Thursday 31 August 2017

The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

Years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Was she "the people's princess," who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions? Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?
Only Tina Brown, former Editor-in-Chief of Tatler, England's glossiest gossip magazine; Vanity Fair; and The New Yorker could possibly give us the truth. Tina knew Diana personally and has far-reaching insight into the royals and the Queen herself.
In The Diana Chronicles, you will meet a formidable female cast and understand as never before the society that shaped them: Diana's sexually charged mother, her scheming grandmother, the stepmother she hated but finally came to terms with, and bad-girl Fergie, her sister-in-law, who concealed wounds of her own. Most formidable of them all was her mother-in-law, the Queen, whose admiration Diana sought till the day she died. Add Camilla Parker-Bowles, the ultimate "other woman" into this combustible mix, and it's no wonder that Diana broke out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.

Tabloid Princess

Admittedly, I’m biased. On July 29, 1981, when Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, I was in London with my family. I was 11, and like millions of people, I couldn’t get enough of the “Shy Di” fairy tale: ugly (O.K., gangly) duckling meets handsome (O.K., gangly) prince and becomes luminous royal swan. In the new couple’s honor, I spent a month’s allowance on wedding memorabilia. My prize purchase was a Diana coffee mug with a wide-brimmed ceramic hat. “Only the girls are going in for this lot,” the sales clerk grumbled. He might have been talking about the fairy princess myth itself. Sometimes against their better judgment, women the world over were entranced by the prospect of untold leisure, unequaled glamour and redemptive metamorphosis that this particular myth promised. Ladies, let’s be honest: who really among us hasn’t dreamed of becoming a princess?

With “The Diana Chronicles,” Tina Brown breathes new life into the saga of this royal “icon of blondness” by astutely revealing just how powerful, and how marketable, her story became in the age of modern celebrity journalism. Indeed, while Diana named Camilla Parker Bowles as the third party in her unhappy union, she might also have mentioned a fourth: the media. “She was way ahead of her contemporaries in foreseeing a world where celebrity was, so to speak, the coin of the realm,” Brown writes. “An aristocrat herself, Diana knew that the aristocracy of birth was now irrelevant. All that counted now was the aristocracy of exposure.” And Brown offers an insightful, absorbing account of the pas de deux into which, to her eventual peril, Diana joined with the paparazzi.

As the former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, Brown certainly has the authority to examine the Princess of Wales as a creation and a casualty of the media glare. Perhaps not incidentally, Brown’s own years in the spotlight were bookended by Diana’s rise and fall. In July 1981, Brown appeared as a “royalty expert” on the “Today” show’s coverage of the Wales wedding. Then the editor of the British gossip magazine Tatler, Brown recalls that “the wedding did for the sales of Tatler ... what the O. J. Simpson chase did for the ratings of CNN. It put us on the map.”

After Diana’s death in August 1997, Brown again placed the magazine over which she presided — this time, The New Yorker — “in the middle” of what was still “the biggest tabloid story in the world,” by publishing a special issue devoted to the princess’ memory. Brown stressed the dramatic difference between the Windsors’ self-styled identity (“local, modest, unsurprising” guarantors of British tradition) and Diana’s (global superstar, unapologetically “shrewd ... at press relations”). The conflicted relationship between the two had been, the historian Simon Schama noted in the same issue, a “wedding of the past and the future: the Radetzky March meets the Tatler cover girl. ... But, as it turned out, the past and the future couldn’t get along.” What’s more — as Brown’s book demonstrates, and as the recent film “The Queen” has also made clear — the future was bound to win, even if it claimed its own leading avatar in the process.

In fact, Diana’s conquest of the camera was bittersweet from the start. In February 1967, when she was 5, her mother, Frances, began an extramarital liaison that led to her parents’ acrimonious divorce. Diana’s father, Johnnie Spencer, retaliated against Frances by gaining custody of the children. But his stiff-upper-lip reaction to the trauma (“speaking in words of one syllable ... and sitting morosely for hours staring out of the window”) made him ill-suited to handle its effects on his offspring, for whom he was able to show affection only by taking “amateur movies and still photographs” of them. As a result, Brown notes, “Diana grew up associating the camera with love,” and striving to give it what it appeared to want in return. Her brother, Charles, told Sally Bedell Smith, a previous biographer, that when Johnnie was filming Diana, “she would automatically sort of make gestures and strike poses.” Honing her star power became, Brown observes, the bereft little girl’s “own way of surviving.”

In theory, this was useful preparation for her relationship with Prince Charles, which first made it into the newspapers in September 1980. By this time, the British press was in a full-scale backlash against “the culture of deference” that had long dominated its society pages. Since Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of “the prurient News of the World” in 1969 and his reinvigoration, a year later, of The Sun “as a rollicking, up-yours tabloid featuring bare-breasted pinups every day,” England had entered a “racier media age” in which the staid House of Windsor “was acquiring the stale, curdled taste of a British Rail cheese sandwich.” Because “pictures of a middle-aged Princess Margaret churning grandly around the dance floor in her caftan in Mustique hardly moved product” — and Brown should know, having trumpeted that princess’ “Mustique mystique” for The Tatler — “the guessing game of the Prince of Wales’s love life was the sole excitement for the media.” And what excitement it was. The prince was Europe’s most eligible bachelor, and his romantic exploits became fodder for an increasingly rapacious media machine.

Before Diana, Charles had tried to evade the tabloids’ scrutiny by bedding married women, “because the need for secrecy made them ‘safe.’ ” But when he began appearing publicly with Diana — the 19-year-old debutante with a “soft, peachy complexion” and legs that seemed “to extend up to her ears like Bambi” — secrecy ceased to be an option. The paparazzi went wild for the girl who was not only (as an aristocrat, Protestant and self-proclaimed virgin) an ideal royal bride, but also a magnificently photogenic subject. Notwithstanding her “Shy Di” nickname, born of her habit of glancing up coyly at the camera from beneath batting eyelashes, Diana proved “a natural at giving the press what they wanted”: gorgeous pictures. “One by one,” according to Brown, “the hack pack fell in love with her.”

Winning the affection of the press was not, however, the same thing as winning the affection of Prince Charles, as Diana would soon be devastated to learn. One of the more striking revelations in “The Diana Chronicles” is that it was the media just as much as the royal family — ready for Charles to stop dithering and settle down — that propelled him into marriage with a woman he didn’t love. A former royal-watcher for The Sun told Brown: “We really got behind Diana and pushed her towards him. I am absolutely convinced that we the media forced Charles to marry her.”

