The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II destroyed letters from Princess Diana in a bid to "protect" the British royal family, a new book reveals.
The late Princess Margaret told a friend that she had ordered the destruction of large bin bags full of personal papers "because they were so private", says the book - a biography of Queen Elizabeth II's mother, who died in 2002 at age 101.
The book, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography, by journalist William Shawcross, says Princess Margaret went through her mother's papers in 1993, several months after Prince Charles and Diana had announced their separation.
Journalist Andrew Morton's 1992 book Diana: Her True Story had disclosed that the Princess felt she had been rejected not only by Charles but also by the Queen and other members of the Royal family. Although it was reported that Margaret had burned bundles of letters to her grandmother, this is the first confirmation that Diana's letters were among them, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.
In the book, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II, Shawcross writes: "Princess Margaret was engaged on one of her periodic 'sortings' of her mother's papers." In a letter to her mother, Margaret wrote: "I am going back today to clear up some more of your room. Keeping the letters for you to sort later."
Shawcross writes: "On the princess's orders, large black bags of papers were taken away for destruction rather than for ultimate consignment to the Royal Archives. There is no record of just what was thus lost but Princess Margaret later told Lady Penn (who was related by marriage to Queen Elizabeth's private secretary, Arthur Penn) that among the papers she had destroyed were letters from the Princess of Wales to Queen Elizabeth - because they were so private.
"No doubt Princess Margaret felt that she was protecting her mother and other members of the family. It was understandable, although regrettable from a historical viewpoint."
The Queen Mother was thought to be very close to both Charles and Diana but, the book says, reacted with "utter abhorrence" over Diana's decision to "wash the dirty linen in public" by disclosing details of the breakdown of her marriage.
She also regretted Charles' decision to discuss his private life on a television programme where he admitted he had been unfaithful to Diana.