Saturday, 2 September 2017

Diana – Queen of Tarts

Diana has now incredibly been dead for twenty years. The world rotates on its axis and we go about our lives but Diana is no longer here. 

The quality press sneered at coverage of her and the Royal Family but the history of royal families is the history of Europe. When I visited the Taj Mahal it was the famous photograph of her alone there (apart from hundreds of pressmen out of shot) and Diana's cynical bid for sympathy from the public that was in the forefront of my mind. Certainly not the visit by the King-Emperor George V in 1912.

Alex Woodcock-Clarke has kindly given me permission to reproduce his brilliant little essay about Diana, Princess of Wales. I do so not just because Alex is an absolutely brilliant comic writer, but because I agree with every word and did so back in the time when 85% of England was for Diana and a handful of gnostics sympathised with the Prince. May she rest in peace.


Why the People’s Princess was actually the Queen of Mean who invented a new cult of self-serving, self-inflating victimhood – and got the world’s poor to worship at it.

Late in August in one of the last years of the twentieth century, a photogenic hairstyle with a very thin woman beneath it flew into Paris in a private jet, having spent ten days on a large yacht off the Riviera. After supper at the Ritz with a playboy whose father owned the place, a sleek Mercedes swept the party towards a luxury apartment off the Champs Elysées.

While passing through the Place de l’Alma tunnel at high speed just after midnight, the car collided with a concrete pillar and Diana, the People’s Princess, the living saint of the cult of victimhood, became its first martyr.

Princess of Wales is the title given to women who marry the heir to the English throne. In the entire 1100-year old history of royalty, there have only ever been ten. Even that small number has thrown up some notorious bitches. Joan of Kent (1328-1385) was a bigamist who backed the Peasant’s Revolt against her own son; Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821) was a drunk who tried to gate-crash her husband’s coronation at the head of a riotous mob; and Mary of Teck (1867-1953) had her youngest son, little Prince John, an epileptic, exiled to a far-off farm so he didn’t spoil family Christmases (he died aged thirteen, apparently of loneliness). But these were purely English nuisances compared to the global neurosis that was Diana (1961-1997).

Rotten Teeth

Three million people lined the streets of London to watch Diana’s cortege process to Westminster Abbey where the royal family and real celebrities, like Cliff Richard, Richard Branson and Tom Cruise attended her funeral. Her favourite musician, Elton John, performed a song so sugary it could have rotted the teeth of the two-and-a-half billion people watching around the world, a larger number than witnessed man land on the moon.

More than a million bouquets were left outside Kensington Palace, in some places five feet deep, causing the lower layers to mulch. An Italian tourist went to prison for a week for taking a teddy bear from the pile. On leaving court, he was punched in the face by a member of the public, crazed with grief. Such were the actions and reactions of ordinary, workaday English folk, you know, idiots, for few people in history deserved this attention less, though perhaps none craved it more, than Diana the Spiteful, the Dishonest and the Vain.

Then again, so what? One glance at a tabloids or celeb website will show that “Rich Woman Is Bitch” is hardly news. What made Diana uniquely malignant was the Faustian pact she made with the world’s media, led on by the corrupt British press, which presented itself as her champion but ended as little less than her pimp.

Such Beautiful Lies

Her undeniable beauty and style allied to the romance of royalty made her front page news around the globe. Almost everyone anywhere knows her story; that of the poor little rich girl who married a cruel prince, suffered through a horrific divorce that pitted her against the mighty British establishment, only to emerge victorious as a champion of the little people, on the verge of a glorious new life of public service when she took that fateful journey and became one with the underpass.

The story reads like a fairy tale, mostly because so much of it is infantile make-believe, and its author was Diana herself.

From an early age, the princess was an inveterate liar. Her own brother Charles Spencer, now 9th Earl Spencer, had to admit: “She had real difficulty telling the truth”. The property millionaire Peter Palumbo elaborated: “I would ask her whether this had happened or that had happened, and she would tell me a complete lie, which I believed”. Her capacity to bullshit startled even hardboiled journalists like Clive James: “She looked me straight in the eye... so I could see how plausible she could be when...telling a whopper”.

The Sacrificial Virgin

Diana’s defenders will tell you how she was damaged by her upbringing as a doe-eyed waif neglected by distant aristocratic parents in the process of a bitter divorce. Naturally it sounds bad because that is how Diana told it. The story, as she told it to Andrew Morton for his Diana: Her True Story, of how the little girl sat at the bottom of the stairs, “clutching the wrought-iron banisters”, listening to her mother’s heels crunch on the gravel of the driveway as she left home for the last time is as famous as it is heart-breaking. But when she told it to another journalist, Ross Benson of the Sunday Express, she was “cowering behind a curtain”. Yet as Sally Bedell Smith, one more biographer, found while researching Diana: The Life of A Troubled Princess on the actual date her mother left Althorp House in Norfolk, Diana was a hundred miles away at the family’s London flat, being enrolled into the Francis Holland school. A tiny anomaly, a mistake or an unimportant variation for effect, surely? Given almost any examination whatsoever, her entire story is anomalies.