The prince’s heart belonged to his married girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles (now his second wife), but as heir to the throne, he was neither encouraged nor expected to follow his heart. The problem was that the tabloids — and Diana, who consumed them avidly — insisted on a different story line: He’s in Love. Other biographers have attributed the subsequent unraveling of the Waleses’ marriage to Charles’s cruelty (Andrew Morton) or Diana’s mental illness (Sally Bedell Smith), but Brown chalks the disaster up to the bride’s naïve belief in a tabloid fiction. She and the media became partners in ignoring the warning signs from the groom himself, like his now notorious reply when, receiving news of the couple’s engagement in February 1981, a BBC reporter asked Charles if he and his fiancée were in love: “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Amazingly, Brown points out, “the print press literally erased” the phrase “from their accounts. No one, it seems, wanted to break the spell.” Least of all Diana, who answered the reporter’s “love” question with a giggle: “Of course.”

The bride was in for a rude awakening. And though most of the Waleses’ sordid domestic drama has already been covered at length elsewhere, Brown perceptively highlights the media’s starring role. Once married to Charles, Diana chafed at playing second fiddle not only to Camilla but also to Queen Elizabeth. While still a newlywed, she was deeply offended when Charles offered his mother a drink before her. “I always thought it was the wife first — stupid thought,” she complained afterward. Brown observes that first offering drinks to an older woman — queen or not — “was only basic good manners” and concludes: “Stupid thought, yes, or maybe something worse: the onset of superstar entitlement. ... Six months of adulation from the press had begun to reshape Diana’s worldview.” Offended by the Windsors’ failure to appreciate the qualities everyone else seemed to admire, she turned increasingly to the tabloids to nourish and sustain her.

To that end, Diana became a master of press manipulation, regularly leaking tips and planting stories about both herself and her enemies. She also understood the incomparable power of the image, which led her, at the height of her problems with Charles, to pose for a photograph alone in front of the Taj Mahal, “the monument to marital love.” In one of the book’s many new interviews, John Travolta tells Brown about his legendary dance with Diana at the White House in 1985: “I thought, She not only knows who she is, she knows what this is — and how big this is. She was so savvy about the media impact of it all.”

Yet Diana’s savvy had its limits. For although her public-relations wizardry enabled her repeatedly to upstage and — with the tell-all interviews she did in 1992 and 1995 — humiliate the Windsors, it did more than just give the monarchy an appealing, “human” face. By inviting the press to share in her most intimate experiences, the princess abolished every last vestige of celebrity privacy. And by providing the press with picture after dazzling, salable picture, she stoked “the media’s inexhaustible appetite for celebrity images.” In an extended meteorological conceit, Brown observes: “The sunshine of publicity in which Diana would at first be happy to bask, posing and smiling for the cameras, grew steadily hotter and harsher. As the superheated imperatives of an invasive press bumped up increasingly against the milder human necessity of privacy, scattered rains gave way to drenching gales and then to spectacular and finally lethal hurricanes. ... Diana herself had accelerated the climate change that ended up making her life literally impossible.” Mistakenly, she thought she could “control the genie she had released.”

But the genie pursued her to the end, right into the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, where a high-speed paparazzi chase culminated in the princess’ death. Lying unconscious and badly wounded in the wreckage of a black Mercedes, Diana continued to inspire the frenzied photographers. As the picture editor of The Sun confessed to Brown, that very evening he initially agreed to pay £300,000 to one of the shutterbugs who had followed the Mercedes into the tunnel for snapshots of its mangled blond occupant. “Even as Diana struggled for life,” Brown writes, “she was being sold as an exclusive.”

Caroline Weber, whose most recent book is “Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution,” is a frequent contributor to the Book Review.

The put-upon princess
Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles takes the familiar tales and translates them into racier dialect, says Catherine Bennett
 The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

Catherine Bennett
Saturday 23 June 2007 23.51 BST First published on Saturday 23 June 2007 23.51 BST

The Diana Chronicles
by Tina Brown
496pp, Century, £18.99

Luckily, perhaps, Princes William and Harry appear to have inherited their family's ancestral indifference to books. It is on the press and television that they focus, writing recently to Channel 4 to complain about the documentary Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel: "a gross disrespect to their mother's memory". Memories of Andrew Morton, with whom their mother had colluded, may also explain why similarly pained - if futile - rebukes are rarely levelled at literary scavengers.

Asked by the princes' secretary "if it were your or my mother dying in that tunnel, would we want the scene broadcast to the nation?", a Channel 4 executive might reasonably have replied that his intrusions were as nothing compared with the rogue psychiatry and whiffy speculation that has become almost standard in books about Diana, including such classy additions to the genre as Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles. In which we find the outgoing prime minister's exclusive reassessment (she taught us "a new way to be British") sharing the same capacious bucket as Brown's relentlessly smutty guesswork. "To keep her company," Brown leers, "there was always what she called 'Le Gaget', the tiny vibrator one of the staff bought for her in Paris as a joke."

Like most of the Chronicles, the existence of "Le Gaget" was previously advertised in a first-generation Diana book (Ken Wharfe, 2003), already rifled by Sarah Bradford for her authoritative 2006 biography, Diana. Contrary to the claims of novelty circulating before publication, Brown's solitary contribution to the archives appears to be the disclosure that the teenage Diana once behaved like a carnivorous Goldilocks, picking all the meat out of her employer's stew.

For the rest, Brown's novelties are confined to changes of emphasis, and to speculation, none of it enough to modify Bradford's compassionate portrait of a dreadfully isolated young woman, whose problems - once you appreciated the misery caused by her mother's exit and her stepmother's equally sudden arrival, the ghastliness of her entire family, and the fact that she was only 20 when Charles and his fellow conspirators started telling her she was mad - seem far from being of her own making.

Then why - if it wasn't for the £1m reason - did Brown volunteer for this massive anniversary cuts job? She has nothing illuminating to add, and seems neither to have liked Diana nor to have found her all that interesting. At Tatler magazine, edited by Brown at the time of the royal engagement, the uneducated princess was apparently considered a pitifully naive "sociological throwback", impressing Tatlerites only with the "tameness of her set". There was "no sign of Lady Diana Spencer or her ilk", Brown emphasises, at a party once attended by her own, much faster circle. "The definitive end-of-decade social event of the 70s was the riotously eclectic fancy dress party in Hampshire to celebrate the 40th birthday of Nicky Haslam, the fashionable decorator ... 'You can always tell a gentleman by the quality of his drugs,' an exuberant Lord Hesketh told me as we stood in line for the buffet."

