The James Kettle Moment #23: First Draft Of Lewis Hamilton’s Princess Diana Poem

If there are three things that I love (and there aren’t) then those three things are poetry, motor racing and the royal family. So I was delighted to hear that British Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton has written a poem to commemorate the twenty year anniversary of Princess Diana. While the finished poem has been widely reprinted, we gained access to one of Lewis’s preparatory drafts, and publish it here — complete with academic footnotes by former Poet Laureate and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia (Of Our Hearts), Sir Andrew Motion.

It was only 20 years ago today(1)
That our Princess Diana
(2) went far far away.(3)
She died at speed in a Parisian underpass
Shame she was not driven by me
(4) because I am different class.
We knew on that hot August night that it was time for us to mourn again
When we turned on the TV and saw a frowning Dermot Murnaghan.
Dying age thirty six, she would have no more babies
You would expect better handling from a Mercedes.
Back home the Queen of England
(7) wept and sadly shook her head
When her servants told her, “Your Majesty, the woman who your eldest son married and subsequently divorced is dead”.
The doctors knew her heart had stopped
(9) from monitoring her vitals
She never had the chance to see me win any of my three titles.
I wonder what she would be doing now if she had lived that night
She would not be a fan of Nico Rosberg
(11), she would think that he is shite.
She would have been at Wills’s wedding and been such a proud proud mum.
And instead of Pippa
(12) we would have all admired Diana’s bum.
Now she is in heaven with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed
And the driver
(13) who was over the limit it subsequently transpired.
It was a terrible tragedy, a wicked wicked wrong
But with a financial silver lining for her friend Sir Elton John.


1 Not today.
2 Not her formally correct title.
3 Here Hamilton alludes to a belief in the afterlife, common among Formula One drivers but rare in the world of speedway.
4 At the time, Hamilton was twelve years old and under British law would only have been able to drive on private land.
5 Thought to be the first successful use of “Dermot Murnaghan” in a rhyme scheme by any British racing driver.
6 One gets the impression that Hamilton, like Lady Macbeth, is burdened by a sense of collective responsibility here.
7 Let’s not even get into that.
8 It’s hard to imagine that even the Netflix series The Crown will manage to capture the moment with the same sensitivity and depth of feeling.
9 Hamilton spends much of the poem concerned with establishing the certainty of the Princess’s death, as if trying to reassure himself that a Zombie Diana will not rise to punish him and all other employees of Mercedes.
10 2008, 2014, 2015.
11 Retired German-Finnish racing driver.
12 Philippa Charlotte Middleton, Keeper of the Royal Glutes Of Enthralment
13 Henri Paul
14 It’s hard to escape the sense that Hamilton is not overjoyed by the fact that Princess Diana is dead.