When Diana lost her 'Mr Wonderful'

There was a VIP visitor at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital that September morning in 1995 but Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan had more important things on his mind

A patient on which he had performed a triple heart bypass the day before had suffered a relapse and needed further surgery and Hasnat Khan was planning his next operating strategy when he was introduced to who was then probably the most famous woman in the world.

Hasnat nodded perfunctorily and then left to scrub up for the operation. "It is doubtful if in her entire adult life, Diana, the Princess of Wales, had ever made less of an impression on someone," a member of her staff later remembered. But the handsome young surgeon had made a deep impression on Diana The moment he had gone, she whispered to an aide: "Isn't he drop-dead gorgeous? And his name is Hasnat Khan. It's written on his shoes..."

Exactly how Diana engineered further meetings isn't known because Hasnat Khan has never spoken about their passionate and largely secret two year relationship. That was his greatest gift to the woman who admitted she was madly in love with him and hoped to marry. As Diana told a friend shortly before her death: "Everybody sells me out. Hasnat is the one person who never would."

Brought up in a world of wealth and privilege, Diana had never met anyone like Hasnat Khan. The son of academics in Pakistan he had worked as a doctor and surgeon in Australia and India and moved to London in 1994, renting a small one-bedroomed flat in Chelsea.

Soon Diana was telling friends she had met "Mr Wonderful" but few ever met him. They spent much of their time in the divorced princess' apartments in Kensington Palace where they could avoid reporters and the paparazzi.

When they ventured out it was often to out-of-the way restaurants and pubs and Diana usually wore a dark wig and sunglasses. As a modestly-paid NHS surgeon in a busy hospital, Hasnat could work up to 90 hours a week and most evenings just wanted to go home and relax.

Nothing could have suited Diana better. Friends told stories of how she pottered around the tiny Chelsea flat, tidying up, washing the dishes and doing his laundry.

Hasnat didn't shoot, fish or hunt. He liked jazz and the couple would venture into west end jazz clubs. They were never spotted. This was the life for which Diana had always yearned — a normal life doing normal things. And that included getting married and having more children, especially a daughter.

"Diana was madly in love with Hasnat and wanted to marry him," a close friend later revealed. "Even if that meant living in Pakistan.  "She visited his family to discuss how they felt about the idea of marriage and apparently even mentioned the possibility of converting to Islam.

"When she talked about it with Hasnat he said it simply wouldn't work if they stayed in England and the only way they could possibly have a normal life together would be to move to Pakistan 'where the press don't bother you.'"

Hasnat later told friends that his parents had approved of Diana and a marriage would have had their blessing. "They were very much for us making the decision ourselves. They all liked Diana very much. But then there were problems. But they had nothing to do with our love for each other." Over the past 16 years Hasnat has never revealed just why the affair finally ended in the early summer of 1997, but his father told newsmen that his son had told him: "If we had married it would not have lasted more than a year.

"We are so culturally different from each other. It would have been like a marriage of people from two different planets."

What is known is that Diana was heartbroken and inconsolable after the break-up and started a relationship with Dodi Al Fayed hoping to engineer a reconciliation by making the heart surgeon jealous.

Whether that would have worked no one knows because a few weeks later, in August 1997, Princess Diana was dead.

Hasnat Khan later went through an arranged marriage which didn't last. Sixteen years after the death of the woman who "was the love of my life" he says that never a day passes without his thinking of her.

"She was a warm and wonderful woman who just happened to be a princess."

Today, as well as working in London hospitals, Hasnat Khan, now 54, is raising money for a hospital in Pakistan. "It is the sort of project the princess would have loved to have been  involved in," he said.

"I feel she is by my side, encouraging me and helping me. It is some comfort but nothing will fill the gap I feel now she is no longer here."


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