Regrettably, Tina must break off here from her own, very promising, memoirs and return to translating Morton/Burrell/Jephson/Bradford into a racier dialect that renders lovers "shag mates" ("today's terminology", she assures us), has Dodi's driver putting "the pedal to the metal", Charles preferring "gags over shags", and the effect of Diana's glamour on "cafe society" being to "turbo charge" it.

Even the tragedy of Diana's later years evidently looks a little parochial, from Brown's demanding, transatlantic perspective. Maybe a sprinkle of Hollywood glamour? "While the world was thrilling to the spectacle of Diana's life as a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical," she writes about Highgrove, "her home life was becoming more like something out of Hitchcock. Under a King and I façade lurked a Rebecca-like sinister melodrama ... the shadow of Rebecca is never far away." Just outside Chippenham, to be precise. For the benefit of American readers Brown includes a variety of topographical notes, possibly based on memory. "Gloucestershire", they learn, "has a very wet climate.”

For their part, English readers of this simultaneous translation are schooled in the significance of Diana's disco dance with John Travolta. Her arrival in Brown's world was "an iconic moment ... There was a Hollywood dimension now to Diana's glittering fable of the shy girl who married a dashing prince."

Not for the first time, an iconic photograph would be a bonus. But there are no pictures in the Chronicles, even though images of the acutely self-conscious Diana are, as Brown affirms, key elements in her story: "In an iconic photograph," she writes of the Diana-Hewitt polo trophy presentation, "their eyes meet ..." Presumably Brown requires this austere, picture-free eminence from which to pour scorn on lowlier chroniclers - "the paps waited like hyenas" - without being labelled a flesh-eater herself.

As for Diana's wretched complicity with her snappers, Brown explains that her father's fondness for amateur photography meant that "Diana grew up associating the camera with love". At the same time, the girl was reading too much Barbara Cartland, "leaving her spiritual bloodstream permanently polluted with saccharine". A diagnosis that may be as accurate as any of Brown's other aperçus: "Gloucestershire people have to be one of two things - hunters or gardeners." Perhaps she was away for Fred West.

Largely on the basis of his charming appearance, our expert concludes that in William, Diana's "legacy is in good hands". Really? Even though William's father is a helpless whiner, his grandmother a grimly repressed survivor and his Windsor grandfather a bully? His mother was abandoned, for life, by her own, twice-divorced mother (who finally turned to the bottle), humiliated by the palace post-divorce, after which she endured only romantic disappointment before being violently killed, whereupon 15-year-old William's uncle provoked a blood feud with his grandmother, and his father resumed, with indecent haste, his courtship of the woman who had haunted and tormented Diana all her adult life - and has since made this shameless creature into William's stepmother. Interviewed last week, Prince William said he thought about his mother's death every day. It would be like something out of Philip Larkin, if only it wasn't true.

Wednesday 30 August 2017

To Bill with our warmest regards and the best memories of London Sérgio (JEEVES) & Trudie / The Hornets in Kensington Offers London Men Style, Not Fashion

To Bill with our warmest regards and the best memories of London
Sérgio (JEEVES) & Trudie

This interview was first published in The Wall Street Journal…

 Known in the vintage-clothes business as “Bill Hornets,” William Hornets Wilde is one of those English gentlemen whom visitors to London imagine the city must be filled with. It isn’t, of course, which is what makes Mr. Wilde and his shops so special.

 He owns three stores in the Kensington area: two for vintage suits, hats and shoes, and a third for seasonal wear—whether that’s tweeds for the shooting season, tails for Ascot or any other esoteric formal-outing requirements.

 Although Mr. Wilde won’t mention names (“I never recognize anybody,” he said), his extensive inventory has made loyal customers out of designers like Ralph Laure and Tom Ford.

 Mostly, though, Mr. Wilde caters to country gentlemen, aristocrats, royal cousins, university students—patrons who prefer to avoid the expense and formality of Jermyn Street and the fickleness of the fashion industry.

 Anyone in the market for say, a bespoke 1960s Anderson & Sheppard kid mohair suit, a vintage alligator-skin suitcase or a ’30s chocolate-brown smoking jacket are well advised to drop in.

 Mr. Wilde, who was also a TV actor in the ’60s and ’70s (now best remembered for his part in “Blood Beast Terror” from the British film studio Hammer), maintains a network of buyers throughout southern England who forage for treasures at estate sales and flea markets.

In-store, Mr. Wilde helps customers with questions of sartorial refinement, promoting his modus operandi (proudly displayed on the Hornets website: “Not Fashion. Style.”

 One should never follow fashion for fashion’s sake. With classic style you stand out from the crowd, with fashion you become one of the crowd.

 The best pair of shoes I own are brown brogues from George Cleverley.

 The great figures of style are the Duke of Windsor, Cary Grant, the present Prince of Wales.

 I prefer French cuffs and straight collars.

 A bow tie can be worn in day time with a jacket or three-piece suit.

The lady on your arm can be extravagant and colorful. You have to be quietly masculine. At Ascot, a morning suit is very simple, but a lady can be fairly outrageous with her hat. A man has to be simple in his dress.

 I wish men wouldn’t tie a hangman’s knot in their scarves, nor wear beanie hats, trainers or colorful silk waistcoats with morning suits. There are more offenses, but they are too terrible to mention.

 My favorite suit was a three-piece chalk-stripe Huntsman. It fit me so beautifully, as if I were poured into it. The pants were cut very high, military style. The waistcoat had small lapels. As I am tall and was slim in those days, it looked fantastic.

 My favorite style of men’s dress is English country clothing: shooting jackets, tweed suits, moleskins and cords.

 My favorite warm weather vacation is on the English Riviera: Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

 I prefer a dry martini shaken, not stirred, at the St. James Hotel in London.

 The single piece of clothing I’ve had the longest is a ’30s double- breasted tan-colored leather motoring coat.

 My favorite album of all time is Billie Holiday “Lady in Satin.”

 I’ve just got into Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

 In the morning I love half a cold game bird from the night before, black coffee and the Times. Then I read and send some emails.

 My favorite hotel is the Grande Bretagne in Athens. Many happy memories.

