The royal family sure knows how to give a memorable Christmas gift. These days, their preferred presents are gag gifts—past presents have included a leather toilet seat cover for Prince Charles, an “ain’t life a b*tch” shower cap for Queen Elizabeth II, and a grow-your-own-girlfriend kit for Prince Harry. But in 1985, Princess Diana surprised her then-husband Prince Charles with an extra little surprise.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go over well.
Diana had taken ballet lessons as a child and always had a soft spot for the dance, continuing to take lessons and join in on English National Ballet rehearsals even after she was married, according to the documentary Diana: The Woman Inside. “I actually wanted to be a dancer, but I overshot the height by a long way,” Diana, who was 5’10,” said in an interview. “I couldn’t imagine some man trying to lift me up over his arms, but I do [dance] once a week if I can.” Here are 10 more facts you never knew about Princess Diana.
The People’s Princess decided to take her love of dance and turn it into a huge surprise, both for her husband and the world. So she called the English dancer Wayne Sleep and asked if they could dance to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” for an upcoming Christmas gala at Covent Garden. He came up with a three-minute routine, and the two started their top-secret rehearsals. Diana didn’t tell her husband what was going on, because she wanted the dance to be a tribute to him.
When the big night came, Diana slipped quietly out of her seat next to Charles, who was watching the stage and likely thought she was just running to the bathroom, Sleep told 48 Hours in 2017. Sleep danced solo for the intro, then Diana strutted on stage. When she turned to face the house, the audience gave a collective gasp. No one—not even Charles—saw that coming!
The duo’s tongue-in-cheek routine was a hit, with Diana playfully pushing Sleep down, the choreographer carrying the princess from one side of the stage to the other, and both showing off big kicks for the grand finale. Even then, the audience still couldn’t get enough—the dancers had eight curtain calls before giving their final bows. Don’t miss these 20 rarely seen photos of Princess Diana.
It might have been a surprise for Charles, but Diana almost refused to do one thing for him during their bows. “I said, ‘By the way, you’ve got to bow to the royal box,’” said Sleep on Celebrity Big Brother. “And she said, ‘I’m not bowing to him—he’s my hubby!’ And so I made her turn and bow, and as we ran off she went, ‘You won’t get your OBE [Order of the British Empire] that way.’”
The applause was endless from most of the audience, but the surprise “slightly backfired,” as Charles didn’t take too well to the fact that his wife performed in front of 2,000 people without telling him, says Daily Mail editor-at-large Richard Kay, who was friends with Diana. “Charles wasn’t terribly impressed, because he thought she was showing off,” Kay said in the documentary. “But in fact, it was incredibly courageous of her to go onstage.” Don’t miss these other 9 secrets no one knew about Princess Diana until after her death.
Check out more moments of Princess Diana and Princes Charles together in the slideshow below!
Princess Diana and Prince Charles together
Princess Diana and Prince Charles together
BALMORAL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 06: Prince Charles With His Fiance Lady Diana Spencer During A Photocall Before Their Wedding While Staying At Craigowan Lodge On The Balmoral Estate (exact Day Date Not Certain) (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
BALMORAL - AUGUST 19: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a suit designed by Bill Pashley, pose for a photo on the banks of the river Dee in the grounds of Balmoral Castle during their honeymoon on August 19, 1981 in Balmoral, Scotland. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 29: On July 29, 1981, Lady Diana SPENCER (aged 19) married Prince CHARLES (aged 32) at Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 29: Prince Charles And Princess Diana On The Balcony Of Buckingham Palace On Their Wedding Day. The Princess Is Wearing A Wedding Dress Designed By David And Elizabeth Emanuel. The Prince Is Wearing Naval Dress Uniform. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDRES, ROYAUME-UNI - 10 MARS: Lady Diana et le Prince Charles discutant avec la Princesse Grace de Monaco au Goldsmith's Hall, le 10 mars 1981 a Londres, Royaume-Uni. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Queen Elizabeth joins the Prince and Princess of Wales on a Buckingham Palace balcony following their London wedding. (Photo by ï¿½ Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive back at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland after their honeymoon, September 1981. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales at the Braemar Highland Games in Scotland, September 1981. She wears a tartan suit by Caroline Charles and a tam o'shanter hat. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Prince Charles Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997, later Diana, Princess of Wales) at Caernarvon Castle during an official tour of Wales, 27th October 1981. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 22: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales leave St Mary's Hospital in Paddington with their baby son, Prince William (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Uluru, Northern Territory on 21 March 1983. . (Photo by Gerrit Fokkema/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 04: The Prince And Princess Of Wales With The Queen Attending The Braemar Games In Scotalnd (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Melbourne, Australia: Princess Diana and the Prince of Wales share a joke with Australian comedian Paul Hogan at a gala performance in Melbourne, April 14th.
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles arrive for a state reception in Hobart, Tasmania, 30th March 1983. The princess is wearing the Spencer family tiara and a dress by Bruce Oldfield. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: The Prince And Princess Of Wales Attending A Charity Ball In Sydney During A Trip To Australia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles leaving St Mary's Hospital, London with their new-born son Prince Harry, September 1984. The Princess is wearing a red coat by Jan van Velden. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles at an Italian naval base at La Spezia, 20th April 1985. Charles is wearing a naval Commander's uniform, while Diana is wearing a white coat dress by Catherine Walker. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales visit a church in Florence during their tour of Italy, April 1985. The Princess is wearing a suit by Jasper Conran. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
VATICAN - APRIL: Diana Princess of Wales with Prince Charles have an audience with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, Rome, Italy in April 1985 during the Royal Tour of Italy.Diana wore a black lace dress designed by Catherine Walker. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles on a skiing holiday in Malbun, Liechtenstein, January 1985. The princess is wearing a Head ski suit. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
WINDSOR - JUNE 29: Princess Diana, Princess of Wales kisses Prince Charles, Prince of Wales as she presents him with an award following a charity polo match at Windsor Great Park on June 29, 1985 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 9, 1985: (FILE PHOTO) In this file photo issued October 31, 2005, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales meet President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Mrs Nancy Reagan at the White House on November 9, 1985 during an official visit to America in Washington DC, USA. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales is taking his new wife Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall on a visit to the United States which begins formally on November 1, 2005 (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 03: The Prince And Princess Of Wales During A Visit To Vancouver, Canada. She Is Wearing A Suit Designed By Fashion Designer Bruce Oldfield (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDON - AUGUST 4: Prince Edward, Viscount Linley, Prince Charles, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen at the Queen Mothers 87th birthday celebration on August 4, 1987 at Clarence House in London, England. Diana wore a dress designed by Catherine Walker. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 26: The Princess Of Wales Presents A Medal To Her Husband, Prince Charles, After A Polo Match At Windsor (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 30: Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales at the Central Coast Surf Carnival at Terrigal Beach, Sydney, Australia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 15: The Prince And Princess Of Wales attend a desert picnic on March 15, 1989 in Adu Dhab, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 16: The Prince And Princess Of Wales On A Walkabout In Dubai On The Gulf Tour. Diana's Outfit Is By Fashion Designer Catherine Walker And Hat By Milliner Philip Somerville. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997), wearing a Belville Sassoon dress, presenting Prince Charles with a trophy after competing at the Hola Cup polo match at the Guards Polo Club, Windsor, 29th June 1988. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
PARIS - NOVEMBER: Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales meet guests arriving at a dinner in the Elysee Palace in Paris, France in November 1988, during the Royal Tour of France. Diana wore a dress designed by Victor Edelstein. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)