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October 23, 2023

'NFL Countdown' tells story behind Princess Diana's famous kelly green Eagles jacket

It involves another princess, originally from Philadelphia — Grace Kelly

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Diana Eagles jacket PA Images/Sipa USA

Princess Diana was known for her fashion, from her black "revenge dress" to her red sheep sweater. But in Philadelphia, she's best remembered for wearing a green Eagles jacket.

Philly institutions ranging from McGillin's to Middle Child Clubhouse are adorned with the same image: Princess Diana beaming in a kelly green Eagles jacket. But how did the late English princess get this custom sports gear, and was she actually an (American) football fan? 

"NFL Countdown" explained the famous photos in a segment that aired Sunday on ESPN. The story begins on a tragic note, at the funeral of a different princess: Grace Kelly. The movie star-turned-princess of Monaco grew up in Philadelphia, where she was born into an influential family of athletes and businessmen. (Kelly Drive is named after her brother Jack, an Olympic rower and city councilmember.) One of her childhood friends was Jack Edelstein, who worked as a statistician for the Eagles between 1975 and 2000. 

When Kelly died in a car crash in 1982, Edelstein flew out to Monaco for the funeral. It was there that he met Diana. As Marnie Schneider, granddaughter of former Eagles owner Leonard Tose, explains in the segment, "While having a conversation with Princess Diana, (Edelstein) discovered that she knew nothing about American football, but that she did love the colors green and silver."

Their conversation then turned to Eagles jackets, which Diana told Edelstein she "loved." So the statistician talked to his boss, and convinced Tose to have a jacket custom made and sent to the princess. She was later photographed wearing it in 1991 while she dropped her sons William and Harry off at Wetherby School in London.

"Neither William nor Harry when they were kids would have wanted their mother dressed in her finery to take them to school," Ken Wharfe, a former bodyguard for Princess Diana, said in the segment. "So all Diana would do was be as casual as possible. She wanted to be seen as a young mother that was, you know, with it. 

"Diana loved to be different. This was her style."

Photos of Diana in her Eagles finery also surfaced in 1994 when she took the boys to a theme park in Staffordshire, England. She was snapped in the jacket leaning against the park gates and even riding the log flume. "People" magazine later ran one of the images on the cover of its June 13, 1994, forever associating Diana with the Birds.

But it's unclear today what happened to the iconic jacket. After Diana died in 1997, many of her clothes were preserved, displayed and even auctioned; just last month, three of her gowns sold for $1.62 million. The jacket, however, was apparently lost. Should it ever resurface, Schneider says the Eagles would love to display it for fans. And even though Diana wasn't technically one of them, her bodyguard says she would've been delighted by Philly's response to her football fashion.

"If Diana were alive today, she'd be excited to know that this jacket — 25, 30 years on — has now become the subject of very positive public scrutiny," Wharfe said. "I think that's fantastic."

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