It's been clear since that first pre-engagement photograph when her beautiful face peered out slyly at a thousand cameras, that Di was going to be dynamite. The key items in those photos were the eyes: the knowing eyes of a difficult little girl.
Princess Di had one of those British Establishment childhoods that are particularly tough on girls. You need to be as smart as paint to live in that world, particularly when your parents split up when you are very young, as hers did. Diana is not as smart as paint, in fact quite the opposite. A twice-married mother now distributing holy water around the island of Iona, a stepmother Raine, with whom she did not get on, two older sisters, and nannies who were no substitute for anything - these would appear to be female role models from hell. On the face of it, it's hard to see exactly what was excessive about her miserable childhood, thousands have borne worse. What is certain is that it left her vulnerable and unstable.
Prince Charles whisked this unfortunate child out of the playground and married her in front of the world's cameras in 1981 when she was 20. She showed every sign of loving being a princess, and indeed if you have to be one, she was good at it. She visited the sick, she adored the cameras, she courted journalists, she beamed at babies.
But when Di married Charles, she married a job of work and is, was and will be paid handsomely for it. She married an institution, and was paid in designer clothes, fleets of cars, houses, boats, airplanes, travel, public adoration, everything money could buy. Why, when all she has suffered is an unfaithful husband, who in many ways has been misused himself, is Tinkerbell on the warpath? The only answer can be that her kind of narcissism feeds on the damage she can do to anyone who will not do what she wants, who will not participate in her distorted infantile vision of how she thinks her world should be.
During the early years of their marriage, Princess Di, by reason of her beauty, became the Marilyn Monroe of princesses, one of those empty vessels into which celluloid pours its heart. She had two sons, William in 1982 and Harry in 1984. Both Charles and Diana continued to perform their public duties with the princess capturing the hearts and minds of the public, the press and the world's photographic corps.
In 1992, we learned that the fairy-tale marriage had become a sham. With the publication of Princess Diana: Her Story a book just about unofficially sponsored by Diana but written by Andrew Morton, her life story as wronged Princess was revealed. We read a tragic story of a young woman suffering from bulimia, depressions, insomnia, prone to throwing herself downstairs, almost slitting her wrists, and reacting to every event that was not to her liking with fits of histrionics.
There are also allegations of an affair with her riding instructor, Captain Hewitt, and there have been other friendships with otheryoung men. The Hewitt story was graphically recounted in Anna Pasternak's book Princess in Love.
The release of tapes giving us audio information of Prince Charles's affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and Princess Di's "squidgy tapes", kept this pantomime marriage on permanent display.
Diana played games in her corner of the playground by collecting a courtier band of tame journalists: in these years she became a publicity junkie. Unsurprisingly, in 1993, the Press Complaints Commission singled her out for criticism for this, but she received damages when surreptitious photographs were taken of her in her gym. This year, however, while planning her television interview, she dined with Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Committee and asked him for a new privacy law to be introduced to protect the Royal Family from press intrusion. Apparently, she was rebuffed.
In 1993, Princess Diana retired very publicly from public life, but bobbed back again almost immediately. Her mates in the press helped her through the 1994 documentary about Prince Charles in which he admitted his adultery and which showed that this was probably the least likely cause for the failure of their marriage.
In the meantime, Princess Di passed her days in workouts, hairdressing, shopping (reportedly pounds 3,000 a week on "grooming"), investigating alternative therapies, colonic irrigation and generally becoming obsessed with her body and various men. She ignored, as children do, that these men were often the playthings of someone else. When she hypnotised England Rugby Captain Will Carling, her reputation seemed to suffer. She had only one way of dealing with this: she picked up the phone and rang Panorama.
What this Panorama programme is also rumoured to be about is her desire to get a massive divorce settlement from Prince Charles or the Queen. Princess Diana wants her children, lashings of fame and royal pomp and circumstance, two or three houses and between pounds 15m and pounds 20m. Prince Charles's pre-tax income is pounds 4m a year. So that leaves the Queen, the richest person in the world (or the fourth-richest, depending on which list you use).
Thus Panorama on Monday will see Princess Di on the rampage. Even if she recites cooking recipes for an entire hour, which seems unlikely, I believe she will damage those to whom she owes most by reason of love (her sons) and duty (the Queen). It is difficult to understand why the Monarch cannot see that this putative Queen of England is now in serious trouble, that Di hates herself and her nearest and dearest to such a degree that only the television cameras can solve her problems?
Panorama may make Princess Di feel better for five minutes but those to whom she owes most are likely to feel worse. And when she comes down from her junkie publicity fix, so will she. Then we all start again.
The writer was founder of Virago Press.Reuse content