I didn’t watch ITV’s Diana, our mother: her life and legacy because I wasn’t interested enough. That is not to say that I in any way dislike the late Princess Diana, or her two fine sons, William and Harry, or that I disagreed with the principle of the programme. I imagine it would have been a source of comfort to anyone who has lost someone who was too young to die and very cathartic to the boys themselves. If anyone deserves some comfort it is those boys.
If I don’t really understand the attraction of the royals, I certainly understand how the media works If there wasn’t a story about Diana, why they could simply make one up. For what it is worth, I believe Diana was treated abominably by both the media and the royals themselves. She was chased, harassed, slandered and abused. Before she died – and people seem to forget this – she was despised by the media. I remember one column pointing out that she had left her boys behind and gone on her fourth holiday of the summer. Another asked, “On holiday from what?” The change in the public mood when she died in a Paris underpass was as astonishing as it was hypocritical.
In 1997, you could not escape the hysteria that engulfed huge sections of the country. It felt like the country had gone completely mad. On the day of her funeral, millions of people poured onto the streets, grieving over someone they didn’t know, someone they never knew, someone whose life they knew next to nothing about. I kept my head down because there was a feeling that unless you had something positive to say then you should say nothing at all. In between Diana’s death and her funeral, the most bizarre momentum built up, stirred up by the gutter press but embraced without qualification by huge sections of the population which demanded the royal family see their people and feel their pain. There followed the sight of a royal family which had done its level best to cut off Diana from mainstream royal events going out on the streets. Worst of all, William and Harry were sent out onto the street to walk behind their mother’s coffin. I would love to know who sent them out to do that. Is it any wonder the boys, especially Harry, suffered so much in the years that followed? One of the wealthiest families on the planet couldn’t ensure that two young boys who had lost their mother received bereavement counselling. Disgraceful.
I like Diana as I liked no other royal. I felt she made a real difference in terms of AIDS, land mines, homelessness and numerous other subjects mainstream royals would never go near. And her interview with Martin Bashir was arguably one of the most powerful interviews in the history of television when her husband’s adultery was revealed. She had enormous power because of what and who she was and in many ways she changed the world. Her legacy is surely her boys who continue the work she started.
The more I think about the royal family, the less I like them and yet the more I hear about Diana and her two sons, the more I like them. The divorce between Diana and Charles made them real to me too because my life had been turned permanently upside down when my parents divorced when I was too young to know. I knew just how divorce can wreck you mind and it can wreck your life. Divorce wrecked my mind and my life and I can imagine that for the two young princes, in artificial lives in an artificial world, their experience could have been worse than mine. All that royal training can’t disguise true and deep emotions.
The media chase and the media hounding were surely major factors in her death. We can consider the drunk driver, we can consider the speeding vehicle but neither of these things would have happened without the media. That is why today I still despise the gutter press in particular, the Mail, the Sun and the Express to name but three whom I regard as accessories to her death.
The two boys and their mother are the only ones who emerge from this tragedy with any credit. She will always be remembered as the way she looked when she died. Whilst the rest of us will age and shrivel, she will be forever young. Even though I didn’t see it, Diana and her sons deserved a TV show, I’m glad she got it and I am glad people remembered.