After Diana was killed in a Paris car crash in August 1997, Queen Elizabeth faced harsh criticism for her handling of the situation. Specifically, the people of Britain objected to her "business-as-usual" attitude and her decision to remain in Scotland with Diana's young children, Prince William and Prince Harry, rather than immediately return home.
Although the Queen's seemingly "aloof" attitude was off-putting to a country in mourning, the newly-released letter to one of her closest aides, Lady Henriette Abel Smith, sheds light on the depth of emotion that she kept hidden.
"It was indeed dreadfully sad, and she is a huge loss to the country. But the public reaction to her death, and the service in the Abbey, seem to have united people round the world in a rather inspiring way. William and Harry have been so brave and I am very proud of them," Queen Elizabeth wrote.
"I think your letter was one of the first I opened — emotions are still so mixed up but we have all been through a very bad experience!" Queen Elizabeth continued.
Upon the royal family's return to London, they were greeted with a sea of floral tributes that stretched from the gates of Kensington Palace into the streets. The night before Diana's funeral, the Queen addressed the nation and gave a poignant tribute to her former daughter-in-law.
"[Diana] was an exceptional and gifted human being," Queen Elizabeth said in a broadcast from Buckingham Palace. "In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness."
"I admired and respected her — for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys. This week at Balmoral, we have all been trying to help William and Harry come to terms with the devastating loss that they and the rest of us have suffered," she added.
The Queen's newly-released letter shows that her words to Britain were honest and heartfelt. Her immediate priority after Diana's death was caring for her grandchildren and surely no one can fault her for that.