Queen scornful of Diana's bulimia

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The Queen was scornful of the Princess of Wales's unreliability and disdainful of the bulimia which was one of the many psychological ailments of the Princess, according to a new biography of the Queen.

The degree of ferocity and bitterness which surrounded the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales - and the extent to which constitutional considerations vied with personal acrimony is revealed in the book by the historian Ben Pimlott.

A deep anger lay behind the Queen's decision at the end of 1995 to take control of the situation as her son and daughter-in-law moved slowly and publicly towards divorce.

Prompted by the Princess of Wales's interview on BBC1's Panorama a month before, the Monarch, Pimlott reveals, was determined not to let her daughter- in-law have the last word.

"After the Panorama interview she consulted the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior Household staff," he writes. "Then she made a pre-emptive strike - writing letters to both the Prince and Princess pronouncing, with her husband's support, that an early divorce was desirable.

"The tone of the letters was more measured than she felt," reveals an extract from the book published in The Independent today. "According to one close source, they came out of a deep exasperation, and of a desire to state her position in incontrovertible prose because . . . `bulimics re-write history in 24 hours'."

Pimlott's account is based on confidential interviews with the Queen's closest friends and most senior advisers. The book also reveals that the Queen was aware before the wedding of Charles and Diana - "because a courtier had felt bound to tell her"- of Charles's relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles".

Pimlott says, "The knowledge of this prospectless liaison, and the desire that he should put it behind him" may have encouraged in the Queen hopes that Charles's friendship with Diana, whose grandmother had been a courtier for 20 years, would lead to a marriage.

"The result was a fateful collusion, which drew the royally connected adolescent and the Prince into a marriage of convenience that was disguised to everybody, including themselves, as a love match." The Queen played a part in the collusion. In the autumn of 1980, she asked Diana to Balmoral.

Family in crisis, page 18