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Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

December 18, 2006

Diana: not the last word

This site has now moved to Salut!

Picture: Paul Cooper
The cover of Private Eye after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales showed crowds milling outside Buckingham Palace at the start of an astonishing week in the history of relationships between the Royal Family, the people and the press.

Beneath the headline Media to Blame, the quote bubbles brilliantly captured the public mood in all its hypocritical glory.

"The papers are a disgrace," declared one person.

"Yes, I couldn't get one anywhere," agreed another while a third offered reassurance: "Borrow mine. It's got a picture of the car."

No one from paparazzi to Prince Philip came out of the affair particularly well, as we are reminded by Stephen Frears's outstanding film The Queen, with its string of superb character readings from Mark Bazeley's Alastair Campbell to the incomparable Helen Mirren's monarch.

Royalty was left looking cold and unfeeling, media obsession with the image of Diana was seen to have assumed grotesque proportions and there were aspects of the mass outpouring of grief that seemed more than a little disturbing.

As for the accident itself, that is all it ever was.

Despite the preposterous conspiracy theories, three people died in the underpass at the Pont de l'Alma because the driver was way over two limits - drink and speed.

Yet nothing in Lord Stevens's report on the affair will stop Mohamed Fayed, aided and abetted by his chums at the Daily Express, from banging on about an Establishment plot to murder a princess rather than risk her marrying a Muslim.

There has yet to be an intelligent explanation of how even the most skilled of secret agents could orchestrate each circumstance of a car crash of the sort that happened in Paris in August 1997.

No one has ever described how these murky operatives were able to ensure that one, two or three people would die in the sort of collision from which more fortunate occupants might emerge alive (especially if, unlike Diana and her friend, Fayed's son Dodi, they were wearing seatbelts). And if they could not ensure the outcome, what exactly would have the purpose of the enterprise?

But as I have remarked before, the blinding stupidity of the murder-in-the-tunnel theory has not discouraged plenty of ostensibly normal people from believing the unbelievable. And nor will it do so in future.

Yes, I realise that the obvious time for these thoughts was the end of last week, when I was busy on other things in London. A late contribution to the debate was inspired by calls from two friends who, because they had to plough through the 832 pages of Lord Stevens's report, alerted me to my own passing mention.

Back in 1997, I remained in London for a week or two covering the repercussions there. Then I was asked to go to Paris to research a substantial account of what was known, and what was being said, about the accident.

The piece appeared at huge length in the Telegraph's Weekend section and prompted a protest from Michael Cole, the BBC royal correspondent who had become Fayed's publicity director.

Had the Press Complaints Commission upheld Cole's complaint, the logic would have been that an article head City of Rumour, dealing exhaustively with whatever details and claims had emerged about the accident, should somehow avoid mentioning anything deemed hurtful (however much in the public domain it already was).

The two rumours in question were that the princess was pregnant with Dodi's child and that traces of cocaine had been detected in the crashed Mercedes. Rumours, remember, and both well publicised before I portrayed them as part of the "wilder speculation" surrounding the accident.

Fortunately, the PCC seems to have had no difficulty in understanding what Cole could not: namely that it was perfectly proper to make passing reference to such matters. Furthermore, it was perhaps obvious to the more careful reader that I had not swallowed either proposition.

So in 1997, it was "scurrilous" according to Fayed's man, Cole, to suggest (or even to report that others had suggested) that Diana was pregnant, and not a scrap of evidence existed to support such a "damaging" allegation.

Getting on for 10 years later, what do we find when we turn to the Express, the paper that has enthusiastically followed the Mohamed Fayed line? A reminder that the Harrods owner, so loyally served by Cole, believed she was pregnant and that her body was embalmed in order to cover up the fact.

Minutes after the car carrying Diana turned right out of this street, rue Cambon, she lay dying in the wreckage at the Pont de l'Alma

Cole, who only this summer justified his complaint against me by saying it was "cruel and wrong to speculate about those so recently dead", is now quoted as saying Diana, on the last occasion he saw her, was "bubbling over like there was a little secret inside her that was making her happy".

