Extracts from long-secret letters revealing an affectionate relationship between Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Duke of Edinburgh were read at the inquest into her death today.
The correspondence between the Princess and “Dearest Pa” sheds light on the Royal Family’s attempts to save her marriage to the Prince of Wales as it broke down in 1992.
But the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, ruled that only heavily-edited versions of the lengthy letters could be released to protect their intimate contents.
And the Duke was not required to give evidence to the inquest in person, instead sending his private secretary, Brigadier Miles Hunt-Davis.
In the letters Diana thanks Prince Philip for his “heartfelt and honest” words and praises his “marriage guidance skills”.
In one, she writes: “Even if you are unable to succeed in this, I still would like you to know how much I admire you for the marvellous way in which you have tried to come to terms with this intensely difficult family problem.”
For his part the Duke promises in one letter he will, if invited, “always do my utmost to help you and Charles to the best of my ability”.
The inquest also heard that Diana was not planning to get engaged to her new lover Dodi Fayed, with whom she died in a car crash in a Paris underpass on August 31 1997.
Her close friend and confidante Rosa Monkton, who went on holiday with her a fortnight before her death, said the Princess was “excited” about her relationship with Dodi.
But Diana was really pining for her heart surgeon ex-boyfriend, Hasnat Khan, from whom she had recently split.
“It was clear to me that she was really missing Hasnat and that I think Dodi was a distraction from the hurt that she felt from the break-up of that relationship,” she said.
Dodi had showered Diana with gifts, but this made her uneasy, the inquest heard.
“She said ’I know that he’s going to give me a ring, but that’s going to go firmly on a finger on my right hand’,” Ms Monkton said.
Ms Monkton also ruled out the possibility that the Princess was pregnant when she died, saying she had her period just 10 days earlier.
Dodi’s father Mohamed al Fayed, the Harrods owner, has alleged that Diana and his son were victims of a murder plot instigated by Prince Philip to prevent them getting married.
Simone Simmons, Diana’s former psychic and healer, claimed in a statement read to the inquest that the Princess showed her “nasty” letters she received from Prince Philip.
These letters are alleged to form part of a missing box of sensitive documents dubbed the “Crown Jewels”.
But Ms Monkton insisted the correspondence with Prince Philip was “very thoughtful, kind, intelligent and considered”.
The Princess was “hysterical” when she received the first letter in June 1992, but Ms Monkton calmed her down and persuaded her it was a “very genuine offer of help from her father-in-law”.
“He told Diana how difficult it had been for him to get used to royal life, having to give up a career and to always be one step behind,” Ms Monkton said.
She said she did not show Prince Philip's letters to anyone else apart from – with Diana’s consent – her journalist husband Dominic Lawson, who helped draft her replies.
Ms Monkton added that she could “very easily” see how some of Diana’s friends might have got the impression that the letters from Prince Philip were unpleasant.
“Receiving the letters, her first reaction was generally tearful and not really understanding,” she said.
“If she was like that with me, who was helping her with them, I imagine that she could have expressed similar sentiments to other people in her circle.”
Brig Hunt-Davis said Prince Philip “rather reluctantly” issued a statement in November 2002 in response to media speculation about the contents of his letters to Diana.
“There is not a single derogatory term in the correspondence,” he added.
“The general feeling throughout was of a father-in-law doing his very best to help his daughter-in-law resolve the problems that she and the Prince of Wales were having with their marriage.”
The coroner confirmed that the letters contained nothing to support suggestions they contained “unpleasant, nasty or insulting” material.
Michael Mansfield QC, for Mr al Fayed, asked Brig Hunt-Davis whether he had heard allegations that Diana feared Prince Philip wanted her dead.
He replied: “I did not ever hear that. And in view of the correspondence we have seen today, I am very surprised that it was even suggested.”
Brig Hunt-Davis also said a suggestion that Prince Philip had described Dodi as “an oily bed-hopper” sounded “extremely unlikely”.
Mr Mansfield alleged that Diana’s behaviour in the summer of 1997 was “of extreme concern” to the Royal Family.
He said: “I want to suggest to you that it was of extreme concern to the Royal Family – in other words, Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness – that the Princess of Wales was cavorting on a yacht in the Mediterranean with the son of somebody who was regarded as undesirable.”
Brig Hunt-Davis replied: “The divorce was in August 1996. The lady concerned ceased to be a member of the Royal Family. That is all I am going to say.”
Mr Mansfield also said a witness would tell the inquest that, before her death, Diana was compiling a dossier entitled “Profiteering From Misery” to expose the way the British defence industry supplied landmines to war zones across the world.
“That would really be a bit embarrassing, wouldn’t it?” he said.
Brig Hunt-Davis said: “If she was going to – but I don’t know, was she?”
Following Mr Mansfield’s repeated suggestions that Philip was the only person who could answer key questions, the Brigadier said he had “no idea” whether Prince Philip would agree to give evidence to the inquest if he was asked.
“He knows I am attending. I did not discuss what would happen here,” he said.