After they first met in 1995, the guts surgeon Hasnat Khan offered exactly what the recently divorced Princess Diana needed in a partner: normality, stability, wisdom, and heat. What he couldn’t provide was legitimacy. Horrified by the intrusion of paparazzi and deeply serious about his work at Royal Brompton Hospital, the 36-year-old Pakistani cardiologist knew going public with the Princess of Wales would ignite a press frenzy he didn’t care to read, let alone involve himself in. Never mind the response his family would have, the racism he’d experience, or how much he loved her; the Lady Diana Spencer would never be his wife.
But that didn’t prevent Diana from attempting to persuade him, spurred along by the identical hopeless-romantic willpower that had chased Prince Charles all of the years of their marriage.
Season 5 of The Crown depicts the budding relationship between Khan and Diana, and while Humayun Saeed and Elizabeth Debicki fit well of their roles, the plotting around the connection is orchestrated with all of the conviction of cotton candy. There’s a certain romantic fluff that plagues them within the few scenes they’re together on-screen, labeling what was some of the pivotal romances in Diana’s life as just one other dashed dream. (The dialogue doesn’t assist in this department. In a single particularly oof scene, Hasnat explains that his patients don’t feel any pain during surgery because they’re under general anesthesia. Diana responds, “Trust me, I feel every part.”)
Actually, Diana’s relationship with Hasnat highlighted the tragedies of her life: the incessant pursuit of the press; the never-realized desire for familial acceptance; the potential of a life outside London. But to banish so many moments of Hasnat and Diana’s relationship off-screen is to implicitly imply it lacked importance. The Crown at all times purports to be concerning the people behind the palace adornments. Perhaps no another than Hasnat revealed who Diana who really was—or, a minimum of, wanted so painfully to turn out to be.
In The Crown, Hasnat and Diana’s love ends shortly after the cardiologist watches her BBC interview with Martin Bashir. In point of fact, their relationship lasted for years after the interview aired, even intermingling with the princess’s romance with Dodi Fayed. Below, a temporary timeline of their time together—and a reminder of every part the Netflix drama selected to skip.
1995-1996: The glad years
As depicted in the brand new season of The Crown, the princess met Khan at Royal Brompton in September 1995, while Diana was visiting a patient, the husband of her friend and acupuncturist Oonagh Shanley-Toffolo. Wrote journalist Tina Brown in her biography The Diana Chronicles, “The doctor was entirely absorbed in Toffolo’s condition and took no notice of the Princess—which, for a lady used to everyone fawning over her, was almost unbearably sexy.” He gave Diana little greater than a polite nod, and his name was indeed written on his shoes.
Now thoroughly beguiled by a game of cat and mouse, Diana began visiting Toffolo’s husband increasingly often, talking with other patients while keeping one eye out for the handsome heart surgeon. Eventually, she caught his attention during an elevator ride they shared. “Over a time period, we became good friends,” Khan himself revealed in a police statement, following an inquest around Diana’s tragic death in 1997. Before a visit to his uncle and aunt’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon, he asked if the princess would really like to hitch. “We drove there together and Diana met my aunt and uncle,” Khan said. “We had dinner in a restaurant after which drove back to London. After this, our friendship became a relationship.”
Reporters had their suspicions, especially after a big shipment of flowers was delivered to Khan from Kensington Palace. The press began following Khan, talking to his old girlfriends and mentors. Nevertheless, the duo continued their romance for the following two years, with Diana immersing herself completely in Khan’s interests and culture. As Brown covers in The Diana Chronicles, the princess read Gray’s Anatomy and surgical reports; she watched the hospital soap opera Casualty every Saturday; she considered converting to Islam; she flew to Pakistan quite a few times and have become close friends with Imran Khan, a cricket player and distant cousin of Hasnat’s, and his wife Jemima.
In turn, Kahn brought the princess Kentucky Fried Chicken at Kensington Palace, where he’d arrive behind butler Paul Burrell’s automobile under cover of a blanket. Sometimes she’d sleep in his call room on the hospital, tip-toeing home before the sun rose. When she made calls to the hospital, she’d use fake names like “Dr. Armani,” revealed Sarah Ellison in a 2013 piece for Vanity Fair. As depicted in The Crown, the pair would occasionally exit on dates with Diana incognito; on one night specifically, she wore a black wig and glasses to a show at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club.
