Princess Diana's former chef reveals why birthdays 'embarrassed' the late royal: 'It wasn't a big celebration'

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Princess Diana was shown an exorbitant amount of love on her birthdays throughout her life, but she wasn’t so fond of celebrating them herself, her former personal chef recalls to Fox News.

Chef Darren McGrady had the pleasure of serving as one of the chefs for the British royal family for 15 years. It was a job he dreamt up while sleeping outside overnight at the gates of the royal palace ahead of Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles. His professional pursuit not only landed him the position of a lifetime – traveling 11 years alongside Queen Elizabeth II to prepare meals at Sandringham, Balmoral Estate and more – but he later would cook for Diana at Kensington Palace, where he witnessed her hands-on parenting to sons Prince Harry and Prince William following her separation from the Prince of Wales.

McGrady can still recall candid conversations he had with Diana in the kitchen and around the palace, such as the princess fetching William a glass of orange juice ahead of his horse riding, and the anxiety-ridden moment she unexpectedly placed baby Harry in his arms – “I said, ‘Your Royal Highness, I’ve never held a baby before in my life!'”

McGrady worked in the kitchen as the princess’ personal chef during four of her birthdays. During those years, he says Diana did not make a big fuss about it. Instead, she would celebrate “quietly” with friends, or if her birthday fell on a weekday, she would simply have dinner at home with her boys.

Chef Darren McGrady worked as a chef for the royal family for 15 years.
(Courtesy of Chef Darren McGrady/Getty)

“It wasn’t a big celebration for her,” McGrady tells Fox News. “She would maybe on her birthday go somewhere like the San Lorenzo [restaurant] with a friend and just have a quiet lunch. In the evening, she would usually more often than not shower or have a bath and just throw on a white towel and robe, towel dry her hair, pop into the kitchen and say, ‘Ok, ready for dinner.’”

“It was very quiet, very sort of low key,” McGrady added. “I think she was like most women that it’s another birthday, and, ‘I don’t want to celebrate getting older.'”

The Princess of Wales passed away in 1997 from injuries she sustained in a Paris car crash. She was 36. She would have turned 60 years old this July 1.

Despite her reserved attitude, McGrady joked that Diana’s birthdays served as one of his busiest days of the year at the palace.

“It was the most energetic workout I ever got in that kitchen on the second floor,” McGrady laughed, noting that it wasn’t exactly because he was “rattling pans in the kitchen.”

“Every five minutes it was one of the charities or a friend sending flowers so I’d have to run downstairs, open the door, take the flowers, bring them back in and upstairs, and then the doorbell would go again,” he said.

The Princess of Wales would have turned 60 on July 1.
(Andy Stenning/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

McGrady remembers the palace being “absolutely full of flowers” each year on the princess’ big day.

“It smelled amazing and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that smell, that memory, of going into the apartments and the dining room and seeing and smelling those flowers,” he recalled.

McGrady, who has penned two books about his time as a royal chef, said he did notice Diana becoming quite hesitant about one thing in terms of turning another year older.

“I honestly think when it came to gifts she preferred giving them rather than receiving them. She used to get a little embarrassed, I think, when people would give her a gift,” he said.

That may be because of Diana’s generous personality. He recalled the many handwritten cards Diana would give to staff members on their own anniversaries and milestones. One he still keeps to this day is a kind note she sent McGrady after the birth of his daughter, Kelly.

(Courtesy of Chef Darren McGrady)

On Thursday, Princes William and Harry reunited at Kensington Palace for the unveiling of a statue in their late mother’s honor.

McGrady called the small event a “fantastic idea.”

(Courtesy of Chef Darren McGrady)

“It’s great that the younger generation will actually get to see this statue and sort of hear stories about her. All too often the people who make a difference in our lives just disappear and never get heard of. I love the idea of this. It’s a long time coming,” he said.

Although McGrady did note that the timing “is not good” considering the current rift between Princes Harry and William as well as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m thrilled they are coming together and that Harry did make the trip,” he said.

The “Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen” author added that if the princess were still alive, he believes she’d spend her day enjoying time with her grandchildren, especially her granddaughters.

“The princess always, always, always wanted a little girl. She held my daughter Kelly as a baby just after [my wife] Wendy and Kelly came out of the hospital. She just really, really wanted a little girl. I think she would have been spending as much time as possible certainly with Charlotte and hopefully Lilibet, too, just having a fun time to those young girls. The boys as well, obviously, but she loved the little girls.”

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