale to support some of the charities that were close to Susie and Diana’s hearts.”
Lay’s released an image of one of the letters, written on Kensington Palace stationary and featuring Diana’s royal cypher, dated February 17, 1996. In the note, the royal wrote, “Darling Susie, Thank you for all the lovely things you said to me on the telephone tonight…You have no idea the joy and trust you and Tarek have introduced into my life and I count myself extremely fortunate both Tarek and you for believing in me.” She signed off the letter, “Love, Diana” adding an X for a kiss. In another card, shared by The Times and dated April 28, 1996, the princess wrote to her friends apologizing for canceling their plans to go to the opera because of the stress she was under. “I am having a very difficult time and pressure is serious and coming from all sides. It’s too difficult sometimes to keep one’s head up, and today I am on my knees and just longing for this divorce to go through as the possible cost is tremendous,” she wrote.
In a press release, Lay’s Auctioneers explained that the couple decided to make these pieces available to the public “to give other people the opportunity of acquiring ‘a memento’ of the Princess, and in doing so, support causes that were important to her.” Those causes, however, were not mentioned by name. The statement continued, “The Kassems have kept some of their more personal and confidential letters, but largely this collection of over 30 letters and notecards illustrate Diana’s immensely warm and loving disposition in a charming and delightful manner. Some letters do touch on the enormous stress she was experiencing during periods of very public heartbreak, yet her strength of character and her generous and witty disposition shine through.” Lay’s Auctioneers concluded, “It is an extraordinarily poignant collection of correspondence, written by one of the most important and influential women of the 20th century, and documents one of her most valued and significant friendships during the last 2 years of her life.”
This sale also comes shortly after Princess Diana’s purple velvet gown by Victor Edelstein sold at auction for $604,800. In early 1997, the royal, reportedly in consultation with her son Prince William, decided to auction off 79 of the cocktail and evening dresses she wore throughout her time as the Princess of Wales, with the proceeds going to benefit the AIDS Crisis Trust and the Royal Marsden Hospital, where she served as president for eight years. One of those dresses was the Edelstein which was a particular favorite of Diana’s and which she wore for a series of formal portraits. After selling for $24,150 in 1997, the dress went up for auction at Sotheby’s as a part of their “The One” sale last week, highlighting iconic objects from across human history, selling for $604,800, far more than the auction house’s estimated $80,000 to $120,000.
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