Storm of indignation over Royal 'soap opera'

'Panorama' interview by Princess fuels anger over private lives and public revelations
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The Independent Online

The Princess of Wales was accused yesterday of trying to turn the Royal Family into a soap opera by agreeing to be interviewed about her separation from the Prince of Wales.

But the war of propaganda that has been fought by the couple, with the aid of journalists, authors and broadcasters, has ensured that their trials and separations are a subject of never-ending speculation.

The Princess of Wales was the first to put across her side of the story, with the publication of Andrew Morton's book Diana: Her True Story, which painted a picture of a suicidal, bulimic princess trapped in a marriage to an unfeeling husband.

Although Buckingham Palace initially denied her involvement with the book, the material, drawn from conversations with her close friends, was widely understood to have been sanctioned by her.

Since their separation in December 1992, minor public relations battles have been conducted through the tabloid press, with the Princess apparently "upstaging" many of Prince Charles's attempts to portray himself in a sympathetic light, simply by her dress.

For example, after Prince Charles gave a screened interview last year, in which he told Jonathan Dimbleby that he had been unfaithful to the Princess, and spoke of his close friendship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, his wife appeared at a party at the Serpentine Gallery in a glamorous short black dress which garnered almost as many column inches as the interview.

The Princess was said to have been "humiliated" by the programme, which also elicited heavy criticism from those who believed the monarchy should remain "dignified" and not offer insights into their actions.

Yesterday her decision to speak out provoked similar criticisms. The editor of Burke's Peerage, Harold Brooks-Baker, said the interview would be "another nail in the coffin of the monarchy, just when things were beginning to get more civilised, a little more grown-up".

"Anything that dents that public understanding means the future constitutional position of the Prince of Wales is put in danger," he said.

Mr Brooks-Baker oberved that whereas the Prince had talked about the Government and the Commonwealth in his televised interview, the Princess had "chosen a soap opera approach" and seemed "determined to upset" the sensitive position her husband was in.

"The princess is constantly bringing her private life into public, which is titillating for people who write gossip columns, but not for other people," he said. "If the programme is full of tears - and I believe it will be a real tearjerker - it will put the future of the monarchy and the Commonwealth in danger."

Dame Barbara Cartland said yesterday that her step- granddaughter's appearance on the Panorama programme was a "mistake" and feared she would be asked over- personal questions.

"The Prince of Wales said far too much in his TV interview, and I think he has regretted it ever since," she said.