History in Focus: The secret visit of Princess Diana to Greece in September 1996

Back in September 1996, Diana, the Princess of Wales, secretly visited the Greek island of Evia to honour a recently deceased friend. The Princess was friend with 27-year-old Giannis Kaliviotis who lost his life upon a long-term battle with cystic fibrosis. Mr. Kaliviotis was hospitalised during the last months of his life in London’s Royal Brompton Hospital.

Mr. Kaliviotis was a trainee lawyer who was forced to move to London in 1995 to receive a 18-month treatment programme at the Royal Brompton Hospital. There, the Greek lawyer had an opportunity to meet with Princess Diana, when the latter visited the Hospital’s premises. The Princess was exclaimed by the lawyer’s will to recover from the disease and invited Mr. Kaliviotis to dinner at Buckingham Palace.

An Overview of Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a degenerative disease which affects mainly the lungs and respiratory function of the body. Patients have trouble breathing and their quality of life is severely undermined from frequent lung infections originating from the disease and progressive weakening of the immune system. Recent medical interventions have managed to constitute cystic fibrosis a lifelong disease, with patients considerably improving their quality of life.

Princess Diana in Greece

Unfortunately, Mr. Kaliviotis lost the battle against the disease. Upon receiving the sad news, Princess Diana immediately flew to Athens. From there, she went by car to Mr. Kaliviotis hometown at Limni, in the island of Evia. The much-loved Princess visited Mr. Kaliviotis family and paid her tributes to the local church. She then attended the funeral ceremony. Princess Diana was escorted by the Revered Metropolitan, Pavlos Ioannou.

Interestingly, Princes Diana’s secret travel to Greece attracted media attention. The funeral coincided with the divorce of the Royal couple, which had taken place a month before Princess Diana’s visit to Evia. The Royal couple publicly announced their breakup on 28 August 1996. Princess Diana lost her life at a car accident in a Paris tunnel almost a year later, on 31 August 1997.

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