Posts Tagged ‘princess’

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Princess Diana moment

June 30, 2009

Princess Diana
Every year around this time I receive a spate of phone calls and emails from journalists researching articles, radio and TV programmes about my former client (and subsequently good friend) the late Princess Diana. Not from British journalists, I hasten to add, but from journalists in the US, Japan, Australia and so on. In Britain, Diana has been virtually erased from the public consciousness by a clever PR and “perception management” campaign.

Tomorrow, 1 July is Diana’s birthday, and therefore a journalistic opportunity to write “commemorative” articles about her.
Even all these years after her death, Diana’s photo on the front page of a newspaper or magazine guarantees increased sales.

There will be another spate of requests for interviews in August, the anniversary of her death. This year, no doubt, the task for journalists will be to make connections and comparisons between Diana and Michael Jackson (of whom, by the way, Diana was a huge fan). Already, there is press speculation about whether Jackson’s funeral will turn out to be be another “Princess Diana moment”.

It is Diana’s death – and the circumstances in which she died – that journalists are mainly interested in talking and writing about, with the central question being whether it was an accident or she was assassinated.

Most of the journalists I’ve talked to about this are personally convinced that Diana’s death was a tragic accident. Journalists are by and large a conservative bunch who tend to accept official versions of events; but that isn’t going to stop them from writing articles questioning the official version of Diana’s death and outlining what they themselves privately believe to be hair-brained conspiracy theories.

Of course, people don’t buy newspapers to read stories with headings like: “Diana’s death: It was an accident”. But they do buy newspapers to read articles with titles like: “Diana’s death: Was it really an accident?” or: “Startling new information reveals that Princess Diana may have been assassinated”.

Or even “psychic claims princess was murdered”.
Hence the requests for an interview. Any new hook will do to hang an old story on.

When Diana was alive I received a constant stream of offers from British newspapers – and not only from the tabloids – to “spill the beans” about the princess.

However, I’m a big believer in client confidentiality (even if the client is no longer alive), and the only time I ever spoke about Diana to journalists was at her own request, to help her to get certain facts into the public domain. This was information that she wanted people to know about, but which would have been problematic for her to reveal herself (in particular, Prince Charles’ involvement with Camilla Parker Bowles, which I was the first to reveal in a number of press articles).
When the information was published, Diana was asked to comment on it, which gave her the opportunity to confirm it publicly. Or, in some cases, to decline to deny it, which journalists understood to be confirmation.

I was only too happy to help. Diana had been treated shabbily to say the least; and when she first came to me for advice – and I don’t think I’m betraying any confidences when I say this – she was in a desperate state, caught, as she herself put it, “between a rock and a hard place”. I advised her as best I could, though in reality our sessions were mainly an opportunity for her to talk freely about her problems to someone who was “out of the loop”, and would give her objective feedback.

It is one thing to ask for, and receive good advice; but it is quite another thing to act on that advice. Diana was constantly seeking advice, and she did recognize good advice when it was offered; but she was in the grip of powerful political forces, and her options were severely limited. From the moment she became pregnant with Wiliam – the future King of England – her fate was sealed. She became a hostage to the British Establishment, and to the shadowy forces which exist to protect it. She was never going to be allowed to disappear into the sunset with the heir to the throne. Nor, on the other hand, was she ever going to relinquish custody of her children. (Although Diana had joint custody of William and Harry with Prince Charles, her influence on them was far stronger than his.) Above all, she was never going to be allowed to marry and have children – step-siblings to the future king of England – by an Arab, least of all the son of Mohamed Al Fayed, a man who had been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for many years.

The media spotlight was on her 24 hours a day, and every move she made was closely scrutinized. And, even though she was immensely popular, she understood that this could and would change in an instant if she said or did anything that showed her in any other light than that of the adoring young wife of the prince. Diana was expected to play the role of the fairytale princess, and the people would continue to adore her – provided she did not deviate from that role.

What the public did not know was that her marriage had ended in disillusionment after only a few months, when it became apparent to her that her new husband was more interested in another woman.

