The truth behind the royal obsession with trying to contact the dead

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed visited medium Rita Rogers for a reading at her Derbyshire home around three weeks before their deaths
Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed visited medium Rita Rogers for a reading at her Derbyshire home around three weeks before their deaths - Patrick Bar/AP

The arrival of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed in a field on the periphery of a sleepy Derbyshire village was hardly inconspicuous.

As a Harrods helicopter circled over Lower Pilsley, curious local residents who pulled back the curtains at the sound of the deafening noise would have got a shock.

A few minutes later, who would come scurrying from the chopper in the late afternoon sunlight but the most pursued couple in the world.

It was August 12, 1997 and Diana and Dodi had arrived for a 30-minute appointment with Rita Rogers, a medium of Romany origin, who Diana telephoned regularly and had visited twice before.

Rogers has since claimed that she once told the Princess she would meet a man of foreign descent with the initial ‘D’ on water, and that the man would be connected with the film industry.

Easy to say with hindsight, perhaps. But regardless, Fayed was so impressed with the accuracy of her readings that he asked for his own meeting. And there they found themselves, around three weeks before their deaths, knocking on the door of Rogers’ detached, double-fronted home.

Medium Rita Rogers, who Diana used to phone regularly
Medium Rita Rogers, who Diana used to phone regularly - Shutterstock

The scene is portrayed in the sixth and final series of The Crown, released last week, which charts the run up to that fatal crash in the Pont de l’Alma Tunnel in Paris on August 31.

The Queen is shown telling Prince Philip that Diana and Dodi had just flown 160 miles to visit her psychic, “terrorising some tiny village in the process”.

She adds, witheringly, that it may have been “to help Mr Fayed decide where his priorities lie, romantically, given he already has an American fiancée, I understand”.

Princess Diana was known to rely on spiritual healers and mediums, taking comfort from their readings as she sought to make sense of a turbulent, unpredictable life.

As Tina Brown noted in The Diana Chronicles, “a garrulous procession of astrologers, psychics, palm readers and graphologists toted their charts and crystal balls into Kensington Palace.”

The Princess spent many, many hours on the phone to these women, most of whom became friends.

But she is far from the only member of the Royal family to seek answers from another world.

Diana is said to have been introduced to Rogers by none other than the Duchess of York, who “turned to the psychic for advice after separating from Prince Andrew”.

Sarah Ferguson put her faith in various spiritual gurus over the years. In the early 1990s, she became embroiled with Greek ­clairvoyant Madame Vasso, whose treatment was said to have included sitting under a blue perspex “power-enhancing” pyramid while pouring her heart out to become cleansed.

Vasso, a self-proclaimed psychic healer, would later betray the Duchess with a book dishing the dirt on her extramarital affairs, the squalid state of her finances and her views on her in-laws.

Prince Harry revealed in his memoir that he, too, turned to a woman who “claimed to have powers” in a desperate bid to make contact with his dead mother.

The Duchess of York visited Madame Vasso, who went on to dish the dirt on her in a book
The Duchess of York visited Madame Vasso, who went on to dish the dirt on her in a book - Shutterstock

He said that while he recognised the “high-percentage chance of humbuggery”, the unidentified woman had come strongly recommended by friends.

“The minute we sat down together, I felt an energy around her,” he wrote. “Oh, I thought. Wow. There’s something here.”

The woman told him what he needed to hear – that his mother was with him, could feel his confusion and understood his search for answers.

“Your mother says: ‘You’re living the life she couldn’t. You’re living the life she wanted for you’,” he wrote.

Harry was desperate to believe her but needed a sign, which came in the form of a reference to a Christmas ornament that had broken.

His wife Meghan had given Harry a Christmas tree decoration of his grandmother, the late Queen, that their son Archie had knocked from the tree, causing it to shatter.

In another extract, Harry said he thought a close encounter with a leopard while on holiday in Botswana with his brother, William, was also a message from their mother.

“Everyone froze. Except me. I took a step towards it,” he wrote. “I was thinking about Mummy. That leopard was clearly a sign from her, a messenger she’d sent to say: ‘All is well. And all will be well.’”

Prince Harry revealed in his memoir that he turned to a woman who ‘claimed to have powers’ in a bid to make contact with his dead mother
Prince Harry revealed in his memoir that he turned to a woman who ‘claimed to have powers’ in a bid to make contact with his dead mother - Netflix

Diana’s reliance on what was once described as a “menagerie of new age therapists and professional soothers” may have been ridiculed in Prince Charles’s camp but the King himself has long been fascinated by spiritualism.

