Establishment moves to close ranks

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The Independent Online

Media Correspondent

Supporters and detractors of the Princess of Wales clashed last night following her claims of harassment by the Palace and confession of adultery.

The comments of Nicholas Soames, the Armed Forces Minister, who is a close friend and former equerry of the Prince of Wales, appeared to underline the claims of the Princess that the establishment viewed her as a non- starter and unstable.

Mr Soames said he had been unable to recognise some of the pictures she drew of revenge and harassment at the Palace. Nor did he believe that Prince Charles might not want to become King - or be suited to it.

He denied the Princess's claims that mail had been deliberately lost and that foreign visits had been blocked by the Prince of Wales' staff, who she described as "the enemy".

"I can't account for what the Princess was talking about when she referred to those matters, for example, like mail interception and telephones being tapped and all that, it really is the advanced stages of paranoia."

Margaret Jay, the daughter of the former Labour prime minister, Lord Callaghan, and a co-worker in the fight against Aids with the Princess of Wales, said she believed it was a great loss that the Princess felt so alienated from the Royal Family.

"It is an extremely sad picture but the sadness I think is that the Prince of Wales and the Buckingham Palace machine have succeeded in losing somebody who could have been so enormously valuable."

She denied claims by her fellow panellists that the Princess was a broken creature. "One of the things which has been coming through is that she's quite strong now. In a sense people don't admit things such as post-natal depression and bulimia as openly or freely as that unless they are a strong character."

Anthony Holden, the royal biographer, said the interview was far more candid and belligerent than he had expected.

Referring to her confession of infidelity - following Prince Charles's own to Jonathan Dimbleby last year - he said: "There was a lot of tit- for-tat going on. She says she wants to carry on [her public role] but I can't think the Palace would want to have her doing so after this."

Vernon Bogdanor, an expert on the constitution, said: "I think the Princess will perform her role better when she is no longer wife to the heir to the throne.".

Stuart Higgins, editor of the Sun, was full-blooded in his support for Diana. "She's a supermodel combined with Mother Teresa. It was a big gamble for the Princess of Wales but already our phones are buzzing like mad with total support."

But Charles Moore, the right-wing editor of the Daily Telegraph, said she had gone too far. "It is more to her detriment than to the monarchy's."