Meetings that made history: When Princess Diana met Mother Teresa

An unlikely friendship blossomed between an English princess and an elderly Roman Catholic nun when Princess Diana met Mother Teresa. They met for the first time in February 1992, after Diana flew to Rome to see the 82-year-old missionary, who had been too ill to attend their scheduled meeting in Calcutta.

Although the Princess of Wales lived a privileged and fairytale lifestyle that was worlds apart from the dedicated nun who had taken vows of poverty, chastity, charity and obedience, their enduring friendship lasted until Princess Diana’s untimely death in a car accident on 31st August 1997.

Diana had attempted to meet Mother Teresa during her trip to India with Prince Charles, earlier in 1992. The princess, a supporter of many charities, had travelled to Calcutta to visit her convent home, but Mother Teresa was ill and unable to see her.

Regardless, Diana was given a tour of the convent, and later said she experienced a “spiritual awakening”, according to her former butler, Paul Burrell. She described how “something very profound” had touched her life, especially when the sisters of the convent sang to her – an experience she said was “deeply spiritual”.

First meeting
The princess met Mother Teresa at the Missionary of Charity convent, in a working-class district of the city.

Although Mother Theresa was more used to caring for the poorest of the poor, she was open to befriending “anyone that Almighty God placed on her arduous path”, according to those who knew her. She and Diana became good friends, despite their contrasting lifestyles.

Royal butler Burrell described how the princess discovered a “deep spirituality” when she met Mother Teresa, while the missionary described Diana as being “very concerned for the poor” and “very anxious” to help them, adding, “This is why she was close to me.”

Enduring friendship
Over the next five years, Diana and Mother Teresa met several times – including a meeting in the Bronx at the Missionaries of Charity convent. It was reported that the two of them discussed many things, including Prince Harry and Prince William, and also charity issues such as Third World poverty.

The princess was in the United States for a charity auction of her dresses, with the proceeds going towards helping people with cancer and AIDS in America and the United Kingdom. She took time out to visit Mother Teresa in the Bronx.

Princess Diana always supported the Missionaries of Charity’s work and it was reported that after meeting Mother Teresa, she provided them with a house in Washington DC for unmarried pregnant women who had nowhere to go. The gift showed the genuine compassion Princess Diana had for the poor.

Caring nature
Mother Teresa, who was canonised posthumously in 2016 and became a saint, described the princess’s caring nature as “beautiful”. It was reported that Diana prayed with the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity and personally spent time with the seriously ill, impoverished children in their care.

As Mother Teresa grew older and increasingly infirm, supporters believed she was channelling her work through Princess Diana, who was more than happy to follow her example and try to help in any way she could.

Despite Mother Teresa’s order being a very austere one and Princess Diana coming from a privileged background, the nun realised her friend’s compassion for poor and disadvantaged members of society was genuine and she was very touched by this. After Princess Diana’s untimely death, Mother Teresa herself died just five days later, at the age of 87.

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