In keeping with Brown, Khan refused to consummate the connection until Diana was formally detached from the Prince of Wales. On the day she was finally granted a divorce—July 4, 1996—she wore an ivory shalwar kameez. “The pearls were an emblem for her gained wisdom and a latest dawn, while the standard Pakistani silhouette was evocative of her love and loyalty to Khan, a person she believed would never betray her—and he or she was right; he never did,” writes fashion blogger Eloise Moran in her book The Lady Di Look Book. Diana was finally becoming the girl she’d fought so hard to be: an independent woman, more respected but no less adored. With Khan, she was probably the most romantically fulfilled she’d been in a long time. All the pieces appeared to be going right.
1997: The breakup
“After Charles, Khan was undoubtedly a very powerful love of Diana’s life,” wrote journalist Kate Snell in her book Diana: Her Last Love. But, by 1997, it was becoming ever clearer that Khan had no intention of going public with Diana, which meant he had no intention of slipping an engagement ring onto her finger. Their viewpoints were increasingly oppositional. As Brown writes in The Diana Chronicles:
“She no more understood why Charles valued the earnest audiences he provided to architects, philosophers, and environmentalists than she could later see why cardiologist Hasnat Khan spent such an unreasonable period of time on the hospital. ‘I just don’t get him,’ she told her friend Lucia Flecha de Lima about Khan on a phone call in 1997. ‘He’s at all times so busy and his work is so necessary to him. I keep telling him he doesn’t must work on the hospital. We might make an excellent team. We could do my work together. But he doesn’t need to know.’”
Such a call underlined a vital misalignment between Diana and her beloved doctor: He didn’t need to do her work. He desired to do his.
A Sunday Mirror story was the primary to officially reveal the 2 as romantic partners, and—in a tailspin—Diana granted a story to the Each day Mail denying the connection. Khan was hurt by her lie, but he was equally aghast on the publicity. Things only got worse when Khan’s father, Dr. Rashid Khan, told The Each day Express the 2 would never marry, as Diana was unsuitable for Khan as a bride. “We’re searching for a bride for him,” the doctor said. “She must belong to a decent family. She ought to be wealthy, belonging to the upper middle class. Preferably to our relationships or tribe, which is Pathan. But when we don’t find her in our own tribe, we will try outside it. But preferably she ought to be a minimum of a Pakistani Muslim girl.”
Ever convinced of her own magnetism, in May 1997 Diana flew to Pakistan—suddenly her lover—and visited his family in Lahore. They liked her well enough, but Brown writes, “Charm was irrelevant. Hasnat’s mother had no intention of letting the union occur, and Hasnat had doubts of his own.” Still, Diana spent one other day with Khan’s family in late June.
“She came visiting me twice in Pakistan to assist fund-raise for Imran’s hospital, but each times she also went to fulfill his family secretly to debate the potential of marriage to Hasnat,” Jemima Khan told Vanity Fair. “She desired to understand how hard it had been for me to adapt to life in Pakistan and he or she wanted advice on how you can take care of Pakistani men and their cultural baggage.”
By then, their relationship was sinking fast. Only weeks after the Pakistan visit, she joined Mohamed Al-Fayed onboard the Jonikal on July 11, where his son, Dodi Fayed, joined them on July 14. Only the night before—on July 10—Hasnat had stayed with the princess at Kensington Palace. “When Diana went to St. Tropez with Mr. Al Fayed, every part was advantageous between us,” Hasnat told police. “After a number of days, I felt something was fallacious. Her mobile kept happening to answerphone.”
In keeping with Snell’s research, Khan and Diana officially broke off their relationship near the tip of July, and by July 31 Diana was being photographed on the Jonikal in her infamous swimsuit shots with Dodi. A month later, while in Paris with Dodi, the automobile carrying them each crashed, and the 2 were killed.
Many consider Diana died while still deeply in love with Khan. He was present at her funeral, and later told police, “I have no idea what Diana was like in other relationships but she protected me thoroughly, not only from the media but additionally from a variety of information. Perhaps she protected me because she thought we had a future together.”
Lauren Puckett-Pope is an associate editor at ELLE, where she covers film, TV, books and fashion.