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Princess Diana’s surprise bombshell speech at charity lunch that shocked crowd

Princess Diana had an incredible ability to connect with people whenever she made a speech, a skill many royals before her lacked.

She joked, shared personal stories and spoke passionately and informatively about the charities and organisations she was visiting whenever she took to the podium, making her a huge hit with audiences.

But one speech in December 1993 left guests at a Headway charity lunch completely stunned, when she used the moment to make a shocking announcement.

She was due to talk about head injuries, but Diana had other ideas.

Evelyn Vincent, the founder of Headway, recalls what it was like working with Diana on Channel 5’s documentary Diana: In Her Own Words.

She said: “As far as I was concerned that was just a normal Headway lunch.

Nobody knew what was about to happen as Diana prepared to take to the podium

“Whenever Diana spoke everyone would stop, everyone would listen.

“She would quite often crack a joke, she had a good sense od humour.

“She would be the focus of that room.”

However Evelyn spotted that Diana was quieter than normal, but didn’t think much of it until she took to the podium.

She said: “She just sat there but she wasn’t as animated as she’s been in the past.

She didn’t give any one a heads up about her planned announcement

“So if she’s sat with people she’s often chattig with whoever is either side. It wasn’t quite like that that day.

“There was obviously something on her mind and she knew what was coming.”

She started by telling the crowd it was a “great pleasure” to be there and everyone was expecting a normal speech – but the words that came out of her mouth shocked everyone.

Diana used the opportunity to tell the world she was going to be stepping back from much of her public life.

Fans were completely stunned by her decision

She said: “At the end of this year, when I’ve completed my diary of official engagements, I will be reducing the  extent of the public life I’ve lead so far.

“I hope you can find it in your hearts to understand and to give me the time and the space that has been lacking in recent years.”

Evelyn said: “As she got further and further into it, people were looking around the table thinking ‘oh my goodness, oh my goodness.”

However her shocking speech was far from an impulse decision, and she had been talking about it for months.

Her former private secretary Patrick Jephson told the programme: “I knew this two or three months before hand when she said I want to make this speech, I want to take a step back.

She said she wanted to focus on her boys

“I thought, no you don’t. You love this job, this is how you measure your worth – not just as a princess but as a human being. You take that away, what have you got?

“I think for her the priority was not what she said, so much as the act of saying it.”

She had originally planned an even more dramatic speech, however Mr Jephson convinced her to tone it down.

He said: “I was able to persuade her to take out many of its more suicidal elements.

“I knew that once she had made her speech, she would in due course want to return to some form of structured royal life.

“My priority was to make sure she didn’t shut any doors on that.”

After stepping away from many of her duties, she focused her time on raising her sons William and Harry and the charity work she was really passionate about.

She explained in the speech, “My first priority will continue to be our children, William and Harry, who deserve as much love, care and attention as I am able to give as well as an appreciation of the tradition into which they were born.”

Decades later, Harry would use a similar line with his wife Meghan Markle when discussing his son Achie when describing his decision to quit the royal family.

Writing about the couple’s decision to split their time between North America and the UK, they said: “This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”

In 1995 she returned to the spotlight with charity work and oversees trips – to the delight of fans.

  • Diana: In Her Own Words is available on Channel 5 catch up services

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