A Collection of Princess Diana’s Handwritten Letters Are Going Up for Auction

Princess Diana wearing what she called her "Elvis dress" on a visit to Hong Kong in 1989.
Princess Diana wearing what she called her "Elvis dress" on a visit to Hong Kong in 1989.
Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

On June 25, 1997, just months before Princess Diana’s death in August, dozens of her dresses were auctioned off at Christie’s in New York. Now, some of her handwritten letters regarding that event are hitting the auction block.

Princess Diana wrote the letters to her friend Elizabeth Tilberis, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar at the time, both leading up to and after the auction.

“The news of the auction came out far too early & it’s due to be announced next week from Christies! [sic],” she penned on February 25, 1997. “It’s been quite an event sorting out the frocks—memories flooding back & some excellent ones too!”

princess diana letter to elizabeth tilberis
Princess Diana's letter to Elizabeth Tilberis from February 25, 1997.
Swann Auction Galleries

She ended up choosing a total of 79 garments, including several of her most memorable ones. According to The New York Times, the slinky velvet gown she wore while dancing with John Travolta at a White House dinner in 1985 fetched an impressive $222,500, and what she called her “Elvis dress”—a pearl-encrusted white number with a matching, high-necked bolero jacket—sold for $151,000. Overall, the auction raised a staggering $3.25 million, which was donated to the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund and the AIDS Crisis Trust.

“It was stunning the amount made by the auction last week,” she wrote to Tilberis on July 1. “How typical of the Americans to be so totally generous. I can always rely on them!”

The personal letters are estimated to sell somewhere in the region of $6000 to $9000, but they’re not the only Princess Diana items in the auction. Swann Auction Galleries is also offering an auction catalog signed by Princess Diana, Tilberis’s paddle registration card, Princess Diana’s signed menu from a 1990 benefit dinner held by the British Deaf Association, and a 1996 Christmas card with a photograph of Princes William and Harry with their cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

princess diana christmas card from 1996
A Christmas card from 1996 featuring the young Princes William and Harry with their cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
Swann Auction Galleries

In addition to the royal family memorabilia, the auction—which takes place on Thursday, February 20—will include rare first editions of several Jane Austen novels, too.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Reason Princess Anne Doesn’t Shake Hands With the Public

Princess Anne's aversion to handshakes isn't personal—it's logical.
Princess Anne's aversion to handshakes isn't personal—it's logical.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

While many people have temporarily abandoned handshakes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there’s at least one person who hasn’t really had to break the habit: Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter, Princess Anne.

As Reader’s Digest reports, royal family members have long been discouraged from shaking hands with the public simply because it wouldn’t be realistic to bestow a handshake upon every person clamoring for one in a crowd. But the Queen herself began to break with that tradition in the 1970s, and some of her relatives have followed suit—not Princess Anne, though.

“We never shook hands. The theory was that you couldn’t shake hands with everybody, so don’t start. So I kind of stick with that, but I noticed others don’t,” Princess Anne explained in the HBO documentary Queen of the World. “It's not for me to say that it's wrong, but I think the initial concept was that it was patently absurd to start shaking hands. And it seems to be that it's become a ‘shaking hands’ exercise rather than a walkabout, if you see what I mean.”

Even if you happen to meet the Queen or another British royal who’s been known to indulge in a ‘shaking hands’ exercise in the past, it’s still considered bad manners for you to initiate it.

“If you are a member of the public meeting a member of the royal family, you should never offer your hand to shake,” Grant Harrold, etiquette expert and former royal butler, told Insider. “Wait for them to initiate the handshake.”

Your chances are better if said royal happens to be wearing gloves, which they often don before public engagements where they plan to shake a lot of hands. The practice, perhaps unsurprisingly, helps shield them from germs.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]