They’d only met 13 times before 750 million people around the globe watched their royal wedding on TV in 1981. Princess Diana later detailed how Prince Charles, nearly 13 years her senior, proposed when she was 19. “I laughed. I remember thinking, ‘This is a joke,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, OK,’” she recalled. But Charles “was deadly serious,” she realized. “He said, ‘You do realize that one day you will be queen?’ And a voice said to me inside, ‘You won’t be queen, but you’ll have a tough role.’”

Despite that eerie premonition, Diana never could have imagined just how challenging her short life would really be. Sixteen years after marrying the Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, and barely a year after their divorce was settled, she was dead at 36 after a Paris car crash — and it was Charles’ longtime mistress, the former Camilla Parker Bowles, 76, who would be queen. Diana’s charity work and her beloved sons, Prince William, 42, and Prince Harry, 39, were her greatest joys, but as the world prepares to mark what would have been her 63rd birthday on July 1, a new collection of bittersweet personal letters from the early days of her marriage are about to hit the auction block. Now, Closer exclusively reveals the People’s Princess’ secrets and sorrow.

Inside Princess Diana’s Life

After 32 of the former Lady Diana Spencer’s letters sold at auction for $175,000 earlier this year, the newly discovered batch of personal missives is also expected to go for six figures at auction on June 27, 2024. The intimate handwritten notes to Maud Pendrey, a former housekeeper at Althorp, the Spencer family estate, give a rare peek into her thinking at the time. In one, Diana described her honeymoon with Charles, now 75, as “a tremendous success.” In another, she gushed of being an “extremely proud and lucky mother” who couldn’t wait to have “masses more” children.

Princess Diana’s Intimate Letters Unearthed: Her Secrets, Sorrow

It’s not surprising the princess was so close to the housekeeper. Haunted by her parents’ split when she was just 6, she was starved for affection. “She was extremely shy and lonely as a child but felt close to the staff who took care of her and adored her,” a source exclusively tells Closer. “They were family to her.”

Even so, she felt compelled to hide her misery. “She felt she had to keep up appearances,” notes the source. The red flags, however, were there from the start. When asked if they were in love during their official engagement interview, Diana said, “Of course,” while Charles responded, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Though she laughed it off in the moment, the princess later admitted his response had left her “absolutely traumatized.”

Within a week of the engagement, she’d succumbed to bulima. Charles, she recalled, “put his hand on my waistline and said: ‘Oh, a bit chubby here, aren’t we?’ and that triggered off something in me.”

It only got worse as she realized Charles was still in love with Camilla. Diana later admitted to making five suicide attempts. Of one, she said, “I was desperate, desperate… So I threw myself down the stairs” while pregnant with William. She called her self-harm “a desperate cry for help.”

Charles wasn’t equipped to deal with Diana’s instability. “His frustration and impatience over her unhappiness got the better of him,” says the source. “He couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t just endure it and behave like royals were expected to do.” But nothing hurt like betrayal. “Diana must have known Charles would never love her the way he did Camilla,” says the source, noting Diana, too, strayed following Harry’s birth — after she confirmed, as she put it, “Charles had gone back to his lady.”

Royal Relationships After Princess Diana’s Death

Nearly 27 years after her death, it’s impossible to know what she’d think of the rift between her beloved boys. Harry sees parallels between how Diana was treated by the royal family and what his wife, Meghan Markle, 42, faced after their 2018 wedding, saying they turned on the former Suits star for “doing the job better than the person who is born to do this,” he said in 2022. Diana spoke about the same thing in 1995, revealing that “with the media attention came a lot of jealousy” from blood royals and that “a great deal of complicated situations arose because of that.”

Princess Diana’s Intimate Letters Unearthed: Her Secrets, Sorrow

Perhaps she would have supported his decision to move his young family from the U.K. to California amid media attacks in 2020. “Harry was scarred by what his mother went through, and when he saw the same thing happening to Meghan, he knew he must act,” explains the source. “He’s certain his mother would have approved of him leaving the royal family. Diana had tried to do the same, and he thinks she would be proud of him and his new life.”

The source says future king William disagrees. “He thinks their mother would be appalled by Harry abandoning his family,” says the source, referring to the Duke of Sussex’s decision to detail fights and private moments with his father, brother and sister-in-law Princess Kate, 42, in his 2023 memoir, Spare. “It would break her heart to see brother against brother.”

There still no truce in sight for the two, who on July 1 will again face their shared trauma without one another. “Diana’s birthday is painful for Harry and William both,” says the source. “For Harry, he thinks about what could have been, and William is reminded of being without her from such a young age. The loss of their mother cuts deep.”