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What Nelson Mandela really thought of Princess Diana

Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana, two of the world's most influential personalities of the 1990s, were very respectful. By committing each other to helping the poorest in Africa, they have forged incredible ties and helped bring together two very different countries. Here is the story of the friendship between Princess Diana and Mandela.

How Princess Diana met Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (left) and Princess Diana (right)
Nelson Mandela (left) and Princess Diana (right) | ANNA ZIEMINSKI / AFP / Getty Images

Five months before her death in 1997, Princess Diana traveled to Cape Town for a private visit to her brother, Earl Spencer, who was living in the suburbs of the city. During her stay, she had the opportunity to meet South African President Nelson Mandela.

The two inspiring characters had a lot to talk about. Mandela praised his dedication to helping people with AIDS. "We saw her sitting on the bed of AIDS patients and shaking their hands, which dramatically changed the perception of AIDS," Mandela said.

Princess Diana told the press that she was happy to be able to help. "I came here to discuss the AIDS situation in the country with the president and this is what we are discussing," she said. "I said that if I could help in any way, I'm available to do it."

Mandela also expressed thanks for Princess Diana's visit with the children in Angola, who had been paralyzed by anti-personnel mines. This was another important cause for Princess Diana. The destruction of landmines in South Africa was largely due to his attention to the issue, which Mandela acknowledged.

When a photographer asked him to kiss Princess Diana, Mandela said it would be "a betrayal".

After the visit, Princess Diana stated that she was "absolutely delighted" to meet Mandela and he responded by saying that he was "still shaking" after the meeting. "I did not know that I would meet a British princess," Mandela told reporters.

Nelson Mandela remembers Princess Diana

After her death, Princess Diana was omitted by the world and especially by Mandela. "I was devastated because it would have reversed the trend," he said, referring to his work in Africa on disease and poverty.

Mandela reminded the audience how Princess Diana sat at the bedside and was holding hands with those with leprosy and AIDS. "It has transformed the public's attitude and improved the life chances of these people," he said.

Mandela called on the public to "learn from his example and accept his heritage".

In 2002, Mandela went to the United Kingdom, where he had the opportunity to visit Diana's grave and plant an oak tree in his honor.

Prince Harry honors Nelson Mandela

Like her mother, Africa is a place that Prince Diana's youngest son, Prince Harry, cares about. He has been able to visit South Africa several times. During these visits, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is a privileged stage of the prince.

During his visit in 2015, Prince Harry was reported to have visited Mandela's former offices, where he was immediately attracted by a photo of his mother meeting with the South African president in 1997.

Prince Harry also had the chance to meet Mandela's widow, Graca Machele. He offered him a picture of him that he had taken shortly after Mandela's death.

What was the picture? When the news of Mandela's death was announced in 2013, Prince Harry was trekking to the South Pole as part of the Allied Walking with the South Pole Wounded Challenge. When he heard the news, Prince Harry planted a South African flag on the post in Mandela's honor. The photo he presented to Machele was planting the flag for Mandela.

Prince Harry also returned to the Nelson Mandela exhibition in 2018 with Meghan Markle, whom the couple described as "thrilling". Thanks to their visit, they were able to continue the positive relationship that began between the two countries, Princess Diana and Mandela.

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