‘The “very bad experience” sums up all of that.’
He added: ‘The use of the exclamation mark at the end of letter is significant. I’ve seen many letters written by the Queen and she rarely, if ever, uses it.
‘When it’s used properly the exclamation mark represents a high level of emotion, and that’s clearly what the Queen was feeling.’
One previous hint of the Queen’s view of Diana’s death and the public reaction to it came from Margaret Rhodes, who was the Queen’s first cousin and one of her longest-standing friends. She died, aged 91, last November.
In an interview on U.S. television, she said the Queen remained at Balmoral because she put her duties as a grandmother before those as a monarch.
‘She was castigated . . . for staying up at Balmoral with the two little boys,’ she said. ‘She was being a proper granny. What was the point of bringing the boys down to London with nothing to do but sit there feeling sad about Mum?
‘I think I would have behaved in exactly the same way.’
In her broadcast on the eve of the funeral, the Queen said: ‘I, for one, believe that there are lessons to be drawn from her [Diana’s] life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death.’
Those words seemed to be an acknowledgment that, in some important respects, the Queen, her family and her advisers had misjudged matters in that tumultuous week after Diana died.
The private letter from the Queen to one of her favourite ladies-in-waiting seems to confirm that view.