Stranger in the House of Fayed

Diana, Princess of Wales, is taking her second holiday in a month as the guest of the Fayed family. An intimate guest, some are saying. What is the mutual attraction? By Glenda Cooper

`We are very good friends. That is all I wish to say." But when Dodi Fayed, son of Mohamed Al Fayed makes that sort of statement about Diana, Princess of Wales, the odds against her marrying again immediately drop from 6/4 to even money.

"Di's New Man" screamed yesterday's tabloid headlines. Dodi Fayed was described as the archetypal playboy of the western world, a Sandhurst graduate dressed in immaculate suits with a penchant for escorting the world's most beautiful women - Brooke Shields, Britt Ekland, Koo Stark and Tina Sinatra, to name a few.

But while the Princess may have fallen for the playboy, the interesting thing is how she has fallen for the Fayeds as a whole. After all, this is the second time the Princess has enjoyed a holiday with members of the Fayed family in less than a month. Her first trip last month, to the Fayed yacht moored off St Tropez, was described as "irresponsible", "unwise" and "controversial".

There, Diana played a cat and mouse game with the press, bizarrely racing up to a speedboat full of journalists while clad in a leopard-skin swimsuit, allegedly to announce her sons had urged her to quit Britain and warning that the world was "going to get a big surprise". The comments were later denied.

This time, the press was only tipped off that she had been cruising off Corsica and Sardinia with Dodi and another woman after rumours started that paparazzi photographers had snapped the two of them kissing and cuddling.

Many were bewildered yesterday that Diana would choose to spend so much time with such a controversial family - headed by a man who arguably did as much as the Tories themselves to bring down the previous government, who has been denied a British passport after a critical Department of Trade and Industry report said Mohamed and his brother Ali had "dishonestly misrepresented their origins, their wealth, their business interests".

On the other hand there are several reasons why the Princess should feel close to the Fayeds. She is said to have known Dodi for 10 years. Diana's beloved father Earl Spencer was a Harrods devotee and her former stepmother, Raine, Countess de Chambrun, is a director of Harrods International, the shop's duty free arm. The Fayeds have given money to charities, usually those connected with children, another of the Princess's priorities. And Mohamed Al Fayed and Diana also share one other great trait: despite their presence at the heart of the establishment they are both seen as outsiders.

Diana was said to have enjoyed her first stay on the Fayed yacht because it was "the first real break the three [she and the two Princes] had enjoyed with a normal family". But by any stretch of the imagination the Fayeds are not what most of us would call a normal family. One commentator said yesterday that when the social history of this decade is written "Mohamed Al Fayed will have played an extraordinary part".

In 1994 the Fayed brothers had owned Harrods for almost 10 years, had lived here for 20 and had given large amounts to charity. They thought they should be awarded British citizenship. But under the British Nationality Act of 1981 applicants were required to be of good character and after the DTI report officials decided not to recommend them for British passports.

Mr Fayed pursued his revenge. He was at the centre of the cash for questions scandal, claiming that he gave MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith cash in brown envelopes. Tim Smith admitted this was so; Neil Hamilton still denies this but lost his seat at the last election: the ensuing scandal helped tar John Major's election campaign.

Mr Fayed also played a central role in the downfall of Jonathan Aitken, tipping the Guardian newspaper off about his stay at the Paris Ritz the same weekend the captains of the Saudi arms industry happened to be in Paris, with some of the main players staying at the hotel.

Whatever her views on these matters, the Princess must see much that is appealing about Mohamed Al Fayed, given her complaints in the past about the cold formality of the Royal Family. While Mr Fayed's love of loud shirts with clashing clip-on ties, his crude and earthy presence and constant expletives may not sound completely up Diana's street you cannot imagine summer holidays with the Royal Family at Balmoral being a barrel of laughs.

Talking of the trip to St Tropez one commentator told the press yesterday: "Mohamed is a really great family man and he really made Diana and the boys feel at home. She felt so relaxed and happy at the end of it that she wanted to fly straight back out." This is in stark contrast to the "Squidgy" tapes, in which, describing times at Balmoral, Diana said that she nearly burst out "blubbing" over lunch.

"I can see absolutely why you would like Mohammed Al Fayed if you were a little bit lonely or a little bit desperate," says one acquaintance. "He does avuncular almost to the point of absurdity. It's all that hugging sort of thing. He sucks people in to his ambit. He's quite a small man but with a large presence. If you had no friends - and I suspect Diana probably doesn't - you could see why he would be a great guy to be on your side."

Mr Fayed greets people as if he has known them for years and also likes to play a sort of idiot savant role, mastering the trick of making other people feel cleverer than him.

"While the English like to show off 150 per cent of their intelligence, often giving the impression of more than they have, Mr Fayed only shows 3 per cent and that is why he is such a good business man."

But perhaps their strongest link is their shared sense of being outsiders within the Establishment. Mr Fayed may own the Sloanes' favourite corner shop, Harrods, and the Paris Ritz, but he is still unable to get a British passport and is treated with suspicion. And John Major may have said when the Prince and Princess separated that there was no reason Diana could not become Queen - but following her divorce, and the famous Panorama interview in which she raised doubts about the Prince of Wales's suitability to be king, the probability becomes more and more remote.

Diana's recent actions have been attacked: she had to cancel her attendance at a recent land mines meeting at the House of Commons for fear she was threatening the political neutrality of the Royal Family; she was criticised for taking Prince Harry to see a film about the IRA when he was under- age, and she had to reprimand one of her staff who told journalists that the Princess had been angry that former nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke had attended a picnic at Prince William's school, Eton.

One newspaper commented yesterday with admirable understatement: "[People] will suggest that Mohamed Al Fayed is not the ideal royal father-in-law." No doubt the Fayeds are jubilant that the friendship of Diana is again allowing them to cock a snook at the Establishment. Diana probably feels the same way.

Further reading from Virgin Net

The Unauthorised Princess Di Page

http://members.aol.com/ douglasb52/index.html

In case you've forgotten what she looks like in a swimsuit. As if.

Discussion Group: royal gossip

news:alt.gossip.royalty

Just what is Di doing with Dodi?

What do women want?

http://www.dina.kvl.dk/fischer/alt.romance/what-women-want.html

Oddly enough, money, power and looks don't seem to figure high on this fascinating list from the alt.romance Frequently Asked Questions lists.

Bachelor of the Month

http://www.cosmomag.com/ bachelor/index.html

Dodi isn't the only eligible batchelor in the world, as US Cosmo proves.

The Independent Online

http://www.virgin.net/bv/havana/ news/independent/index.html

The definitive newspaper on the Internet, with all the latest news, sport and entertainment.

www.virgin.net

Winner of...Best Internet Service Provider of the Year - What PC? Virgin Net helps you to find the things you want on the Internet.

For a one-month free trial, call free on 0500 558800

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'