Paul Dacre

My advice for King Charles, my ‘twin’

Truly, Harry, who is engaged in a preposterous legal contretemps with the Mail, is his mother’s son. While the Prince is filling his boots by turning his self-pity into an industry, his mother, I would argue, invented the art of victimhood – that insidious, debilitating, very modern malaise. The irony is that, unlike Harry, whose hatred for the Mail is almost as great as that for his father and brother, Diana was rather fond of us. She assiduously read the paper and so did her friends. In the vicious post-separation propaganda wars between Charles and her (‘She’s nuts, you know, old boy’), the Mail, whose target audience has always been up-market women, unashamedly took Diana’s side. Frequently I was invited to Kensington Palace where a moist-eyed Princess would emote about the unfairness of life, the beastly Palace and the ghastly rumours being spread about her by Charles’s friends (‘Do I sound mad to you, Paul?’), before reverting to one of her favourite themes – that her husband would never become king and that the throne would jump a generation to William.

Fast-forward to that terrible day in Paris. Dame Ann Leslie, the Mail’s brilliant and combative foreign correspondent, who died this year, went on the airwaves. ‘Yes, it was a tragedy but Diana’ – and I paraphrase her loosely – ‘was a vindictive, self-pitying minx who had wreaked huge damage on the monarchy.’ For the only time in my 28 years as editor, the office switchboard crashed under the weight of enraged callers. But Ann had a point. Diana may not have been over-furnished in the attic, but she had a near genius for manipulating the media by creating unforgettable haunting images of herself as a lone victim. Whether dancing sans husband with Wayne Sleep, sitting alone, wounded doe eyes, by the Taj Mahal, giving succour to Aids victims, walking solitarily through minefields, or utterly isolated on the end of that diving board on Dodi’s boat, she was a picture editor’s dream.

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