Despite how she painted in later in so many interviews and leaks, young Diana was about as deprived as a Disney cartoon princess. Setting aside the enormous, even fairy-tale wealth and privilege into which she was born, Diana’s childhood was happy, normal. Norfolk friends do not remember a tortured, lonely soul. “I don’t know what she was talking about”, said one. “They had dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, swimming and school parties, and she had a sunny disposition”.

Then there was the marriage, generally portrayed as the coercion or seduction of a shy young virgin into a family of cold-blooded vampires requiring a brood cow for their big-eared mummy’s boy son who was also somehow a tally-ho sex maniac from a “Carry On” film with a penchant for horse-faced county ladies while his poor, wronged wife stayed at home, turning her brimming eyes to the camera and mumbling about “There were always three of us in this marriage”.

How To Rope A Dope

Charles was hardly a sexual predator. He had very few girlfriends in the past (one had been Diana’s older sister, Sarah, who dumped him for being “boring”). His idea of showing a girl a good time was a weekend at Sandringham with mother at or nice day out at the Braemar Highland Games. Many other eligible young women had dropped out of the running simply because he was so dull (“insisting, according to one ex-girlfriend, that he be addressed as "sir"—even in bed”, says journalist Brad Darrach).

But Diana didn’t care. She focused on Charles like a laser-guided weapon. “With great cunning”, writes Penny Junor, she “professed great interest in everything he said and did… She talked about her love for the country and of shooting and her interest in taking up horse-riding, and she liked his friends… But it was all a sham. Diana didn’t like any of those things. She hated the countryside, had no interest in shooting, or horses, or dogs, and she didn’t even really like his friends, she found them old, boring and sycophantic”.

What she wanted to be was Princess of Wales and on 29 July 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral, London, before the eyes of global TV audience of 750 million, in a dress embroidered with ten thousand pearls, that’s what she became.

What she really wanted became clear very quickly; attention, and lots of it. If she did not get it, her behaviour become unstable, sometimes violently. Two weeks after her marriage, for example, she was witnessed by footmen at Balmoral, running after Prince Charles’s Range Rover screaming: “Yes, dump me like garbage. Leave me on my own again. Run off and have lunch with your precious mummy”. (This vignette is recorded in many of her autobiographies, including one by Diana’s friend, Steffan G. Vannel, a mystic, in his book “Charles & Diana: The Inside Story: An Astrological-karmic View”).

Madly In Love

By 1986, Diana’s behaviour had become so unstable (when her husband knelt beside the family bed to say his prayers, Diana would slam him on the head with a book) that both sides considered the marriage had "irretrievably broken down" and were leading separate lives. It was at this time that he began seeing one of his old girlfriends, Camilla Parker Bowles. She was the famous “third” person Diana claimed was crowding her out of her marriage.

Except there were, on Diana’s side, at least eight other people in the marriage. Her butler and confidant (she called him “her emotional washing machine”), Paul Burrell, revealed that the Princess had been unfaithful in the early Eighties with her police bodyguard, Barry Manakee. In the years that followed, while Charles contented himself with his one, horse-faced girlfriend, Diana took eight other lovers; they included the ginger-haired army officer James Hewitt (whom she allowed to spend £100,000 on himself, through Harrods and Selfridges store cards); the beefy former England rugby captain, Will Carling; upmarket car salesman James Gilbey; married art expert, Oliver Hoare; middle-of-the-road soft rock star, Bryan Adams; heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan; and finally the pudgy, cocaine-flecked playboy, Dodi Fayed.

During all those relationships she behaved as oddly and obsessively as she did with Charles. When Oliver Hoare ended his romance with her in 1994, he3 had to contact the police regarding nearly three hundred silent phone calls made to his wife and family at their home in Chelsea. The police traced the calls to the Princess of Wales’ private line at Kensington Palace and nearby phone boxes.

This was only the beginning. Over the next years, Diana’s story was one of histrionic display behaviour, public rows, private sulks, self-harming, fake suicide attempts and paranoid behaviour at every level. “She steamed open letters and listened in on telephone conversations”, reported a friend of Prince Charles. “These were just letters from friends. There is a sorting postal system, and she used on occasion to take letters out, and if addressed to him, she would steam them open. With the letters, she was caught red-handed quite early”.

Fruitcake on a Rampage

It is now generally agreed Diana suffered from profound mental issues. The dominating symptoms were clinical depression and eating disorders but the source, doctors now suggest, was Borderline Personality Disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health defines this as; “Problems with regulating emotions and thoughts; Impulsive and reckless behaviour; [and] Unstable relationships with other people. People with this disorder also have high rates of co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders, along with self-harm, suicidal behaviours, and completed suicides.”

In short, as Clive James put it: “Clearly on a hair trigger, she was unstable at best and when the squeeze was on, she was a fruitcake on a rampage”

To all these characteristics, Diana added an ingredient all her own: spite

Time and time again, this word recurs in people’s recollection of the Princess. Diana was “really spiteful to Charles and had no feelings for him or his family… she thought she was a star and demanded to be treated that way” says a minor royal Lady Pamela Hicks. “A spiteful and media-savvy neurotic”, said Tina Brown, Vanity Fair editor, and one of the last people to see her before her fatal trip to Paris. In the last year of her life, Earl Spencer, her own brother, wrote to her berating her “manipulation and deceit’ and expressing “consternation and hurt your fickle friendship has caused so many.”

