I have a small obsession right now. Tall. Soulful eyes. Blond streaks. I remember the night she died. Like most people in the UK, we woke up thinking we were still in a dream. Twenty years later, I’ve just realised that same summer was a turning point in my life. The Princess’s death was a trigger. Great awareness skills, hey.
Meanwhile she’s gone. In the recent Channel 4 documentary where her speech coach tapes were aired, her private secretary Patrick Jephson seemed like he was in her corner. I watched with interest as he said that she’d upheld the principles of monarchy better than the actual monarchy. The consensus was she was crapped on by the royal family. That this shaped her in her following years, whether she wanted it to or not.
Then a few days later, I found Jephson’s re-released memoir in Tesco’s. I snaffled it up and took it home. Reading it, I kept having to turn it over in my hands. This was the same guy? Intelligent, sure but a sour lemon compared to the documentary. We get it, Patrick. Diana overworked you. Yes, she was a manipulator. Paranoid at times. You really wanted her to like you. She was friendly one moment, imperious the next. The coat of many colours.
The 1995 Panorama interview was her defining moment. Beautiful and vulnerable, she’d sat there in that seriously nice dark blazer giving her ‘Queen of Peoples’ Hearts’ plea. I remember watching it and admiring her verve. And the blazer. It seemed at the time that most people admired her frank honesty. Maybe I wan’t paying attention. This is very possible.
What emerges now was that it damaged her more than it helped. She suffered the thing most of us are guilty of: the overshare. People within her world who still supported her used this opportunity to retreat from her life. Her path had no return. And there’s still that painful question. Why? Why didn’t she retreat into a private world and be content to nurture herself and her boys? According to Jephson and others who knew her, she had to control. Set things straight. Fight her corner.
I wonder what she would have made of Facebook. Instagram. What she’d have made of our millions of micro-media lives. The Princess had already played this game at the most intense level. It’s true that since her death, our collective view of her has changed. We understand that she controlled more than she let on at the time. But still. She’d been badly treated. And that woman was born to fight.
For me, it’s still a heart-wrencher. At what point do you stand up for what you believe in? And how tall do you stand? Conversely, when do you decide to let things slide? Perhaps she wasn’t such a good template. Not if you’re a warrior.