There’s a creepy, grisly irony in all the “Diana at 60” coverage at the moment. Diana would actually be able to celebrate her landmark birthday in person – cake, flowers, grandchildren and all – had the very media now publishing sentimental special supplements and saccharine tributes to her not been responsible for her death, albeit indirectly, in a Paris tunnel in 1997.
Harsh, but true, and ITV is joining in with yet another run-through of her brief and unhappy life. It’s evident from the film – though most of us were well aware of this already – that she only really found contentment during her time as a typical Sloane Ranger and nanny, living with her flatmates and partying, and then, much later, with “her boys”. You cringe to think what she’d make of current events, and the makers of Diana wisely don’t ask Diana’s friends and confidantes about it. They give the usual testimony about what a “nice girl” she was, how she actually did love the Prince of Wales (still difficult to believe) and even had pictures of him around her bedroom long before she started dating this selfish, odd man. The ITV people got a bit of a coup by persuading another Diana, her first cousin Diana MacFarlane, to speak publicly for the first time and give us this titbit, and to fill in some other details about her life after her parents got divorced (she was six years old) and her father gained custody of her.
Or, rather, her mother lost custody of her. The delayed effect of that, much later on, was an absolute determination that the same thing wasn’t going to happen to her and that she would still be able to be with Wills and Harry. I can only assume they felt the same way, but there was a real fear in Diana as her marriage was falling apart that she might not. She did not want to be condemned, in the old phrase, as an “unfit mother”, and she did want a divorce.
Which brings us to Martin Bashir’s famous interview with Diana in 1995, “now discredited” (as ITV terms the BBC scoop). Here the Diana filmmakers get themselves their own very good story, if anything restoring the credibility of Bashir’s journalism. Richard Kay, a journalist and long-time confidant of Diana’s boyfriend at that time, Hasnat Khan, offered this view, albeit second-hand, about her state of mind and motives at that time: “We all know Diana was tricked or fed things, but I learned something quite interesting recently and it came from Hasnat Khan, and he told me that she knew what she was doing. She said. ‘I know how the royals react to this. I know what they’ll do,’ and she said, ‘They’ll now want me to divorce.’” That is of course precisely what happened.
It’s tempting, although fanciful, to think that even now she is still determined to have her say and get her side of the story “out there”. The wars of the Waleses did not end when she died, and even now we’ve not heard the last of her. The media and her “boys” will see to that, one way or another.