Julie Burchill Julie Burchill

Diana the diva

Twenty years on from her death, it’s tempting to sanitise the princess’s memory. We shouldn’t

Twenty years in August since Diana died. The anniversary is sad for me on many levels — she was definitely the final famous person I’ll have a pash on, and it reminds me that I haven’t yet earned back the whopping advance I was given for my book about her. To be fair, the book was an absolute stinker, written through a haze of gin, tears and avarice, containing such clodhopping clangers as ‘with blue skies in her eyes and the future in her smile’ and ‘affection swooshed out of her like a firework from a bottle’. Nurse, the screens!

But there was good stuff in it, too. Namely, the way I served it to the Prince’s Party who continue to curdle Diana’s memory much as they tried to ruin her reputation during her lifetime. There can be little doubt that Diana was comprehensively ‘gaslighted’ by her husband and his mistress during the early part of her marriage, when she was at her most hopeful and vulnerable. Diana’s Ophelia Years, when she was forever mauling at herself with kitchen utensils and bringing back her breakfast, make sense in the light of this carefully choreographed cruelty.

It was the Tory MP Nicholas Soames, most gruesome of the prince’s groupies, who opined that Diana was in ‘the advanced stages of paranoia’ after her piquant hat-tip to Camilla that ‘there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded’. Twenty years on, we hear the same geek chorus carp whenever Diana’s name is mentioned ‘Oh, she was no saint! She had a temper! She was spiteful! She had lovers!’

That’s the stuff I liked about her — the tantrums, the threats, the malice, the affairs. A woman who is all goodness is as insipid as a Bloody Mary without Tabasco.

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