 —Edited from an interview by Edward Helmore

Friday 25 August 2017

The princess myth: Hilary Mantel on Diana

The princess myth: Hilary Mantel on Diana

The Wolf Hall novelist on the 20th anniversary of the death of the Princess of Wales, an icon ‘only loosely based on the young woman born Diana Spencer’

Saturday 26 August 2017 06.00 BST

Royal time should move slowly and by its own laws: creeping, like the flow of chrism from a jar. But 20 ordinary years have jog-trotted by, and it’s possible to have a grownup conversation with someone who wasn’t born when Diana died. Her widower is long remarried. Her eldest son, once so like her, shows signs of developing the ponderous looks of Philip, his grand-father. Diana should be as passe as ostrich plumes: one of those royal or quasi-royal women, like May of Teck or Wallis Simpson or the last tsarina, whose images fade to sepia and whose bones are white as pearls. Instead, we gossip about her as if she had just left the room. We still debate how in 1981 a sweet-faced, puppy-eyed 20-year-old came to marry into the royal house. Was it a setup from the start? Did she know her fiance loved another woman? Was she complicit, or was she an innocent, garlanded for the slab and the knife?

For some people, being dead is only a relative condition; they wreak more than the living do. After their first rigor, they reshape themselves, taking on a flexibility in public discourse. For the anniversary of her death, the princess’s sons remember her for the TV cameras, and we learn that she was “fun” and “very caring” and “a breath of fresh air”. They speak sincerely, but they have no news. Yet there is no bar on saying what you like about her, in defiance of the evidence. Private tapes she made with her voice coach have been shown in a TV documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words. They were trailed as revealing a princess who is “candid” and “uninhibited”. Yet never has she appeared so self-conscious and recalcitrant. Squirming, twitching, avoiding the camera’s eye, she describes herself hopefully as “a rebel”, on the grounds that she liked to do the opposite of everyone else. You want to veil the lens and explain: that is reaction, not rebellion. Throwing a tantrum when thwarted doesn’t make you a free spirit. Rolling your eyes and shrugging doesn’t prove you are brave. And because people say “trust me”, it doesn’t means they’ll keep your secrets.

Yet royal people exist in a place beyond fact-correction, in a mystical realm with rules that, as individuals, they may not see; Diana consulted psychics to work out what was going on. The perennial demand for them to cut costs and be more “down to earth” is futile. They are not people like us, but with better hats. They exist apart from utility, and by virtue of our unexamined and irrational needs. You can’t write or speak about the princess without explicating and embellishing her myth. She no longer exists as herself, only as what we made of her. Her story is archaic and transpersonal. “It is as if,” said the psychotherapist Warren Colman, “Diana broadcast on an archetypal frequency.”

Though she was not born royal, her ancestors were ancient power-brokers, dug more deeply into these islands than the Windsors. She arrived on the scene in an era of gross self-interest, to distract the nation from the hardness of its own character. As she correctly discerned, “The British people needed someone to give affection.” A soft-eyed, fertile blond, she represented conjugal and maternal love, and what other source did we have? Until Tony Blair took office as a fresh-faced Prince Charming we had female leaders, but they were old and their cupboards were bare of food and love: a queen who, even at Diana’s death, was reluctant to descend from the cold north, and a prime minister formerly known as Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher.

The princess we invented to fill a vacancy had little to do with any actual person. Even at the beginning she was only loosely based on the young woman born Diana Spencer, and once she was engaged to the Prince of Wales she cut adrift from her modest CV. In the recent documentary Diana, Our Mother, her son Harry spoke of her as “an ordinary 20-year-old”; then checked himself, remembering she was an aristocrat. But in some ways his first thought was right. Like a farmer’s daughter, Diana married the boy across the hedge – she grew up near the queen’s estate at Sandringham. As the third daughter born to Viscount Althorp, she was perhaps a disappointment. The family’s previous child, a son, had died within hours of birth, and Spencer and his wife Frances had to try again for an heir. The Jungian analyst Marion Woodman posits that unwanted or superfluous children have difficulty in becoming embodied; they remain airy, available to fate, as if no one has signed them out of the soul store. By Diana’s cradle – where the witches and good fairies do battle – stood a friend of the Queen Mother, her maternal grandmother Ruth Fermoy. When Diana was six, Frances left her young family. Fermoy took sides against her daughter and helped Spencer get custody of his four desolate children. Later, promoted to his earldom, he remarried without telling them. Diana is said to have expressed her views by pushing her stepmother downstairs.

Diana’s private education implanted few cultural interests and no sense of their lack. She passed no public exams. But she could write a civil letter in her rounded hand, and since she didn’t have to earn a living, did it matter? In Diana: In Her Own Words, she speaks of her sense of destiny. “I knew … something profound was coming my way … I knew I was different from my friends …” Like Cinderella in the kitchen, she served an apprenticeship in humility, working as an upper-class cleaner, and in a nursery mopping up after other people’s babies. Then the prince came calling: a mature man, with a history of his own.

By her own account, Diana was not clever. Nor was she especially good, in the sense of having a dependable inclination to virtue; she was quixotically loving, not steadily charitable: mutable, not dependable: given to infatuation, prey to impulse. This is not a criticism. Myth does not reject any material. It only asks for a heart of wax. Then it works subtly to shape its subject, mould her to be fit for fate. When people described Diana as a “fairytale princess”, were they thinking of the cleaned-up versions? Fairytales are not about gauzy frocks and ego gratification. They are about child murder, cannibalism, starvation, deformity, desperate human creatures cast into the form of beasts, or chained by spells, or immured alive in thorns. The caged child is milk-fed, finger felt for plumpness by the witch, and if there is a happy-ever-after, it is usually written on someone’s skin.

In a TV interview before the marriage – the “ghastly interview,” as Diana called it – Charles wondered quizzically, “whatever ‘in love’ means”. He has been blamed ever since for destroying the simple faith of a simple maid. But off-camera, Diana was preparing. Her choice of hymn makes the marriage a patriotic duty, like signing up for a war:

By Diana’s later account, the wedding day was “the worst day of my life”. But at the time – July 1981 – she looked dazed with happiness. Even for republicans there was much to enjoy. A great city en fête. The oily reverence of the commentators with their peculiar word order: “For the first time through the centre gateway of Admiralty Arch arrives Lady Diana …” Best of all, the outfits: Princess Anne dressed as an Easter egg, wearing a furious scowl. Diana’s entrance into legend prompted a national gasp, as she tumbled from her coach like a bride in a bag. Her gown unfolded perfectly, like a paper flower. But some palace lackey had erred; the vehicle was too cramped for a tall flouncing lassie and her frock.

