The publication of Andrew Morton’s biography of the princess entitled ‘Diana: Her True Story’ in 1992 revealed to the world that Diana was trapped in an unhappy and loveless marriage. Many people felt sorry for the princess, but others rebuked her for indirectly approving the book by allowing her friends and family to be interviewed. Prince Philip wrote an angry letter to his daughter-on-law ordering her to “help maintain the dignity of the Crown” which left her devastated, according to the paperback version of the biography released later that year.
Mr Major apparently tried to intervene, warning Diana that he could not organise a respectable departure from public life if she persisted in “manipulating” and “milking” the media.
However, she ignored his advice and sent a letter back to her father-in-law, emphasising her role as the mother of the heirs to the throne, Prince William and Prince Harry, second and third in line respectively (at the time).
Her tone made it clear she was on the cusp of making the unilateral decision to leave her husband.
This simmered the Duke of Edinburgh for a time, but he later lost his temper with her again and issued her a final ultimatum: fit in and behave, or face exile, leaving your children behind.
Diana could not bear to leave her boys, so she stayed with Charles for the time being, but the talk of separation did not cease.
Eventually, after long and painful negotiations it was decided that they would separate.
The announcement was made by Mr Major on December 9, 1992.
He read out a statement from Buckingham Palace in the House of Commons telling MPs that the couple had separated, but had no plans for divorce and that their constitutional positions were unaffected.
“The succession to the throne is unaffected by it; the children of the Prince and Princess retain their position in the line of succession; and there is no reason why the Princess of Wales should not be crowned Queen in due course.
“The Prince of Wales’s succession as head of the Church of England is also unaffected.
“Neither the Prince nor the Princess is supported by the civil list, and this position will remain unchanged.
“I know that there will be great sadness in this news.
“But I know also that, as they continue with their royal duties and with bringing up their children, the Prince and Princess will have the full support, understanding and affecting of the House and of the country.”
While the announcement indicated that there were no plans for divorce and that Diana would still be crowned Queen one day, they did of course get divorced three and a half years later, in 1996.
After Diana’s tragic death in August 1997, Mr Major was appointed to be a formal guardian to Princes William and Harry, with responsibility for legal and administrative matters.
At the time, he was no longer in Downing Street, after a landslide victory for Tony Blair’s Labour in May, but he had made such an impression on the Royal Family that he was chosen for the special role.
He had reportedly developed a close relationship with the Queen during their weekly meetings, but it was actually Charles who had made the suggestion.
As a result, he was the only current or former Prince Minister to attend the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018.
The Tory leader also made the New Years Honours list in 1999 for his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and he was knighted in 2005.