Just before Princess Diana pulls up to London’s St. Thomas’ Hospital in the second episode of The Crown Season 5, Dr. James Colthurst (played by Oliver Chris) receives a phone call from the royal herself. Though the radiologist’s colleagues are dismayed that he was actually speaking directly to the Princess of Wales, he and Diana were already longtime friends. On that same day, however, Colthurst also met journalist Andrew Morton, whom he would soon come to assist with the explosive 1992 book, Diana: Her True Story.
Diana first met Colthurst at a chalet in the French Alps when she was 17 years old. “She knew several of the friends I was with, and they brought her back to our apartment when she twisted her ankle, telling her I would look at it as I was a medical student at the time,” Colthurst wrote in a July 2021 Telegraph article titled, “What It Was Really Like to Be Friends With Diana,” in which he described her as “good fun, bright, and mischievous.” He added, “It was hard not to hit it off with Diana straight away, and so began the friendship she and I maintained for the rest of her short, eventful life.”
Diana eventually entrusted him with delivering information to Morton, ferrying the journalist’s questions and the princess’ taped answers back and forth in a briefcase in his bicycle basket. “When I helped her by hand-delivering interview tapes to her biographer Andrew Morton, whose explosive book Diana: Her True Story was published in 1992, she was worried I might be deliberately knocked off my bike and killed. She voiced this fear several times to me. It might sound like paranoia, but I don’t think she was paranoid.”
The pair maintained their sibling-like relationship over the years, but reportedly had a falling out prior to Diana’s fatal car crash in August 1997. Journalist Tina Brown wrote in her 2007 book, The Diana Chronicles, that, in 1995, the princess “exiled everyone associated with helping her produce the Morton book,” including Colthurst. However, she would eventually reconcile with the doctor, who, in his Telegraph piece, also described Diana’s state of mind prior to her tragic death.
“Despite her well publicized troubles, she seemed happy to me in her final months. She was enjoying a decent summer break and wasn’t in too bad a place,” Colthurst wrote. “I remember the last conversation I had with her, not long before her death. She was laughing almost uncontrollably down the other end of the phone. Someone had gifted her a poem engraved on a silver tablet, and she was howling with mirth at their unusual taste.”
In the years that followed, the radiologist has given several interviews about their friendship, including one with 60 Minutes in 2017, during which he claimed that Diana was “enormously enthusiastic to have her story out there.” He added, “She knew exactly what she was doing.”
As of 2022, Colthurst, who shares daughters Leah and Cicely with his wife, Dominique Coles, was living in Berkshire, England with his family, according to The Sun.