Revelations that raise the stakes for Diana

Panorama interview: Princess of Wales has seized the initiative but the decision to go public may undermine her position
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The Independent Online
LOUISE JURY

As the Princess of Wales arrived for her regular gym work-out yesterday, her smile was as devastating as the Panorama interview on which she had gambled her future relations with the Royal family.

She entered the Chelsea Harbour Club, in west London, in bright orange shorts and blue sweatshirt, pausing only for a very public display of courtesy as she held open the front door for a man carrying heavy bags.

The world's most photographed woman was back firmly where she seems happiest - in the limelight. But behind the scenes, there were huge question marks over the interview's likely impact on her marriage, separation and position as the mother of the future king.

Buckingham Palace yesterday confirmed Geoff Crawford was to stand down as the Princess's press adviser in the wake of her decision to speak to the BBC's flagship current affairs programme without informing him - or the Queen.

As speculation grew that the Palace could not forgive her secrecy over the affair, the suggestion arose that airing her private thoughts in public could prove a dangerous miscalculation, leaving her alongside the Duchess of York in Royal exile.

The Princess's decision to go ahead came nearly three years after her separation from the Prince - and two since she stunned guests at a charity lunch by announcing plans to bow out of public life and spend more time with her children.

It came 17 months after Charles bared his soul and admitted adultery in an interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, a broadcast which she shrugged off by donning a striking sexy black dress and attending a charity gala.

More significantly, perhaps, it came in the wake of a series of salacious tabloid stories which accused the Princess of bombarding her friend Oliver Hoare with nuisance calls and wrecking the marriage of the England rugby captain, Will Carling.

The public "coming out" of Charles and Camilla at the 50th birthday party of Sarah Keswick at the Ritz on 18 October was the final straw. TheBBC was given its scoop.

The desire to "set the record straight" must have been strong. None the less, the timing was ironic. The most explosive Royal performance since Edward VIII took to the radio for his abdication speech in 1936 was filmed on 5 November. It was a day of fireworks and, some would claim, betrayal.

Barely a soul knew. The Princess was understood to have discussed the idea with the Duchess of York. Unconfirmed reports suggested that David Puttnam, the film producer and Diana's friend, asked the broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy how she should handle some forthcoming television appearances. But in a breathtaking coup for the Princess and the BBC, not a word leaked out until she broke the news to the Palace herself and a public announcement was made last Tuesday.

Details of the negotiations have been closely guarded. But that this was Diana signalling she will not be silenced must have been noted with some alarm by Buckingham Palace.

In case they missed the strength of her power and charm, she went out on the town last night as guest of honour at a pounds 1,000-a-head cancer charity gala at Bridgewater House, just yards from her estranged husband's London front door at St James's Palace.

The Panorama interview was a high-profile, high-risk strategy to get the public on her side and regain the upper hand for herself and her children.

The sight of the Royal aide Tiggy Legge-Bourke acting as surrogate mother to the young princes and speculation that steps were being taken to acclimatise the public to a Charles-Camilla partnership have rocked the boat for Diana.

Although the bitter rows and her fight against bulimia had left her thin and pale by the time of the official separation in December 1992, the Princess was then deemed to have out- manoeuvred Buckingham Palace. She was left with her own private court at Kensington Palace and with authority over her boys unchallenged.

The question today is whether in laying down her vision of her future she has trumped the Palace again. Or whether, by risking all, it will be the Princess who loses.

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