How Princess Diana Would've Felt About Her Sons' Rift, According to Biographer James Patterson (Exclusive)

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Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry and James Patterson
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images; Inset: Stephanie Diani

Princess Diana "would be saddened" by the rift between Prince William and Prince Harry, biographer James Patterson believes. ET spoke with the prolific author ahead of the release of his latest work, Diana, William, & Harry, and he weighed in on how the late royal would feel about the current state of her sons' relationship. 

William and Harry's relationship took a turn for the worse in 2020, when the younger brother and his wife, Meghan Marklestepped down as senior royals and relocated to California.

"I think she would be saddened by the break with the two boys," Patterson tells ET. "I think that would really make her sad, because they had been so very close as kids, and then... Will obviously deciding [that he] must stay with tradition, and the crown, and the royals, and then Harry making the break."

Even with the brothers' opposing views, Patterson guesses that Diana, who got divorced from Prince Charles in 1996, "would've respected both sides."

"I don't think she looked at the tradition of the royal family and said it's a bad thing. Just the way it operated with her, I think it just didn't fit her at all. It was very difficult. She's a free spirit. That's very, very tough," he says. "I think she would've been very sympathetic, totally sympathetic, for what Harry did, but I think she would've understood Will's path as well. She was that kind of person. She wasn't terribly judgmental."

As for if William and Harry will mend their relationship, Patterson says he "would be surprised if they didn't at some point get close again."

Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Throughout Diana, William, & Harry, which Patterson wrote with Chris Mooney, the author aimed to focus on Diana's life as a mom up until her death in 1997.

"That was at the core of, I think, who she was," he says. "... Obviously, initially, she had that fantasy of being a princess and I'm sure hoping that she would really love Charles and he would love her back. But then the thing is, she said that the happiest moment of her life, where she really felt complete was the first time she held William in her arms. That was a piece that she needed."

Being the kind of mom Diana wanted to be, Patterson explains, was not an easy task for a member of the royal family.

"She wanted the boys to be somewhat regular. She wanted them to understand that their existence was very strange and weird and unusual," Patterson says of Diana. "... In so far she could, she wanted them to grow up as normal kids. I think she wanted to have a normal life too, which just wasn't possible in the royal family."

Still, Diana tried to implement normalcy in several different ways, even if Queen Elizabeth didn't understand the purpose behind her one-time daughter-in-law's efforts.

"She would spend all these times with the kids and sleeping on their floor and whatever in hospital when a couple times they got hurt. Queen Elizabeth didn't get it, because that's not the way it was done in the royal family. She said, 'I don't get it. There are millions of housemaids around who can do that stuff,'" Patterson says. "Queen Elizabeth didn't understand McDonald's. She said, 'Well, the hamburgers aren't that good.' And Diana tried to explain to her, 'It's not about the hamburgers. It's about the Happy Meals. And the Happy Meals aren't about the hamburgers, they're about the toy in the Happy Meal.'"

Among the most surprising things Patterson learned while writing the book was the fact that Diana "had a real sense of fun, that kind of naughty humor," which she didn't lose during her time in the royal family.

"When Will turned 13, he had pictures of models up on his wall and she invited them. So Claudia Schiffer, and Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell came to his 13th birthday party. She gave him a cake that had two women's breasts," Patterson shares. "That kind of naughty sense of humor was nice. When they were away in school, she would send them kind of naughty cards and stuff like that."

Patterson notes that he wanted to make sure that "the book was representative" of Diana "in that way, rather than just as a princess." Above all, though, the book makes clear that motherhood was always at the forefront of Diana's mind, so much so that she, at one point, recorded messages for her son's future wives.

"That's great on a lot of levels. '[My] dream is for you boys to have a life filled with love and joy. Cherish your children for me. They carry my heart. Let them know I love them and will always watch over them,'" Patterson quotes. "I mean, that's great stuff... I think in her case, obviously, it's even more meaningful, A, because she died so young, B, because she was so close to the boys, and C, just incredible curiosity about her, which I'm sure will persist for a long time."

Diana, William, & Harry is out now.

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