A previously undocumented friendship between an Irish nun and the late Diana, Princess of Wales has come to light in correspondence that has turned up for auction.
Letters and a Christmas card sent from Kensington Palace by Princess Diana in 1992 to Sr Teresa of the Little Sisters of the Assumption have been consigned to Sheppard's Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois, and will go under the hammer On March 1st when they are expected sell for up to €1,200.
The nun, a native of Co Kildare, was, at the time, based in the order’s convent in Wrexham, north Wales. She met Princess Diana through a mutual friend – the mother of a palace butler. The correspondence dates from 1992 – a year when the princess was the subject of relentless and intense scrutiny in the British media as rumours circulated about the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles.
Sr Teresa wrote to the princess following the death, in March 1992, of Diana's father, the 8th Earl Spencer. The princess replied to "Dear Sister Teresa" with a typed letter, hand-signed –"with my love, from Diana" — in which she expressed gratitude for the nun's sympathy and said her father had been a "strong and positive force" in her life.
Later in the year, British newspapers published transcripts of taped, intimate conversations between the princess and an alleged lover while private conversations between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were also published.
In November 1992, the princess sent a handwritten letter to Sr Teresa thanking the Irish nun for her “prayers, support and, most importantly . . . care” for which she was “deeply touched”. She also expressed her “deepest admiration for the wonderful work” the nun was doing. The Little Sisters of the Assumption were involved in visiting and tending to the needs of the poor and sick.
In December 1992, British prime minister John Major told the House of Commons that the Prince and Princess of Wales were separating. Later that month, the princess sent Sr Teresa a Christmas card featuring a well-known photograph of her sons, Princes William and Harry, which she hand-signed "with much love from Diana".
Five years later, Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31st, 1997, and was dubbed "The People's Princess" by then prime minister Tony Blair in a televised tribute.
Auctioneer Philip Sheppard said that Sr Teresa had now retired and returned to live in Ireland. It is understood that she does not wish to discuss her friendship with the princess. She had gifted the letters and card to a relative who was now also elderly and who has decided to sell the correspondence "because of concerns about what might happen to it long-term" and in the hope that it would be acquired by "either an archive or by a collector of Princess Diana memorabilia".
A few months before she died, the princess had consigned many of her dresses to auction to raise funds for charity. The auction, in New York, realised over $3 million. Since her death, mementoes of the princess have been avidly sought by collectors of royal memorabilia.