Fact Check: Princess Di Wrote to Jimmy Savile to Tell Him About Her Upcoming Visit to a Hospital Where It Was Later Revealed He Abused Patients

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Princess Diana wrote a letter in 1995 to British media personality Jimmy Savile, telling him about an impending visit to the hospital where it was later disclosed he sexually abused patients.


Rating: True
Rating: True

In early 2024, rumors circulated on Reddit and X, formerly Twitter, that a typewritten letter from Diana, Princess of Wales, to disgraced British media personality and (later) accused sex offender Jimmy Savile had been uncovered.

The letter was dated Oct. 10, 1995, less than two years before the princess died in a Paris car accident, and was written on stationery monogrammed with Kensington Palace, the home in London she maintained following her separation and subsequent divorce from then-Prince Charles III.

Many online commentators were suspicious about the timing of the posts, with some suggesting it was unearthed in early 2024 to distract from controversy surrounding Diana's daughter-in-law Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who underwent abdominal surgery in January, followed by her disappearance from public duty and the furor surrounding a reportedly "manipulated" family photo released for Mother's Day.

"Omg is this how they're trying to distract everyone from the Kate thing? So f***ed up," wrote one commenter on Reddit in response to a post containing the letter, while another responded, "Is this how they're pivoting from the 'photo edit' lie? If so, it's disgraceful!"

Snopes confirmed the letter is authentic correspondence between Princess Diana and Savile.

Owing to the letter being sold at auction on June 14, 2023, for $2,508 to an undisclosed bidder, its discovery in 2024 had nothing to do with controversies surrounding Britain's royal family. The letter can still be viewed on RR Auction's website:

(RR Auction)

Reading the contents of the letter, many were surprised by the apparently familiar relationship shared between the "people's princess" and Savile, an accused prolific sex offender who died in 2011 at age 84, having never been convicted of any crime related to sex abuse while he was alive, despite persistent rumors.

"Dear Jimmy," began Diana's correspondence to Savile. "I'm sorry to have been out of touch for so long but I know you have been busy and, I fear, you may just have noticed that I am still alive too!"

In the letter, Diana discusses Broadmoor, the high-security, mental-health hospital in Berkshire, England, she often visited due to her patronage in the mental health space, particularly with the British charity Turning Point. At Broadmoor, Savile was known to have abused numerous patients during his decades there as a volunteer, according to a detailed report by local health officials.

Snopes spoke exclusively with RR Auction's Executive Vice President Bobby Livingstone, who revealed the auction house's stringent process of authenticating such an item, including having "multiple people within the auction house [who] handle everything we have."

"We've been in business since 1976. Our reputation is based on authenticity," Livingstone told Snopes. "Looking at manuscripts, documents, handwritten letters — we've handled many, many Princess Diana items over the years, from Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace." 

According to Livingstone, this particular letter came from the Jimmy Savile archive, the BBC presenter's private collection that was used as part of the Netflix documentary released in 2022, "Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story." Livingstone explained:

A big part of the authentication process is the chain of custody, we call it provenance, which is the word for ownership. We know where it came from, how it was originally obtained, how it got to us — that's another key factor we look at when authenticating an item.

When you handle a lot of documents like this, it doesn't take a long time to authenticate because there's nothing suspicious that says to us, 'I have to sample the ink and take a piece of the paper and put it under the microscope.' It has all the signs of authenticity. The knowledge of our in-house experts is quite focused, so if there is something that's off, we will take the time to ensure its authenticity.

In recent years, other letters addressed from Princess Diana to Savile have gone up for auction. A search of the RR Auction database showed a mix of letters from the princess to Savile that were either typed or handwritten.

"She was known to do that," explained Livingston of Diana's mix of handwritten and typed letters. "We've had other Princess Di letters that were typed and she then signed. She and Savile had a known relationship through past correspondence. There's also lots of other correspondence we've handled between [King] Charles and Savile that we know is authentic." 

So, Snopes wondered how the authentication process works and what it entails. Livingstone revealed:

We look at paper weights, watermarks, stationery — all nice bonded paper has a certain weight quality to it. So, Kensington Palace stationery and Buckingham Palace stationery have a particular quality. We handle so much of it, we would know something is off.

We would look first at a scan or photograph of the item, we would then get the item in house, an authenticator handles it, then a researcher looks into it, handling the original artifact, then it goes to a photographer scanner to see if the item is printed or manufactured in any way, then we send it to an unbiased third party with no skin in the game, this one called PSA [Professional Sports Authenticator], then back into the inventory system before being exposed to tens of thousands of people who see it on our website.

