Joan Smith: Roll up, roll up... See the Incredible Vanishing Princess

Share
Related Topics

Acouple of centuries ago, the British royal family was growing increasingly anxious about the behaviour of the estranged wife of the king's eldest son. A secret inquiry took place, known as the "delicate investigation", which found no evidence to support a claim that the then Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brunswick, had become pregnant and given birth to a son. There is nothing delicate about the inquiry now taking place at London's High Court into the behaviour of Diana, Princess of Wales, even though the parallels between the careers of the two women are striking.

Nominally an inquest into the cause of her death, it has taken no time at all to degenerate into a cross between Crimewatch and Hello! magazine, with extensive gynaecological details debated.

Under the protection of privilege, witnesses and counsel can say what they like, rounding on each other like contestants on Celebrity Big Brother. Some observers may take comfort from the humiliation of Diana's butler, Paul Burrell, who was exposed last week as shameless self-publicist, and the rubbishing of wild claims by Mohamed al-Fayed, father of the princess's boyfriend, about a pregnancy and an engagement. But low points have included the former Met commissioner, Lord Condon, being accused of covering up Diana's "murder", and the revelation that Diana and her mother were not speaking after the latter called her a "whore".

Such "revelations" have been reported in news bulletins with the same solemnity as the opening evidence in the Ipswich murder trial. The details are banal, but even someone with no interest in the proceedings would have had difficulty avoiding the information that Diana was on the Pill and that she complained about spending weekends on her own after her divorce, heating her meals in a microwave. The relentless stuffing of unwanted snippets from the inquest into my head has begun to feel like an outrageous intrusion into my privacy.

But the most scandalous aspect of the inquest is that it is being paid for by taxpayers. The French held a perfectly respectable inquiry into Diana's death and concluded that she died in a road traffic accident. The idea that the French judicial system is less thorough than ours is the kind of tiresome xenophobic slur this country should have grown out of, and it has been clear from the outset that the argument for holding an inquest at all relies on a false premise.

Conspiracy theorists began swarming around the princess's death as soon as it was announced, and people who believe them are amenable neither to reason nor evidence. Something similar happened when Queen Caroline died suddenly in 1821 after being turned away from her husband's coronation at Westminster Abbey. Like Diana, Caroline was under surveillance at the time of her death and had accused members of the royal family of wanting to get rid of her. The conclusion many people instantly reached was that she had been poisoned.

You could stage half a dozen inquests into the crash, all arriving at the verdict that Diana's demise was an accident, and millions of people would continue to believe that the findings had been fixed. That's why the inquest is a preposterous use of public money, and I half hope that the jury will prove the point by finding that the princess was murdered in a worldwide conspiracy involving Saddam Hussein, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Freemasons.

Meanwhile, the courtroom has been transformed into an outpost of celebrity culture, and I have a brilliant idea about what should happen next. It's the best farce in London, so let's privatise it and start selling tickets.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee