During her lifetime, Princess Diana was known as the People’s Princess — and it seems that moniker applied not only to the British people but to her (very wide) social circle as well. The mother of Prince William and Prince Harry counted legends such as Liza Minnelli, Elton John, and Naomi Campbell as some of her closest friends, among many, many others. But perhaps Diana’s most raucous friendship was with LGBTQ icon and rock and roll royalty Freddie Mercury, whose hijinks might put even the merriest of pranksters and adventure-seekers to shame.
So what did the Queen frontman and the People’s Princess get up to in their heyday? Considering that at least one activity involved an elaborate disguise and living the high life in the heart of London’s nightlife, their dynamic is beyond your wildest imagination. Trust us on this one — it’s going to be a bumpy ride, so fasten your seatbelts. Let’s take a look inside Princess Diana’s sneaky relationship with Freddie Mercury.
Life in the spotlight fueled Princess Diana's sneaky night out
According to a 2013 memoir by actress Cleo Rocos, Freddie Mercury and Princess Diana became friends in the mid-1980s (via Rolling Stone). As Rocos described in her book, one particular get together exemplified the bond between the People’s Princess and the Queen singer. What began as an afternoon of lounging while watching television reruns quickly turned into a legendary romp for the ages.
In her book, Rocos recounted a small gathering with both Freddie and Diana at the home of British comedian Kenny Everett, her creative collaborator and close friend. All four were “drinking champagne in front of reruns of The Golden Girls with the sound turned down” for the sake of “a much naughtier storyline.”
Keep in mind, this purportedly took place at the height of Diana’s popularity and demonstrates her willingness to buck the traditional norms and restrictive protocol of the British royal family. Diana’s status as a beloved figure within the cultural landscape also went hand-in-hand with extreme media scrutiny which, according to Rocos, played a significant hand in the events that ensued between Freddie and Diana.
Freddie and Diana devised an ingenious plan
According to actress Cleo Rocos and her 2013 memoir, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett — both of whom were closeted queer men when the get-together with Diana took place — began to discuss their plans for that evening, which included a jaunt to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, one of London’s oldest and most popular gay bars. In the midst of carving out their itinerary for the night, Diana reportedly insisted she join the two for a chance to blow off some steam, if at least for one night. There was, however, a catch.
As Rocos points out in her memoir (via Rolling Stone), the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (also known to locals as RVT) had a somewhat rough reputation, so Diana’s friends had some reservations. “We pleaded, ‘What would be the headline if you were caught in a gay bar brawl?'” recalled Rocos. It was reportedly Diana, along with Freddie, who came up with an ingenious way to keep the princess out of the spotlight while enjoying some well-deserved fun.
The gist? Dress Diana, Princess of Wales, up in drag. (And yes, you read that correctly.)
Diana was transformed from a princess into a king
After deciding to dress Princess Diana up in classic drag king style, comedian Kenny Everett reportedly rifled through his closet to come up with the proper attire for the royal’s night out, which included an army jacket, aviator glasses, and a leather hat (via Rolling Stone). Ultimately, the only thing crazier than the outfit itself was the fact that it actually worked.
“Scrutinizing her in the half-light,” Cleo Rocos wrote in her 2013 memoir Kenny and Me: Bananas Forever, “we decided that the most famous icon of the modern world might just -– just -– pass for a rather eccentrically dressed gay male model.”
All four eventually departed for the bar, and Diana’s incognito look — paired with the fact that Freddie Mercury, Everett, and Rocos were celebrities at the height of their fame — ensured that the People’s Princess remained undetected, with both Freddie and Diana “giggling” all the while. (To be fair, the fact that their visit only lasted about 20 minutes might have had something to do with the success of their scheme.)
While only Rocos would live long enough to recall their night of mischief — both Everett and Mercury died of AIDS-related causes in the 90s, and Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997 — we are grateful for the intimate glimpse into the friendship between two of the most significant figures of the 20th century.
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