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Princess Diana biographer identifies 'mystery man' in photo

UPDATED January 4, 6:00 pm:

Princess Diana's 'mystery man' is no longer a mystery! The young man seen lounging with the royal in a candid 1970s photo that went up for auction on Friday was identified by Princess Di biographer Andrew Morton as a onetime Diana suitor who missed his chance.

"I was given the task of trying to identify the boy in the picture," Morton told The Guardian via email on Friday, after the photo caused a stir. "I later found out that the young man was Adam Russell, the great-grandson of former prime minister Stanley Baldwin, and now a deer farmer on Dorset."

Morton said the photo was taken on a ski trip during which Russell and Diana became close after they both suffered injuries and were forced to stay off the slopes.

"They kept each other company while the others went skiing and, at the end of the holiday, Adam was somewhat smitten," Morton told the British newspaper. "But absolutely nothing happened."

The pair stayed in touch after the trip, according to Morton, who says Russell hoped to start a romantic relationship with Diana but found he'd missed his window after spending a year traveling.

"When he arrived home a year later it was too late," Morton told The Guardian. "A friend told him, 'You've only got one rival — the Prince of Wales."

The rest, of course, was history.

Original story:

A newly revealed photo of a teenage Princess Diana, snapped right before her engagement and capturing a carefree lifestyle she was days away from losing, is up for sale at a New Hampshire auction house.

In the picture, an 18 or 19-year-old Diana Spencer lies on a bed, an unidentified young man sitting behind her reading a book he rests on her shoulder. A bottle of whiskey sits on the window ledge behind them. It is assumed the photo was taken during a Swiss skiing holiday.

How a picture of the most photographed woman of her lifetime slipped by the public’s notice is a mystery, as is why the words “not to be published” were scrawled across the photo.

Slideshow: Princess Diana's life

The picture was sold to a British newspaper on Feb. 26, 1981, which matches the date written on the back of the photograph. Two days before, Diana’s engagement to Prince Charles was announced by Buckingham Palace.

“It shows a rather young carefree girl, a bit gauche if you like, so I think that's what makes it all the more endearing because we catch Diana in a rare private moment,” royal watcher Neil Sean told TODAY. “Somebody who has possibly known a normal life and it’s all about to change, before she became a worldwide icon.”

The picture, whose photographer is unknown, is expected to draw at least $750, and possibly a lot more. It will go up for sale at RR Auction house in Amherst, N.H., from Jan. 17 to 24. 

The fairy-tale wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana was watched by millions of people around the globe. Take a look back at their big day.

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