The complaint to the PCC was thrown out. I await Cole's belated apology, but with breath unbated.

After accusing me of being cruel and wrong, he is too busy telling us that the Stevens report - which Diana's own sons believe should bring an end to conjecture - will not be the last word.

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This site has now moved to Salut!


At December 18, 2006 5:00 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Perhaps the Express could run a contest for readers to come up with scenarios for how such a crash could have been orchestrated by some latter-day James Bond. First prize, an all-expenses-paid (by Fayed) Harrods shopping spree and lunch with Michael Cole to flesh out the finer details.

At December 18, 2006 7:04 PM, Blogger anne gilbert said...

The Spirit of Christmas is coming around.
Hippos' packsack is tightly bound.
After his jump into Richard's blog.
He'll sort his letters while enjoying season grog.
His book of addresses has a few names.
If you'd like his letter,then post to the same.

At December 18, 2006 10:19 PM, Anonymous SH said...

Don't encourage the Daily Express, please. We could have a ludicrous headline competition, though. How about "Diana: Grassy Knoll Breaks its Silence"?

At December 18, 2006 11:05 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Where were people when they heard that Di was dead (dead as a Dodi, in fact)? I was in St. John's, Newfoundland.

At December 19, 2006 5:18 AM, Blogger Louise said...

Absolutely no idea!

Are you sure she is dead? Maybe she is doing an Elvis on us! Or working on the perfume counter in Horrids...

At December 19, 2006 5:16 PM, Blogger anne gilbert said...

Could we have a change of topic,ie another thread.This Diana subject isn't really anyone's cup of tea at this time of year.
Colin Randall,you might think of leading off with a Christmas carol to pull us along.Hippo "season greating verse" would be better presented then.

At December 19, 2006 5:41 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Perhaps, Louise, she's masquerading as a certain "poet" of our acquaintance... Which might also explain the fan club.

At December 19, 2006 5:58 PM, Blogger anne gilbert said...

Richard of Orleans has been asked to offer his Seasons Greetings to Colin Berry,on his own blog.
He needs some encouragement to achieve this as a boost to his Spirit of Christmas.

At December 19, 2006 6:49 PM, Blogger Louise said...

I'm still trying to work out who anne giblet is ... am I dumb, or am I dumb?

At December 19, 2006 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Louise,you're not dumb.
Your only you.

At December 19, 2006 9:47 PM, Blogger Louise said...

That anonymous must be Roo - he always has problems with the apostrophy - "You're" Roo, not "Your"

At December 19, 2006 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Louise always has trouble with the apostophe. Ha ha !

At December 19, 2006 10:01 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Credit where it's due, Louise -- Richard's not one of the anonymice. Whatever else you may think of him, he has the courage of his convictions. He puts a name to his thoughts.
You don't think Anne Giblet really is Anne Giblet? No, nor do I. And I think perhaps "she" is running her own fan club.

At December 19, 2006 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At December 19, 2006 10:37 PM, Blogger Louise said...

I stand corrected

At December 19, 2006 11:05 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Sic Angus on him, Louise. Bite him in the apostrophe, boy!

At December 21, 2006 5:03 AM, Blogger redtown said...

"Royalty was left looking cold and unfeeling..."

And indeed the "people's princess" remains the icon of superficially emoting popular culture.  But the Royal family knew a very different Diana -- the one behind the facades of glamour and pseudo-compassion.

Both Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder caused by their mother's abandoning them as young children.  A google search reveals that Diana is considered a case study in BPD by mental health professionals.

For Charles Spencer, BPD meant insatiable sexual promiscuity (his wife was divorcing him at the time of Diana's death). For Diana, BPD meant intense insecurity and insatiable need for attention and affection which even the best husband could never fulfill. 

Clinically, it's clear that the Royal family did not cause her "problems". Rather, she brought her multiple issues into the marriage, and the Royal family was hapless to deal with them.

Diana's illness, untreated, sowed the seeds of her fast and unstable lifestyle, and sadly, her tragic fate.


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