This spite was manifest in ways almost too numerous to count. She came to believe, for example, that her children’s nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, was having an affair with Prince Charles. At the annual staff party held in Kensington Palace, she approached Legge-Bourke and said loudly so that everyone could hear: “Sorry to hear about your baby”, implying that the unmarried Legge-Bourke had recently undergone an abortion of Charles’s baby. The nanny was so shocked, she broke down and wept.

The Plaster Saint

Yet the public never focused on this kind of rotten behaviour; primarily because of Diana’s highly publicised and, so it was thought, deeply committed charity work. The Princess became patron of many charities bringing in much revenue to these causes which included AIDS, hospice and land mine charities. Unfortunately, as biographer Bedell Smith points out: “Though she had genuine feelings for these causes, her unstable temperament prevented her from sustaining her support – which often left those who counted on her disappointed and confused”.

The problem, it seemed, was that when she became bored of a cause or if it became unfashionable, she would drop it completely, leaving people who had relied on her, sufferers, carers, fund raisers, high and dry.

“It will look like pique! It will make you look spiteful! [That word again] Don’t do it!” Diana was told by her press secretary Jane Atkinson when she decided to sever her links with over one hundred charities in one fell swoop, including the Red Cross and Help the Aged. She did this to punish the Royal Family when she lost her “Royal Highness” status on her divorce.

But what about those secret visits to hospitals and hospices at night? Sitting by the sick and the dying? Those personal touches that so burnished her legend as “The People’s Princess”?

If they were so secret, one might reply, how come everybody knew about them? Easily answered: she rang up favoured photographers and reporters and tipped them off.

In 1995, for example, she was snapped by a News of the World photographer coming out of a London hospital where she had been paying a secret late night visit to her then boyfriend, the heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. She had tipped off the paparazzo herself, Mark Honigsbaum later reported in his book The Princess and the Press, and the story appeared in the newspaper the next Sunday as “a 'world exclusive' about how she was secretly visiting patients at the hospital late at night, so that they would not be inconvenienced by the press.”

Conjuring Demons

Diana as “Diana” could not have existed without the collusion and complicity of the British press.

During the Eighties and Nineties, she was the indirect and often direct cause of criminal news manipulation, commercial and editorial dishonesty and plain criminal activity amongst the broadsheet and tabloid press, establishing patterns that even today have not been controlled.

In 1992, the press hacked Prince Charles’s phone and recorded some idiotic sexy-talk where he declared to Camilla Parker Bowles that he wished he was her tampon. This was splashed across the press with no mention that phone interception and secret recordings are illegal. The tabloid editors, who enjoyed a rich revenue stream from £1-a-minute phone-in recordings of the tapes, justified the crime by saying Prince Charles’ relationship were a matter of “public interest” because of the state of his marriage.

Diana thought it all was uproariously funny. That is, until her own conversations with James Gilbey were also intercepted and published, and the world got to hear her breathy tones describing her lover as “Squidgy” and Squidge”. Diana felt this was a personal betrayal The Sun, which covered the story, because she had provided the paper with Charles’s personal mobile phone number that allowed it to bug her husband in the first place.

This incident lays out the pattern and nature of Diana’s relationship with the press. Firstly, a cynical and unscrupulous attempt by her to manipulate the media; followed by a hysterical over-reaction when the attempt misfired usually because the press took it in a different direction than the one she wanted. But it seemed she could not help herself.

She was on first name terms with many of the tabloid editors, and invited all of them to regularly to Kensington Palace, including, two months before her death, those of The Sun and The Mirror. What she confided at these cosy lunches and what she hoped to get in return is still a highly sensitive issue but she certainly used them to plant stories about Charles and the rest of the Royals and to boost her own image and flatter herself.

The reason that there were thirty photographers outside The Ritz on the night of her death was that someone in Dodi Fayed’s party had tipped them off. Diana, it is recounted, took a car from the back of the hotel precisely to avoid this swarm. Yet, for half an hour beforehand, she had posed in the hotel’s glass-fronted vestibule, pretending not to notice the popping flashes of the cameras, precisely so they could get shots of her looking glamorous and romantic.

So she died as she lived, running from and luring on the press, and ultimately destroyed by demons she had done more than any other to conjure.

Alex posted this on his Facebook wall where it received, among many comments, this.

Brilliant. Quite brilliant. A friend's father was our man in a small African country when she made a notable trip. Naturally she was a guest of friend's pa & stayed for the duration in the Embassy. A formal dinner was held in her honour - she kept the guests waiting & arrived over an hour late, played with the 1st course, refused to speak to anyone & then announced she was terribly exhausted, was going to bed & departed. Only she didn't go to bed. She trawled up & down the swimming pool in full view of everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment