‘Burn them!’ Experts question Princess Diana’s friends for auctioning intimate letters


Letters written by Princess Diana during the last two years of her life, including “intimate details about the nightmare of her divorce” will be at auction in Cornwall this week.

On February 16, the Lay Auctioneers in Penzance will be selling a remarkable collection of letters written by Diana, Princess of Wales. The documents belong to Susie and Tarek Kassem, who were very close friends of the late Princess. The couple has treasured these letters, which they feel reflect the special and loving relationship they had with the royal, for over 25 years. Susie and Tarek, now in their 70s, have said they don’t want to pass on the responsibility of owning these poignant documents to their children or grandchildren, so 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. It comes off the back of one of Diana’s most famous dresses selling for $604,800 (£502,129) at an auction at Sotheby’s in New York and has led some royal commentators to question whether it’s the right move.

Ms Ross said: “It feels like every week we’re auctioning off something from Princess Diana…it’s nice that they are using the proceeds for charities and not using it for their pockets.”

Ms Garibaldi added: “It’s a very interesting story and a very interesting situation because, on the one hand, the letters literally say, ‘thank you for the trust’. There are so many intimate details in these letters talking about the nightmare of her divorce and you have to wonder why this couple is choosing to sell them.”

She admitted to being unable to decide “whether this is a good move or a bad move,” but affirmed: “It will probably benefit a lot of important causes,” before adding: “Diana has been dead for a really long time.”

Princess Diana letter

Princess Diana wrote the letters during the final years of her life (Image: Getty Images/David Lay Auctions)

diana letter

Diana wrote the letters to her close friends, Susie and Tarek Kassem (Image: David Lay Auctions)

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Ms Ross agreed, saying: “My first thought about it [was] ‘this is kind of fishy’. The charities, which the sale of the letters will benefit, were not named in the statement, so we don’t know exactly where the money is going as of yet. I can’t imagine they would lie about that — that would be really weird. So we’ll have to wait and see. But it is interesting they’re not passing them down or reaching out to the Royal Family to see if maybe they want them.”

Ms Garibaldi added: “Like you said, why not return them to Prince William and Prince Harry? Why not just pass them down? Or burn them! [There are] so many options.”

Susie had become a close confidante of the Princess in the final two years of her life. The 32 letters being sold at auction span a 20-month period from the last days of the summer of 1995 to the spring of 1997.

That time frame was an extraordinary period in the late royal’s life, including her divorce from the then Prince of Wales, her explosive Panorama interview and scandals over love affairs, as well as her growing hopes and dreams of building a new life away from the constraints of Palace protocol.

Diana Argentina

The Princess of Wales in November 1995 (Image: Getty)

Richard Kay, a royal journalist and friend of the late Princess, has claimed the letters reveal the aching sadness of Diana’s final years.

Writing for the Daily Mail last week, he described them as “intimate and at times both moving and eloquent,” adding: “They reveal Diana’s warmth and charm. But most of all they are testament to the aching sadness in her life — the absence of domestic happiness.”

Mr Kay went on to speak of the close relationship the Kassems shared with Diana. He explained the couple “didn’t just open their hearts to the Princess but also the doors to their home and their family”.

Diana Visits London Lighthouse

Diana during an engagement in October 1996, two months after her divorce (Image: Getty)

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He described Susie and Tarek’s Chelsea home as a “vital refuge” where Diana would spend weekends and sit down for “jolly family lunches”.

Susie’s friendship with Diana grew from a chance encounter at the intensive care unit in the Royal Brompton Hospital. At the time, Susie, a London magistrate, was volunteering with patients and staff while Diana was visiting her Irish-born friend and acupuncturist Oonagh Toffolo, a former nurse to the Duke of Windsor, former King Edward VIII.

Mr Kay wrote: “And so it was that, in the space of just a few days in late August 1995, the Princess met two people who were to have a profound effect on her life — Mrs Kassem and the heart surgeon with whom she fell in love [Hasnat Khan]. It was to Susie that Diana described the Pakistan-born Khan as ‘Mr Wonderful’.”

Susie and Diana “very quickly became firm friends,” with both women later describing their relationship as being one of “kindred spirits” and Susie “was one of the very last people the Princess telephoned from the Ritz Hotel in Paris on the night of her death”.

Diana Brompton Hospital

The Princess arriving at Royal Brompton Hospital in April 1997 (Image: Getty)

As Diana wrote in one of her first letters: “I am extremely happy that our paths have crossed as I feel I have known you before.”

“I’d love you to meet my two young men,” the Princess said in a letter about her sons William and Harry soon after she and Susie met.

In one particularly emotional note, Diana wrote: “I am lost for words for all the lovely things you bring into my life, when many people would have deserted this ship!!”

After her divorce in August 1996, Diana’s writing is notably infused with optimism. “I am more than happy to have my freedom and reckon that I’m very fortunate to have a second chance,” she wrote in a letter a month later, adding: “Lots of nice things have come my way . . . who’d have thought!”

Prince William's First Day At Eton

Diana and her sons on William’s first day at Eton in September 1995 (Image: Getty)

Barely eight months later, the Princess was killed in a tragic car accident in Paris. At the time, Susie described her friend as being like “fairy dust”, saying: “She used to sprinkle her fairy dust around and give joy whatever the situation.”

Now, almost 26 years later, Susie and her husband have decided to sell several of the personal letters. The treasured documents are expected to fetch £90,000 at auction on Thursday, with proceeds from the sale going to charities Diana supported.

Lay’s Auctions said how thrilled people are by the opportunity to own something of the late Princess’, particularly something as personal as her own handwritten letters, and have likened it to owning the treasured relic of a saint.


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