It will be 20 years, in August, since the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and we can expect an avalanche of remembering, and raking over, the event and the circumstances of her short life.
Most people who were around in 1997 can recall exactly how they learned about Diana’s sad death. It was a critical moment in public life and afterwards different people took varying views of the event. Conspiracy theories sprang up about the circumstances of the accident – and questioned whether it really was an accident. People took sides about many aspects of Diana’s life, her divorce from the Prince of Wales and the role played by the “other woman” – Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall.
Penny Junor’s new book The Duchess: The Untold Story, published this week, puts Camilla’s side of the story. Penny is an experienced royal biographer (and mother of the author and literary editor Sam Leith) who is regarded as a pro-Charles, anti-Diana analyst.
Her new book, serialised in the Daily Mail, claims that Diana’s grandmother, Lady Fermoy, apologised to the Queen and Charles for not warning that Diana was “a dishonest and difficult girl”. Diana was also “badly educated, naïve and … immature”. It’s claimed Diana was so flaky that Prince Charles would have had a nervous breakdown if Camilla hadn’t gone back to him.
The three-in-a-marriage narrative is always, admittedly, fascinating, and even more so when it revolves around a throne and royal celebrities we feel we know.
And yet, isn’t there something uncomfortable about going over and over this narrative, with which we’ve become so familiar? Diana is dead and cannot give her version of events. Doubtless she was young and immature, but she was chosen as a royal bride, and if wiser counsels did not prevail in making that choice, then that can’t have been her fault entirely.
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