Snopes reached out to PSA, the third-party authenticator mentioned above, regarding its authentication process, but they did not immediately return a request for comment.

RR Auction has authenticated many Princess Diana items that came from trusted origins to which they can compare her signature and handwriting, helping to speed up the process. Additionally, the auction house does not own the material it sells; rather, it operates as a marketplace that acts as a vetting brokerage. Livingstone explained that "because we have a great rep for authenticity, our bidders and buyers trust us and pay top dollar because they know we vetted the item." He explained of this specific Diana letter:

We've had lots of other Princess Di signed letters to compare it to. She has a very distinctive formation of vowels if you look closely. The examples we had matched perfectly [to this letter]. Handwriting being perfect, the ink, the fluidity of the signature, it's not slanted, the letter formations are perfect and match all other exemplars.

If you know the source it's coming from and it's on the proper stationery and the ink and autograph is perfect, all of these things add up to its authenticity.

It takes less than an hour [to authenticate], especially when you have multiple exemplars of authentic Princess Diana writing, stationery, the right pen, the right letter formation — it doesn't take long to authenticate an authentic example. Seven to eight people see it within RR Auction. We use many handwriting experts in house.

Of the some 25,000 items RR Auction sells per year, only a handful are withdrawn due to public scrutiny and questions surrounding their authenticity. According to Livingstone, this Diana letter was not one of those withdrawn items. Typically, each item is placed on the website for 17–28 days prior to auction, with many sold items continuing to remain on the website long after the auction has closed, including this letter. Livingstone explained:

We do allow the public to criticize our work; the public can inspect our letters as well. We're a very open system to scholars, teachers, authenticators. Tens of thousands of collectors and historians visit our website. If it's an issue of authenticity with something like this, someone would tell us, for example, if the date was wrong. Everything we sell is exposed to the public to scrutinize if we've made a mistake on authenticity. Our reputation is everything.

Aside from questions surrounding authenticity, contested ownership is another reason why an item may be withdrawn from auction. Livingstone said RR Auction does cooperate with law enforcement "when things are off" in order to protect clients from potential fraud. 

So, owing to the stringent authentication process Princess Diana's letter to Savile was put through, as well as that of a third-party authenticator, we rate this claim as "True."

Snopes has previously reported on other authentic historical artifacts RR Auction has sold, including George Washington's hair and John F. Kennedy's Harvard sweater.


"A 1995 Letter from Princess Diana to Jimmy Savile Was Just Released." A 1995 Letter from Princess Diana to Jimmy Savile Was Just Released, 11 Mar. 2024, https://www.reddit.com/r/Damnthatsinteresting/comments/1bc2jsn/a_1995_letter_from_princess_diana_to_jimmy_savile/.

Dr. Bill Kirkup CBE, and Paul Marshall. "Jimmy Savile Investigation: Broadmoor Hospital." West London Mental Health NHS Trust, 2 June 2014, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a7e24e0e5274a2e8ab461e9/Broadmoor_report.pdf.

"First Photo of Princess of Wales since Her Surgery Is Retracted Because Image Appeared Manipulated." AP News, 10 Mar. 2024, https://apnews.com/article/kate-princess-photo-surgery-ca91acf667c87c6c70a7838347d6d4fb.

"---." AP News, 10 Mar. 2024, https://apnews.com/article/kate-princess-photo-surgery-ca91acf667c87c6c70a7838347d6d4fb.

Gray, David, and Peter Watt. 'Giving Victims a Voice' . Metropolitan Police Service and National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Jan. 2013, https://synergyessex.org.uk/includes/items/pdf/2450_giving-victims-a-voice-metropolitan-police.pdf.

Henley, Jon. "Jimmy Savile: The Abuse Rumours That Have Persisted for Years." The Guardian, 1 Oct. 2012. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2012/oct/01/jimmy-savile-rumours-persisted-for-years.

Note from Princess Diana to Disgraced Star Jimmy Savile Sold at Auction. 13 July 2023, //honey.nine.com.au/royals/princess-diana-handwritten-letter-to-jimmy-savile-sold-at-auction/86281799-2722-41d9-a4b9-2bda54fe70d1.

Princess Diana Typed Letter Signed to Jimmy Savile | RR Auction. https://www.rrauction.com/auctions/lot-detail/347603406680087-princess-diana-typed-letter-signed-to-jimmy-savile. Accessed 13 Mar. 2024.

"Women and Mental Health - June 1, 1993." Archives of Women's Political Communication, https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2017/03/09/women-and-mental-health-june-1-1993/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.

https://www.turning-point.co.uk/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.