The Princes William and Harry have been criticised in the press for speaking candidly from the heart about the death of their mother, Diana Princess of Wales twenty years ago. The concern seems to be about the Royal Family letting too much light in on the magic; that William, Harry and Kate are leaning towards the confessional school of fame.
I saw a little of the ITV programme last night that the princes made about Diana and feel that it was their duty as sons to have their say. It was terribly depressing that the Andrew Morton biography of Diana was re-issued with direct transcripts from the tapes that she sent to the author. With a complete absence of filter or an editor’s pen, Diana’s words were repeated and told a heartbreaking story.
Like Marilyn Monroe, every human being who had any kind of relationship with Diana has written a memoir. Rather than elucidating the character, every point of view adds to the mystery. The nature of Marilyn and Diana’s respective deaths only fan the flames of conspiracy and tragedy. With this in mind, I thought it admirable that Prince William and Prince Harry decided to speak on behalf of their mother.
God only knows how two sons feel about what’s been printed and reported about their mother. I recall a Countess telling me after her death that Diana was mad. I loathe the word anyway and restrained myself from questioning how any nineteen year old virgin such as Diana would feel becoming not only a member of the Royal Family but also a star. What happens after happily ever after? Diana had to find out.
I believe that the Princes William and Harry went on record on television as a point of honour. There’s an awful lot of prurience about wallowing in Princess Diana’s unfortunate history so it was only right that her sons stood up and said she was a marvellous, mischievous, funny, totally loving mother and an inspiration to both.
There’s a precedent for what William and Harry did on the anniversary of their mother’s death. Whenever Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft talk about Judy Garland they are both keen to say that Judy was one of the funniest women on the planet, the most caring mother and was always there for them. What the interviewers want to hear is the tragedy, the drugs, the booze, the comebacks and the waste of talent. What Judy’s children give is their mother in her best light. Bravo them!
The parallels between Diana Princess of Wales and Marilyn Monroe are legion. They were the two most famous blondes in the 20th century. Their lives were prematurely cut short. Their love lives were not without sensation and they achieved a level of adoration from their public that even death couldn’t deflate. So when I see pictures of Diana with her boys – always smiling, always touching – I do think how different Marilyn’s life would have been had she had children.
In Marilyn’s last uncompleted movie Something’s Got To Give there are touching poolside scenes of her and her character’s children. You can see how Marilyn connects to children. She always did even though it wasn’t to be with any of her three husbands or rather more lovers. All’s to say is that it would have been nice for Marilyn to have children to speak for her as Diana does.
Then again, there are countless horror memoirs by Hollywood children about strong, glamorous, admirable mothers such as Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich to make one wonder whether a child of Marilyn’s would not have lived in resentment rather than had affectionate memories. In Diana’s case, she has two champions in her sons who thus far have negotiated praising her memory while not offending the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
One would imagine that Prince Charles and his second wife were dreading the 20th anniversary of Diana’s untimely death. This might explain the publication of Penny Juror’s authorised biography of Camilla. From the extracts I read in the newspapers, I would say it was a huge mistake of Juror’s to trash the memory of Diana in a book about her successor.
It seems that Princes William and Harry have a happy relationship with their stepmother, aided I am sure by the fact that Camilla makes the Prince of Wales a happier character than he was when married to and upstaged by Diana. I am particularly impressed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry setting up their Heads Together mental health charity that has done much to shine a light on a dark corner populated by so many of us. Diana did much the same thing for HIV and AIDS.
I suppose the fundamental question about the Royal Family expressing emotions that could be kept private is whether openness runs contrary to The Queen’s ‘never complain, never explain’ approach to the monarchy. As it happens, I would agree that for the entirety of her reign Her Majesty has behaved in an exemplary fashion. She has adapted as times have changed. But public opinion has overtaken the monarchy as the reaction to Diana’s death proved.
What was correct for The Queen’s reign is not necessarily what will be for her successors. It seems to me that the Princes William and Harry are on the right track. Diana deserves recognition for her positive effect on the British monarchy and her legacy is assured in the shape of two admirable sons and a daughter-in-law she never knew.