Princess Diana and Michael Jackson formed a friendship over late-night phone calls in which they commiserated about their public lives, despite only meeting in person once.
More than just honorific royal titles united the People’s Princess and the King of Pop. Diana, Princess of Wales and mother of the future King of England, formed a close friendship with global music sensation Michael Jackson as a result of her love of his songs, their shared passion for doing good in the world, and their shared experience of having their personal lives scrutinized by the media.
Jackson refused to perform “Dirty Diana” in front of the Princess, much to her chagrin.
Diana and Jackson met on July 16, 1988, when she visited Jackson’s Bad tour at Wembley Stadium with her then-husband, Prince Charles. Jackson had donated £150,000 to the youth-oriented Prince’s Trust charity and another £100,000 to the Great Ormand Street Hospital’s children’s charity at the time.
Jackson, who had openly discussed his relationship with Diana throughout his life, was nervous about meeting the Princess for the first time before his performance and had decided to take “Dirty Diana” off the setlist. He was worried that performing the song, which is about a rock groupie, in front of a member of royalty with the same name, would be inappropriate. After hearing his decision, Diana asked him not to exclude the song because it was one of her favorites by the artist.
In 1997, Jackson informed Barbara Walters of their first meeting, “I took that out of the play in honor of Her Royal Highness.” “Are you going to do Dirty Diana?” says the narrator. Jackson recalls Diana asking him during the pre-show meet-and-greet. “I answered, ‘No, I removed that from the show due of you.’ ‘No!’ she exclaimed. I’d like you to take care of it. Make it happen. ‘Sing the tune.’ During the concert, Diana is said to have danced while Prince Charles stayed sitting. The couple also received two miniature tour jackets for their boys, Princes William and Harry, from Jackson.
The two were’very close,’ according to Jackson.
Diana and Jackson had a great chemistry, and their friendship grew over time and across borders. In 1999, Jackson told German media, “We were very close.” “By phone, she was extremely close… Lisa Marie [Presley] and I were still married. Diana used to wake me up late at night, usually after three a.m. Then she talked to me on the phone for hours. She talked about children, the press.” Matt Fiddes, Jackson’s former bodyguard, confirms the late-night calls, even claiming that the singer was “in love” with Diana. “[Jackson] felt she was the only person in the world who could understand his life in terms of not being able to go anywhere, and the media stories that got out of hand… The intrusion into the private life, having no privacy whatsoever, the children being hounded,” Fiddes, who worked closely with Jackson for a decade, told Daily Star Online in 2017.
Diana and Michael Jackson shared a common fear of being followed by the media.
The two had a mutual distrust of the media’s growing presence in their lives, particularly the paparazzi, who relentlessly documented their every public moment. Diana was the most photographed person in the world before, during, and after her marriage to Prince Charles. The tabloids speculated about Jackson’s ever-changing appearance and erratic behavior (such as dangling his baby over a balcony in front of fans).
Their friendship lasted until Diana’s death on August 31, 1997, according to Jackson, despite the fact that they only met in person once during their lives. Jackson told Walters that when he learned of her death, he broke down and cried.Jackson postponed a scheduled performance of his HIStory tour due to his astonishment. When he eventually returned to the stage, he dedicated the show to Diana. “‘I love you, Diana,’ I was saying in my head. Shine. And shine brightly forever, since you are the people’s true princess.'”
Jackson did not attend Diana’s funeral in London, where other friends of the late Princess, such as Elton John and George Michael, were there, but he did attend a memorial service for her in Los Angeles, where he told reporters he was there “in honor of my friend who is no longer here… “I’m in love with her.”
Jackson continued to hold Diana in high regard after her death.
In 2003, when asked about their friendship, Jackson said of Diana, “She was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known, because we could relate to each other.” With the press, we had something in common. I don’t believe they pursued anyone other than her and me. And we had a relationship where we’d call each other late at night and just cry on each other’s shoulders about how hard and cruel the tabloids can be.”
Other than Jackson’s retelling, the true depth of his friendship with Diana and the exact content of those late-night conversations remain unknown following Jackson’s death in 2009 at the age of 50.
More than 31 million people in the United States tuned in. According to Nielsen ratings, more than 31 million Americans tuned in to watch coverage of Jackson’s memorial ceremony on July 7, 2009, making it the second-most watched daytime funeral in Nielsen’s history. The first was the funeral of his friend Diana, Princess of Wales, on September 6, 1997, which drew 33.2 million viewers.