Described by Ian Bradley, emeritus professor at the University of St Andrews, as a “spiritual seeker”, he is deeply interested in all faiths.

At Cambridge, the King’s interest was piqued in the thought of Carl Jung, while he is also said to have been influenced by Mervyn Stockwood, the controversial bishop of Southwark.

By the mid-1970s, Laurens van der Post had become his spiritual mentor. The South African writer once wrote Charles a letter outlining how the monarchy could heal the link between society and the natural world.

He said, “the battle for our renewal can be most naturally led by what is still one of the few great living symbols accessible to us — the symbol of the crown”.

Diana told her biographer Andrew Morton of their 1981 honeymoon: “He would read Laurens van der Post or Jung to me. Bear in mind I hadn’t a clue about psychic powers or anything, but I knew there was something in me that hadn’t been awoken yet and I didn’t think this was going to help!”

In 2000, the then Prince Charles vocalised his message as he called for a “sense of the sacred in our dealings with the natural world, and with each other”.

But royal interest in connecting to the spiritual world can be tracked back beyond the current generation.

South African author and journalist Laurens van der Post, who the then Prince Charles is said to have turned to for spiritual guidance
South African author and journalist Laurens van der Post, who the then Prince Charles is said to have turned to for spiritual guidance - Patrick Ward/Popperfoto

Both Elizabeth II and the late Queen Mother attended a seance in an attempt to make contact with George VI. The recently widowed Queen Mother was, perhaps understandably, particularly anxious to make a connection.

It was 1953, barely a year after the King’s death. The setting was a private house in west London and the host, a medium called Lilian Bailey, who said her spirit guide was a man named William Hedley Wootton, a captain in the Grenadier Guards who was killed in the First World War.

Others in attendance included Prince Philip, Princess Alexandra and her mother, Princess Marina, who was said to be keen to make contact with her own husband, the Duke of Kent, who had died in a plane crash in 1942.

What was said behind those doors has remained a closely guarded secret. But royal author Christopher Wilson revealed that the Queen Mother was so taken with what she heard that night, she arranged further meetings.

For her part, Diana knew that others considered her reliance on spiritual healers nonsense. “I’d never discuss it with anyone, they would all think I’m, you know?” she told biographer Morton in Diana, Her True Story. “I used the word ‘psychic’ to my policemen a couple of times and they have freaked out.”

Rogers, who first met Diana in 1994, has since described that final encounter in Derbyshire, revealing that while she did a private reading for Dodi, the Princess “sat in the sunshine on the patio” with Rogers’ husband until they had finished.

She claimed she even warned Dodi about the accident, including “specific details of the colour of the car” and “the tunnel” as she urged him to “always use his own driver”.

Whether she did or not, Rogers certainly made an impression. After the visit, Diana is said to have given her a 15 carat gold necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels, one of her favourite jewellers, with a note expressing “so much love to a very special lady”.

Among others who counselled Diana through her most troubled years was spiritual healer Simone Simmons, who she met at an alternative medical centre in 1993.

Simmons has claimed that by 1996 they were seeing each other five times a week and that Diana otherwise called her from wherever she was in the world.

Simone Simmons says she advised Princess Diana regularly
Simone Simmons says she advised Princess Diana regularly - Clara Molden for The Telegraph

Sally Morgan, known as Psychic Sally, has also said that there were times when the troubled Princess called her three or four times a day.

It is perhaps unsurprising that this search for answers, stability and guidance was inherited by Prince Harry, who describes himself as “my mother’s son”.

Psychic Sally has claimed that Prince Harry contacted her in 2013 to ask for a reading as well as answers regarding his mother’s death. She said they spoke on the phone for 45 minutes.

In her book, Secret Spirit, she says: “I was on holiday in St Tropez and he called me, and the first thing he said was, ‘What do you think about how my mother died?’”

She said she had told Harry to speak to his aunt, Diana’s older sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, because “she will tell you what I told her before your mother passed away”.

Morgan claims to have predicted a death in a dark place, someone suffering a heart attack after being dragged onto a pavement and given CPR.

She has said she told Diana that the Queen Mother would die because she could see her funeral. Following Diana’s unexpected death, her funeral was based on plans made for the Queen Mother’s, codenamed Tay Bridge.

“I didn’t tell Harry that, though; I just told him to speak to his aunt,” Morgan said in a television interview, claiming that Lady Sarah had contacted her four days after Diana’s funeral to ask what she thought had happened.

The appearance of Diana’s ghost in the final series of The Crown has been panned by critics, who described the scenes as “tawdry” and “farcical”.

But her clear interest in the supernatural may well have raised a smile from beyond the grave.

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