A new tell-all from a royal aide has exposed the raw truth behind the infamous photo of Princess Diana appearing to ‘snub’ a kiss from Prince Charles as their marriage crumbled.
Dickie Arbiter, the former press officer to Charles and Diana, has published a revealing book: On Duty With The Queen: My Time As A Buckingham Palace Press Officer. The memoir gives a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into the rocky marriage of Charles and Diana as they struggled to maintain a publicly united front. The book also reveals Charles' fury at being publicly snubbed by Diana.
One of the most telling hints at what was going on behind closed doors came in February 1992 when the royal couple were on an official tour of India but had separate schedules for much of the trip.
Princess Diana was left to visit the ultimate romantic tourist site, the Taj Mahal, on her own making for a humiliating photo of the princess sitting alone on the bench outside the iconic mausoleum. Many commentators read it to be a symbol of her loneliness as she remained trapped in a failing marriage. They would officially separate just 10 months later.
“Prince Charles had visited India as a single man of 32 in 1980,” writes Dickie. “Sitting on a stone bench in front of the Taj Mahal, the iconic symbol of love, he had vowed to return one day with the woman he loved.”
So with Charles’s comment echoing through the crowd 12 years on, it was a humiliating blow to Diana. “Later, [Charles] did publicly admit he had got it wrong, claiming some people might have thought him a fool for not joining her. ‘A wiser man,’ he reflected, ‘probably would have done so.’”
Left: The infamously lonely photo of Princess Diana seated on her own outside the Taj Mahal as the royal couple toured India in 1992. Right: Dickie Arbiter (centre) shared a laugh with Princess Diana in 1990 when he was working as official press secretary to the couple.
Despite the Princess’s strong objections, she was next called upon to present the prizes at a polo match in which Charles was playing in Jaipur just days later – on the eve of Valentine’s Day, no less.
It was there that the prince committed the ultimate faux pas, when he neglected to lean in to kiss the princess, as would traditionally be expected on such occasions.
“Realising his mistake, he hastily returned and, with an uncertain crowd looking on, moved to kiss his wife’s cheek. Incensed, the Princess swivelled her head so that the kiss landed near her ear.
“The crowd, as well as those of us accompanying the royal couple, could only cringe,” writes Dickie.
“The Prince had clearly been intentionally humiliated, and we knew he’d be furious.”
The photo, pictured above, remains as one of the iconic symbols of the royal marriage that was never meant to be.