It takes a lot a lot of know-how and behind-the-scenes sweat to transform Cinderella from dust-maid to belle. Fairytales do not describe the day after the wedding, when the young wife lost in the corridors of the palace sees her reflection splinter, and turns in panicked circles looking for a mirror that recognises her. Prince Charles’s attitude of anxious perplexity seems to have concealed an obtuseness about what the marriage meant to his bride. The usual young woman of the era had a job, sexual experience, friends who stayed within her circle – her wedding was simply a big party, and she probably didn’t even move house. But Diana’s experience as daughter of a landed family did not prepare her for Buckingham Palace, any more than Schönbrunn prepared the teenage Marie Antoinette for Versailles. It was Diana’s complaint that no one helped her or saw her need. Fermoy had expressed doubts before the marriage. “Darling, you must understand that their sense of humour and their lifestyle are different …” The bathos is superb. “Mind how you go,” say the elders, as they tip off the dragon and chain the virgin to the mossy rock.

What would have happened to Diana if she had made the sort of marriage her friends made? You can picture her stabled in the shires with a husband untroubled by brains: furnishing a cold house with good pieces, skiing annually, hosting shoots, stuffing the children off to board: spending more on replenishing the ancestral linen cupboard than on her own back. With not too much face-paint, jacket sleeves too short for her long arms, vital organs shielded by a stout bag bought at a country show, she would have ossified into convention; no one would have suspected her of being a beauty. Like many women in mid-life, she would have lived in a mist of discontent, struggling to define something owing, something that had eluded her. But in her case the “something” would have been the throne.

Even in childhood photos Diana seems to pose, as if watching her own show. Her gaze flits sideways, as if to check everyone is looking at her. One “friend” told a TV crew that as a teenager, “whenever you saw her alone she would have picked up some trashy romantic novel”. Leave aside the casual denigration of women’s taste: if Diana imagined herself – the least and youngest daughter – as magnificent, all-conquering, a queen, she had a means of turning her daydream into fact. Diana claimed that she and the prince met only 13 times before their wedding. Did she keep a note? She lacked self-awareness, but had strong instincts. It must have been child’s play – because she was anxious to please, or because she was crafty – to seem to share his visions and concerns. An earnest look, a shy silence, job done. Chaste maids were not too plentiful in the 1980s. The prince took advice: snap her up, sir.

Diana was no doubt really shy, and certainly unused and unformed: a hollow vessel, able to carry not just heirs but the projections of others. After marriage she had power that she had not sought or imagined. She had expected adulation, but of a private kind: to be adored by her prince, respected and revered by her subjects. She could not have imagined how insatiable the public would be, once demand for her had been ramped up by the media and her own tactics. In her circle there were no solid witnesses to the nature of reality – only those who, by virtue of their vocation, were fantasists, exalting sentiment, exploiting the nation’s infantile needs, equating history with the history of a few titled families. She had a sense of her own fitness to be princess, and unfitness for any other role. But she had no sense of the true history in which she was now embedded, or the strength of the forces she would constellate. At first, she said, she was afraid of the crowds who gathered to adore her. Then she began to feed on them.

When Diana became the most famous woman in the world, it is not surprising that less popular members of the Firm were miffed. The queen herself had been a beauty, but may have thought it vulgar to be too interested in one’s looks. Diana was allowed to interest herself in little else. Her dealings with the press and photographers were not innocent. The images had to be carefully curated – her good side, so to speak. There were unacceptable angles. And when an image is created by the lens it can fuzz and slip and blur. Unsure of her boundaries, the princess starved herself, as if her healthy frame could pare away to the elfin proportions of the models and dancers who fascinated her. She threw up her food, hacked at herself with a blade. In Diana: In Her Own Words she sneers at her young self – her tone contemptuous, punitive. She cannot forgive that girl, naive heroine of a gothic novel – whose fate is to be locked in a keep by a man of dubious intentions, and to be practised upon by older women who have secrets she needs to know.

In 1992 Charles and Diana separated. In 1996 the dead marriage was buried. This was not what had been negotiated, in the 13 encounters. The prince resumed his old narrative, with the woman he should have married in the first place. Another story had begun to tell Diana. Cut loose, she opened the doors of her identity and all the dead princesses floated in, those deposed and exiled, beheaded and shot. With them came the screen idols and the spoiled glamour girls – Monroe naked and dead, Garbo who wanted to be alone. As we grow up, we aim to be “self-possessed”, not taken over by others. But as the novelist Ivy Compton Burnett says, “People have no chance to grow up. A lifetime is not long enough.”

Isolated by the pique and indifference of the other royals, neglected, crossed in love and bested by Mrs Parker Bowles, she found “affinity”, she said, with the rejected. To her credit, she had begun to work actively to lessen the amount of pain in the world. She visited the sick, and stopped just short of claiming the healing touch that custom bestows on the divinely anointed; had she become queen, she would surely have gone about raising the dead. Legend insists she showed the world that it was safe to shake hands with a person with Aids. Even in the unenlightened days of 1987, only the bigoted and ignorant thought casual contact would infect them, but any gesture from Diana was worth years of public education and millions in funding. She hung around with Mother Teresa, and did it while wearing couture; she moved towards suffering, rather than swerving from it. “When people are dying,” she said, “they’re much more open, more vulnerable, much more real than other people, and I appreciate that.” Among the weak she recovered her strength – transformed from peely-wally puking maid to an Amazon heading to battle. She knew dread diseases would not kill her. Like Joan of Arc, protected by her own magic, she walked unscathed. Campaigning against landmines, she passed through explosive terrain. Her armoured vest was inscribed, “the HALO Trust”. Her blond head gleamed like a fell invitation, inviting a bolt from the blue.

The divorce was a sour one. It is difficult to extract sober truth from the bitching of the sycophants on either side. Diana won the War of the Waleses because she was ruthless, and had better legs. Her withdrawal from publiclife, dramatically announced, suggested that she would emerge as a new model. Possibly this transformation was under way, but it failed to complete, till death completed it. Instead she behaved like a daffy celebrity, and her fans began to laugh at her attempts to hoover up a hero. What kind of mate fits the bill, if your first has been a future king? The chance of an ordinary life of trial and error was what she had rejected long ago – when, as her sisters put it, they printed her face on the souvenir tea towels. But though her sheen was smudged a little by her failures in love, the marks could be polished away. It was possible for the public to hold two views of her simultaneously, and perhaps they were not contradictory: goddesses are not known for propriety. It’s no use saying to a super-being, “Keep your hands off my husband.” She takes and consumes, and spits out the tough bits.

By the time of her Panorama interview, late in 1995, Diana had developed a habit of speaking of herself in the third person. Sphinx-like, unsmiling and with mater dolorosa makeup, she presented herself as both a victim and a person of great power, and though she spoke plainly enough, it was with the mysterious air of one forced to communicate in riddles.

