The Box

Click to follow
The Independent Online
PRINCESS DIANA'S will has provoked much controversy, but not a single question about its most prominent mystery. Why does her pre-tax estate amounting to pounds 21,711, 486 not include a single penny for charity? How can this gap possibly be explained? Surely this generous, caring princess, who devoted so much of her life to helping charitable causes, could never be accused of being heartless or mean. Moreover, she was always conscious of the powerful example she set for others, whether it was in embracing an Aids victim or walking through a mine field. Everything we know about her makes us believe that she would have wanted to encourage by example people to share their wealth with the needy and less fortunate.

But when her own will was published, her favourite charities must have raised an eyebrow ... from the Aids Trust to the Red Cross's anti-landmine campaign, from the English National Ballet to Great Ormond Street Hospital. The famous children's hospital relies heavily on bequests - for example, of the pounds 10m it raised last year, about pounds 3m came from legacies in wills. What is the explanation for this extraordinary omission in hers ?

When Pandora rang the Princess's six favourite charities and the Red Cross anti-landmine campaign offices and asked for their reaction to the will, the universal response was tight-lipped reticence. "We could not possibly comment on that". There may be an institutional reason. Behind their silence, perhaps, lies the looming presence of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, which has raised pounds 40m since her death (including the royalties from Elton John's re-written "Candle In The Wind"). It is on track to receive a total of pounds 100m by the end of its first year. Yet seven months have passed since her tragic death, and during that time the Memorial Fund has announced no grants for any causes.

When asked if Centrepoint, the London shelter for young homeless and one of the Princess's six favourite charities, expected to receive money from the Fund, Anna Mangold, its press spokeswoman, said on Friday, "We have no expectations because we have to function based on the funds we have." Would she be surprised if Centrepoint and other of the Princess's favourite charities received no money from the Memorial Fund? "It would be odd, but we can't really comment or we might jeopardise our application."

Yesterday the Sunday Telegraph published a report saying that the Memorial Fund was expected to announce its first grants later this week. According to Christopher Spence, head of the grant sub-committee, "The main grants will, however, go to the organisations which she was actively involved in." Pandora was very relieved to see this, although surprised. For just two days earlier, on Friday afternoon, the Fund's press spokeswoman, Vanessa Corringham, told The Independent, "The Fund has no obligation to give these groups funding." When pressed on the subject, Corringham stood her ground, pointing out that there still were no published guidelines for the Memorial Fund's grants.

Why is that; why were no guidelines issued by the Fund's advisors for seven months? The answers to those questions will have to come from those who now manage her Memorial Fund. And why was not a single penny earmarked for charity in the Princess's pounds 22m estate? Unfortunately solicitor-client confidentiality means we are never likely to know exactly what she intended.

Comments