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
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
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

Sauce Recruitment: Programme Sales Executive - Independent Distributor

£25000 - £28000 per annum + circa 28K + 20% bonus opportunity: Sauce Recruitme...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money mot...

Guru Careers: Investment Writer / Stock Picker

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A freelance Investment Writer / Stock Picker ...

Guru Careers: PPC Account Executive / Paid Search Executive

£20 - 24K + Benefits: Guru Careers: An enthusiastic PPC Account / Paid Search ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us