    When she referred to herself as a 'queen of hearts', the blood chilled. She seemed to be reading from her own obituary.

She was too much for the royal family, she said: wasted on them. She saw nothing good for Charles. “Who knows what fate will produce?” It was not a question. In her polite duchessy way, she was cursing him.

But the end of royal status had stripped away Diana’s protection, both practically and mystically. After the Panorama broadcast there was a buzz in the air: a doomy feeling, as if her options were running out. She still played games with the press, but they knew a dirtier game. They spat at her, insulted her to try to draw a reaction. She teased them, and they chased her down, not killing her yet. She is supposed to have feared sinister forces, anticipated that her end was prepared. As every fortune-teller knows, such hints assume precision in retrospect.

A deathbed, once, was a location dense with meaning, a room packed with the invisible presences of angels, devils, ancestors. But now, as many of us don’t believe in an afterlife, we envisage no final justice, no ultimate meaning, and have no support for our sense of loss when “positivity” falters. Perhaps we are baffled by the process of extinction. In recent years, death narratives have attained a popularity they have not held for centuries. Those with a terminal illness scope it out in blogs. This summer the last days of baby Charlie Gard riveted worldwide attention. But what is the point of all this introspection? Even before the funeral, survivors are supposed to flip back to normal. “Keeping busy” is the secret, Prince William has advised.

Grief is exhausting, as we all know. The bereaved are muddled and tense, they need allowances made. But who knows you are mourning, if there is nothing but a long face to set you apart? No one wants to go back to the elaborate conventions of the Victorians, but they had the merit of tagging the bereaved, marking them out for tenderness. And if your secret was that you felt no sorrow, your clothes did the right thing on your behalf. Now funeral notices specify “colourful clothing”. The grief-stricken are described as “depressed”, as if sorrow were a pathology. We pour every effort into cheering ourselves up and releasing balloons. When someone dies, “he wouldn’t have wanted to see long faces”, we assure ourselves – but we cross our fingers as we say it. What if he did? What if the dead person hoped for us to rend our garments and wail?

When Diana died, a crack appeared in a vial of grief, and released a salt ocean. A nation took to the boats. Vast crowds gathered to pool their dismay and sense of shock. As Diana was a collective creation, she was also a collective possession. The mass-mourning offended the taste police. It was gaudy, it was kitsch – the rotting flowers in their shrouds, the padded hearts of crimson plastic, the teddy bears and dolls and broken-backed verses. But all these testified to the struggle for self-expression of individuals who were spiritually and imaginatively deprived, who released their own suppressed sorrow in grieving for a woman they did not know. The term “mass hysteria” was a facile denigration of a phenomenon that eluded the commentators and their framework of analysis. They did not see the active work the crowds were doing. Mourning is work. It is not simply being sad. It is naming your pain. It is witnessing the sorrow of others, drawing out the shape of loss. It is natural and necessary and there is no healing without it.
Princess Diana during a visit to The Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, Australia.
Princess Diana during a visit to The Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, Australia. Photograph: Tim Graham/Getty Images

It is irrelevant to object that Diana alive bore no resemblance to Diana dead. The crowds were not deluded about what they had lost. They were not mourning something perfect, but something that was unfinished. There was speculation that Diana might have been pregnant when she died. Was something of startling interest evolving beneath her skin – another way of living? The question was left hanging. Her death released subterranean doubtsand fear. Even those who scorn conspiracy theories asked, what exactly is an accident? Why, on the last night of her life, did Diana go below ground to reach her destination? She need not have gone that way. But she didn’t choose – she was driven. Her gods wanted her: she had been out too late.

From her first emergence in public, sun shining through her skirt, Diana was exploited, for money, for thrills, for laughs. She was not a saint, or a rebel who needs our posthumous assistance – she was a young woman of scant personal resources who believed she was basking with dolphins when she was foundering among sharks. But as a phenomenon, she was bigger than all of us: self-renewing as the seasons, always desired and never possessed. She was the White Goddess evoked by Robert Graves, the slender being with the hook nose and startling blue eyes; the being he describes as a shape-shifter, a virgin but also a vixen, a hag, mermaid, weasel. She was Thomas Wyatt’s white deer, fleeing into the forest darkness. She was the creature “painted and damned and young and fair”, whom the poet Stevie Smith described:

    I wonder why I fear so much What surely has no modern touch?

In the TV broadcast last month, Prince William said, “We won’t be doing this again. We won’t speak openly or publicly about her again …” When her broken body was laid to rest on a private island, it was a conscious and perhaps superfluous attempt to embed her in national myth. No commemorative scheme has proved equal or, you might think, necessary. She is like John Keats, but more photogenic: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” If Diana is present now, it is in what flows and is mutable, what waxes and wanes, what cannot be fixed, measured, confined, is not time-bound and so renders anniversaries obsolete: and therefore, possibly, not dead at all, but slid into the Alma tunnel to re-emerge in the autumn of 1997, collar turned up, long feet like blades carving through the rain.

Diana: The Last Days

“As soon as the world heard the news of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in a crash in Paris on 31 August 1997, many questions began to be asked by people who believed it was a conspiracy and not an accident: was she engaged to Dodi Fayed? was she pregnant with Dodi's child? why did the ambulance take so long to get to the hospital? what were the roles of the 'blinding white flash' and the Fiat Uno? were the blood samples taken from the driver switched before testing? Martyn Gregory has interviewed close friends of Diana, the bodyguards who were with her and now for this revised and updated edition the head of the French investigation to delve into the real truth behind the crash. He answers all of these questions and more in an authoritative, exhaustively researched and utterly compelling book that reveals what really happened in Diana's last hours.”
Diana: The Last Days Hardcover – September, 2004
by Martyn Gregory 

Beach BBQs with Dodi, rows with bodyguards and that 'engagement ring'... The truth about the last week of Princess Diana's life

Martyn Gregory
24 AUGUST 2017 • 12:20PM

It turned out to be a terrible decision, but Diana,  Princess of Wales, chose to spend her final summer in the company of the Fayedeen – billionaire businessman Mohamed Fayed’s retinue of family, staff, PR and security – in Fayed boats, apartments and hotels. Having been invited on holiday with the Harrods boss, Diana started her relationship with his son, Dodi, in July 1997.

Unbeknown to her, Dodi was at the time holidaying with his American fiancée, Kelly Fisher – a Calvin Klein model. Dodi was sleeping with Kelly on one of the Fayed boats, while courting Diana on another – the Jonikal, a 150ft luxury yacht Mohamed had bought specifically to entertain the Princess. It was only six weeks after they met that Diana and Dodi were killed in a fatal Paris car crash.

