Elton John and Princess Diana became friends in 1981 when the musician performed at Prince Andrew’s birthday at Windsor Castle. “When I arrived, there was no one there but the dance band and Princess Diana,” John previously told the Vancouver Sun, (via Us Weekly).
He added, “We danced the Charleston alone on the floor for 20 minutes.” The legendary singer actually had a long-standing relationship with several members of the royal family and his relationship with the institution pre-dated his friendship with Diana. As far back as the 1970s, John was a familiar face at royal events, and Princess Margaret, the late Queen Elizabeth II, and the Queen Mother were all fans of the pop icon.
According to the Irish Independent, the 75-year-old was often invited to Buckingham Palace, and at one party, he danced to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” with the queen herself.
But it was John’s relationship with Diana, former Princess of Wales, that seemed to capture the most attention. Among her many famous friends, the “Tiny Dancer” singer and Princess Diana had a special bond. However, the two had a falling out at one point, though they thankfully reconciled before her death. John has been a devoted friend to the late princess for decades, even paying tribute to her 20 years after her death. When reflecting on the period where they were not close, though, John ultimately blamed one thing in particular for their rift.
What happened to cause tension between Elton John and Princess Diana?
Princess Diana famously used her influence to combat the HIV/AIDs stigma in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 1987, according to Tatler, Diana arrived for the opening of the London Middlesex Hospital HIV/AIDs unit and was photographed greeting and shaking hands with those afflicted by the virus. This was monumental in combating the false notion that one could contract the virus “through touch.”
In 1996, fashion designer Gianni Versace decided to create a book called “Rock and Royalty” to raise money for Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, featuring photographs of famous men. Diana had agreed to write the forward for the book but pulled out at the last minute.
“Then she got cold feet,” John wrote in his memoir “Me: Elton John.” He added, “I think Buckingham Palace didn’t like the idea of a member of the royal family having anything to do with a book that featured shots of naked guys with towels draped around them.” John explained that he later called Princess Diana out on the change of plans.
“I wrote back to her, calling her out, telling her how much money she had cost the AIDS Foundation, and reminding her that she had seen the book,” he explained. Diana’s response was reportedly cold, and the “Rocket Man” singer said that the incident led to a months-long silence between the two.
How the pair eventually reconciled
While Elton John and Princess Diana didn’t speak for several months after the debacle over the “Rock and Royalty” book, they ended up reconciling after the tragic death of Gianni Versace on July 15, 1997.
Both John and Diana had been friends with the designer and the shock of his death brought them closer together. Diana reportedly called the singer on the day Versace died while John was at his home in Nice, and he wrote about the interaction in his book “Me: Elton John.” She allegedly said, “I’m so sorry. It was a silly falling-out. Let’s be friends.”
It’s a good thing they reconciled when they did because it was only a matter of weeks until Diana herself died on August 31, 1997. In 2018, John spoke on Lorraine about how horrible the summer of 1997 was. “Gianni Versace was murdered, and then Diana rang me up and we reconciled,” John said. “And six weeks later, I’m in the same house, and she’s dead. It was an extraordinary and mesmerizing summer, and I just couldn’t believe what was going on.”
Though it was a given that John would commemorate Princess Diana at her funeral, Buckingham Palace allegedly had some reservations about it. As The Guardian notes, the palace approved of “Your Song” but not his remake of “Candle in the Wind” called “Goodbye England’s Rose.” However, he persisted and got to play the now-iconic tribute to Diana.
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