Diana says only her sons stop her fleeing Britain

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The Independent Online
Princess Diana said yesterday that she would have fled Britain long ago but for her sons. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde she said the "ferocious" British press distorted her every move and criticised her every step. It was only abroad that she was accepted for what she was. "I think that, in my place, any sane person would have left long ago. But I can't. I have my sons."

The Princess also praised the Labour government for its prompt action in supporting one of her own pet causes, the world-wide abolition of land- mines. The previous Conservative government, she said, was "so hopeless" on the issue. But the Blair government was going to do "great work".

The interview, entitled "The princess with a big heart", was part of a summer series in which Le Monde asks celebrities to recall the circumstances in which a famous photograph was taken. The Le Monde reporter, Annick Cojean, brought along a series of pictures of Diana taken during official engagements, not the kind of snatched paparazzi shots recently in the news.

From Le Monde's own selection, Diana chose a picture taken in Lahore in Pakistan in February last year in which she cradled a blind and dying child in her arms. "This little boy is now dead," she said. "I knew it before taking him into my arms. I can remember his face, his suffering, his voice. This photo is very dear to me."

Princess Diana said she had been criticised, both privately within the Royal Family, and in the British press, for public displays of emotion of this kind. But this came naturally to her, she said. It was sincere, not pre-planned. "That's why I annoy certain people. Because I'm closer to people below me, than to the people above me, and the people above me don't forgive me for it."

Of the picture taken in Lahore, she recalled: "A little, sick boy caught my eye. A solemn little boy with sad eyes and an emaciated body. And I couldn't look at anyone else but him. I don't know why, but I knew he was going to die. 'Can I take him in my arms?' I said to his mother. She was full of smiles, delighted. We laughed, in a nice way, as she handed me the child. But then he begged us with his little anxious voice: 'please don't mock me.' I was disconcerted but the mother explained that we were only talking ...I hugged him very tight. The child died soon afterwards. I was informed during a later visit. I haven't forgotten."

John Lichfield, Paris