Mohamed Fayed has since spent tens of millions of pounds attempting to expunge the Fayed name from the following sequence of events.

When she died, Diana was travelling from a Fayed hotel to a Fayed apartment. She was in a Fayed car, sitting next to Fayed’s son and heir, Dodi. The driver, Henri Paul, was not a chauffeur.

He was the acting head of the Hôtel Ritz Paris security who had been recalled from an evening off by the Fayeds – father and son – to return Diana and Dodi to the Arsène Houssaye apartment – their luxury accommodation just off the Champs-Élysées.

In over a decade of Ritz service, Paul had never driven any member of the Fayed family anywhere, ever. Neither Fayed had any reason to believe that Paul had been drinking. Nor did the two Fayed bodyguards, who were responsible for the couple’s safety.

A sad irony of Diana’s last journey was that chauffeurs Philippe Dourneau and Jean-François Musa, who had driven the couple to the Ritz for their last meal, had been waiting for them at the front of the hotel.

No qualified French chauffeur has ever been involved in a fatal accident. Dourneau and Musa later made their way to the Alma-tunnel crash site, and were devastated to discover that Paul had been at the wheel.

28/29 August 1997

This day was a most significant one for Diana – exactly one year earlier she had been divorced from the Prince of Wales. She toasted the moment in champagne with Dodi on the Jonikal. 

The following evening, the couple celebrated with a barbecue on a small beach in Sardinia. According to their butler, Rene Delorme, this was one of the most romantic nights of their summer together. Dressed in an evening suit and bow tie, he served them with caviar.

The Jonikal’s chef prepared barbecued chicken burgers, pork and smoked sausages. The next day, they flew from Olbia in Sardinia to Paris. The couple – and their Fayed bodyguards, Kes Wingfield and Trevor Rees-Jones – touched down at Le Bourget airport at lunchtime.

Close friends say that Diana had been reluctant to go to Paris, and wanted to go straight home to see her sons. Her summer with Dodi was at an end, but he had insisted on a final flourish in Paris, where some of his family’s proudest possessions  are to be found.

Unsurprisingly, their flight was met by the paparazzi, and the final pursuit of Diana then began. The Fayed PR team had made the most of the Diana factor since ‘The Kiss’ picture in  the Sunday Mirror in August had alerted the world to the romance. PR supremo Max Clifford told me that even he had  been made aware of Dodi’s intention to visit Paris before returning to the UK.

As soon as they got into their limousine at the airport, driven by Dodi’s personal chauffeur, Dourneau, they were chased by paparazzi on motorbikes. Dodi was upset by this and instructed Dourneau to drive fast to try to lose them.

Princess Diana was also upset. Dourneau recalls her screaming at him to ‘slow down’ so he would not hit a photographer as they hurtled around the périphérique. The seasoned chauffeur managed to lose the paparazzi altogether with a deft manouevre to exit the Paris ring road.

His task was made easier as no one had any idea where Dodi was taking the Princess. According to Dourneau, Diana was trying to soothe his boss during their journey. ‘Don’t worry Dodi,’ he recalls her saying, as she placed a hand on his knee.

30 August 1997 - 15:45

Their first destination was the Villa Windsor, which Mohamed Fayed has rented from the Paris authorities for decades. (It is thought unlikely that Dodi told Diana that the previous month he had given his then fiancée, Kelly Fisher, an identical tour.)

The villa is the former home of the exiled King Edward VIII and his American wife, Wallis Simpson – the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It lies in the Bois de Boulogne on the edge of Paris. Although Diana told friends that she was ‘blissfully happy’, while she was in Paris she did not enjoy the Villa Windsor visit.

Later that afternoon, she confided in one  journalist that ‘it has a history and ghosts of its own and I have no wish to follow that’.

They then went to the Ritz. Diana would have been familiar with the hotel as the couple had visited it secretly for a brief stay in July. Claude Roulet, assistant to the president of the Ritz, welcomed them. He was also a historian who was writing a book about the hotel. He remembers asking Diana if he should address her as ‘Lady Dee’ – as most French people called her. Placing her hand on his arm, she told him, ‘Just call me Di.’

While Diana had her hair done by a Ritz stylist, Dodi visited the jeweller Repossi in the Place Vendôme. Although only 80 metres from the Ritz, Dodi instructed Dourneau to drive him there.

He emerged with only a brochure, but he had arranged purchase of what was to become a controversial gold and diamond ring. After the couple died, Mohamed Fayed claimed that it was an engagement ring, as did Alberto Repossi himself.

Roulet accompanied Dodi to the jewellers. He does not recall either man mentioning ‘engagement’ as the ring  was selected. Roulet later collected it. When he gave it to Dodi, he asked if he intended to give the ring to Diana that night. Dodi said he did not know. There is no evidence that Diana ever saw the ring. It was later recovered from the Fayed apartment on rue Arsène Houssaye.

Mohamed Fayed paid for the ring after the couple died.  It was later put on display in Harrods. Despite the fact that  there was no evidence to support the claim, it was described as the couple’s ‘engagement ring’.

30 August 1997 - 21:45

After leaving the Ritz, the couple  spent a couple of hours in the Arsène  Houssaye apartment until two Fayed vehicles arrived to collect them and take them to the trendy Chez Benoit restaurant, where Claude Roulet had booked a table for them (in his own name) and was awaiting their arrival.

However, dozens of paparazzi had gathered outside the apartment; an agency had already put their pictures (from their arrival at Le Bourget) on the wires and word was out. The presence of the same two cars outside – one driven by Dourneau, which would take the couple, and the other  by Jean-Francois Musa for the bodyguards – indicated that departure was imminent.

As soon as their car moved off, the paps behaved like real devils
Bodyguard Kes Wingfield remembers the chaotic scenes outside the Arsène Houssaye apartment. ‘As soon as their car moved off, the paps behaved like real devils. They called for their bikes and sped off like fools, trying to stick to the car. They could have knocked over pedestrians. People flattened themselves against walls as their bikes mounted the pavements  and sped past.’

‘They were all around us,’ recalls Dourneau. ‘At the sides, in front, behind. Some acted as scouts, riding ahead of us to find out where we were going.’

Unfamiliar with being pursued like this, a furious Dodi ditched his Chez Benoit idea en route. He told Dourneau to head for the protection of the Ritz. The photographers would not be able to get in and the couple could regain some privacy after the shambles of their apartment exit.