Diana’s downfall was her sense of loyalty and commitment. Instead of walking away from what was clearly a disastrous situation that could only get worse – and that had always been my advice to her – she decided to fight for her marriage, in the romantic but hopelessly naive and misguided belief that everything would work out fine in the end, and that she, her husband, and their children would all live happily ever after.

It didn’t happen like that, of course. Nor was there ever any chance that it would.

In the end, Diana decided – in fact she felt she had no other option – to go public about the circumstances of her marriage. She knew that she would be criticized for taking this route (even in modern Britain, one doesn’t air one’s dirty laundry in public, least of all if one happens to be the wife of the future King).

However, Diana had reached a point where she felt that she had no other choice but to get it all “out in the open”. She was also, it is not generally realized, afraid for her own personal safety, and she saw “going public” as a kind of insurance policy.

Diana was convinced that, having served her purpose (by providing the Prince with two healthy male heirs) and having become a liability and potential threat to the Royal Family, she would be targeted for assassination by “the powers that be” and the “dark forces of the state”.

At the time, her fears were dismissed by some as paranoia (and are still dismissed as such today by many). But in fact Diana had been warned on at least two separate occasions by secret service agents concerned for her safety, that she would be wise to “keep her head down”, as there was a real possibility that “certain elements” in the British intelligence community might deem it “expedient” to take her “out of the picture”.

Diana had also become aware of a “second level of surveillance”, by which she meant secret service agents – she referred to them as “spooks” – who were not part of the official Royal protection team.

As time passed, and particularly after her divorce from Prince Charles was finalized, Diana became increasingly concerned for her own safety, and for the safety of her children. She knew that it would be she, and not they, who would be targeted, but she feared that they might somehow be caught up in any attempt to assassinate her; and she did not, in any event, want her children to be left without their mother. She understood that the danger level had risen substantially now that she was completely independent and beyond the control of the Royal Family and its many faceless minders.

“I’m convinced they’re going to kill me,” she told me one day. “They can’t poison me or shoot me, so it will have to look like an accident. A car crash would be the easiest thing to arrange, I expect.”

Diana voiced these fears to a number of people, including Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon, who recorded the details of his conversation with Diana in a note whose contents he kept secret until after her death. Sir Paul – whose tone suggests that he was highly sceptical of the Princess’s fears and accusations – dutifully made a note of her belief that “efforts would be made if not to get rid of her (be it by some accident in her car such as pre-prepared brake failure or whatever)… to see that she was so injured or damaged as to be declared ‘unbalanced’.”

That was in 1995. A year later, after her divorce was finalized, the plan, if there was one, to have Diana declared “unbalanced” became redundant. A more permanent solution would be required.

And a more permanent solution was arranged.

I have never had the slightest doubt in my mind that Princess Diana was murdered in a hastily-planned operation by secret service agents who had been closely monitoring her movements for years, gauging her level of threat to certain interests within the British establishment on an ongoing basis, and seizing the opportunity to assassinate her in a foreign country at a time when they deemed her level of threat to have risen too high. (Under the Intelligence Services Act of 1994, British intelligence agents are immune from prosecution in Britain for criminal offences carried out overseas; but in any event the blame for any apparent lapses in security would automatically be apportioned to Al Fayed.)

The various official investigations into Princess Diana’s death have been nothing but cover-ups, not least the British inquest, in which the presiding judge, Lord Justice Scott Baker, specifically instructed the inquest jury to reject the possibility that the Princess had been deliberately murdered. They were practically ordered to return a verdict of accidental death. Instead, they decided that Diana had been unlawfully killed. The media interpreted this to mean that the jury believed that Diana’s death had resulted from a combination of reckless driving by Henri Paul, who was alleged to have been drunk behind the wheel of the Mercedes, and the posse of paparazzi photographers who were following the car, and this interpretation – rather than the actual verdict – is what most people remember today.

Diana’s fears for her own safety were well-founded. Her instincts were good. The danger was real. She was a threat to the British Establishment, and the agents of that establishment took her out of the picture when the possibility arose that she might become pregnant by a Muslim Arab.