Dodi chose to blame the bodyguards for what he described as the ‘f— up’ of their final journey. The bodyguards countered by telling Dodi that it had been impossible for them to prepare for it, as they had no idea that the hotel would be their destination.

They had thought they were going to Chez Benoit. The couple were last seen on the hotel’s CCTV. Despite the photographers’ best efforts, they failed to get a single picture of the Diana and Dodi out together in Paris.

Diana looked disconsolate as she entered the Ritz for the last time. The couple went straight to the L’Espadon restaurant. They ordered food but Diana was clearly upset. Fellow diners reported that they saw her crying as she ordered before they decamped to the Imperial Suite for their final meal to be served.

CCTV later captured Dodi emerging from the suite and talking to the bodyguards around midnight. He told them that he had devised a plan to evade the paparazzi when they left the hotel. It was in this conversation that his and Diana’s fates were sealed.

Dodi’s ‘plan’ was to leave the Ritz with Diana by the rear entrance. He had asked staff to whistle up another Mercedes which, he told the bodyguards, would be driven by Henri Paul. Wingfield and Rees-Jones, said Dodi, were not to accompany them.

Their role would be to ‘create a diversion’ by taking the two limousines from the front of the hotel. Both bodyguards strongly objected to the idea of Diana being allowed to leave the hotel without security. And neither man believed they would be best deployed as decoys.

Dodi countered by saying that his plan had been ‘OK’d with MF’ – which meant ‘my father’, Mohamed Fayed. All now knew the argument was over. MF called the shots in the Ritz, as he had throughout the couple’s French holiday.

It was the best “plan” Dodi had ever come up with. And it were crap
Wingfield, a plain-speaking Yorkshireman, later told me, ‘It was the best “plan” Dodi had ever come up with. And it were crap.’

Fayed himself has given several different versions of this final conversation with Dodi. Characteristically all his versions omit mention of Henri Paul, or his own responsibility for standing down Dourneau and Musa, the regular Fayed chauffeurs, who were awaiting the couple at the front of the Ritz.

31 August 1997 - 00:18

Whatever the content of the final Fayed family conversation, another  Mercedes appeared at the back of the Ritz. Diana, Dodi and Henri Paul are captured on CCTV waiting, and then leaving at 12.18am. Because of the bodyguards’ objections, Dodi had agreed to take one of them: Trevor Rees-Jones.

Five minutes later, Henri Paul drove the Mercedes into pillar 13 of the Place l’Alma underpass and died instantly, as did Dodi Fayed. Trevor Rees-Jones was to be the only survivor despite savage injuries. None of them had been wearing seatbelts.

Princess Diana was cut out of the car by the French emergency service SAMU. She had been critically injured and she had  a heart attack at this time. Because her blood pressure was  dangerously low she was driven extremely slowly to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital. However, despite the best efforts of top emergency surgeons, Diana was declared dead at 4am.

In the French Investigation, Judge Hervé  Stéphan concluded in his report that Henri Paul hit the  pillar without touching the Mercedes’ brakes, driving at between 61 and 63mph. (The speed limit is 30mph.) Paul was also drunk.

The French legal driving limit is 0.50 grams of alcohol per litre. Paul’s blood samples showed he had a level of 1.74g/litre. Ritz bills indicated that he had drunk two pastis there, and it is thought that he must have been drinking prior to his return to the hotel.

At Paul’s parents’ request, a second set of tests were performed which were videotaped. The results were identical. The judge decided that none of the chasing photographers or paparazzi should be prosecuted.

Expert forensic analysis of white paint scrapes on the crashed Mercedes by technicians at the Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale established that the Mercedes had brushed a white Fiat Uno immediately before the crash.

No one claimed to have seen the Fiat in the Alma tunnel at the time of the crash. However, witnesses later confirmed that they had seen an Uno exiting the tunnel. Despite a nationwide search, the Fiat was never found.

Before Diana’s corpse had reached the Hammersmith and Fulham mortuary in London for its autopsy on 31 August 1997, Fayed had dispatched Ritz officials to French police to inform them that, as Dodi’s father, he suspected ‘a conspiracy to murder’ the couple.

The Ritz hotel president, Frank Klein, and his assistant, Claude Roulet, were tasked with transmitting this initial piece of fake news. Before the 2007 UK inquests, Fayed spent tens of millions of pounds in an apparent attempt to distance his family from any responsibility for Diana’s death.

 The final journey: Trevor Rees-Jones (left), and Henri Paul leaving the Ritz with Diana and Dodi
Trevor Rees-Jones (left), and Henri Paul leaving the Ritz with Diana and Dodi CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
Headed by former Metropolitan police chief Sir John Stevens in 2006, Operation Paget was to investigate all of Fayed’s 175 ‘conspiracy to murder’ theories in the build-up to the inquest. Not one shred of credible evidence to support any of these charges was found.

The massive 832-page report, which appeared to redefine the meaning of the word ‘comprehensive’,  was definitive. At 500,000 words long, the report concluded that, ‘There was no conspiracy to murder any of the occupants of the car. This was a tragic accident.’

Well-informed legal sources estimate that Fayed spent at least £50 million on the 2007/2008 London inquests into Diana and Dodi’s deaths. He hired three of the UK’s leading QCs, plus appropriate legal support to represent himself, his hotel and Henri Paul’s parents. 

However, Fayed himself was humiliated and ridiculed in the witness box. He scattered accusations of a vast plot to kill the couple encompassing British and French security, police, medical and judicial services as well as the Duke of Edinburgh, Tony Blair, his own bodyguards, even Henri Paul, without being able to produce evidence for any of them.

No one who was not an employee, in his pay or a client, gave support to his claims. Fayed told the inquest that he would accept the jury’s finding. However, he then spent more millions producing a film, Unlawful Killing, about the deaths. (The film was never seen in the UK as Fayed’s own lawyers reportedly advised  87 cuts would have to be made.)

A telling moment occurred mid-inquest when the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, interrupted Fayed’s QC, Michael Mansfield, and told him to ‘tether his allegations to evidence’. He was concerned that the inquests, which eventually ran  for six months, might never end.

Unable to achieve this, as there was no evidence to support his case, Mansfield told the court that the couple had been murdered in a criminal conspiracy by the British Establishment, allegedly led by the Duke of Edinburgh. 

Eventually the QC and his client had to accept the jury’s  verdict. Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed had been ‘unlawfully killed’ by ‘grossly negligent driving’.

Neither bodyguard on duty that night in Paris had approved the security arrangements that were to kill the woman who became known, on the day she died, as the ‘People’s Princess’.
Diana, The Last Days, by Martyn Gregory, is published  by Virgin B