The Daily Beast’s Royalist column did some special coverage for the 25th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. Some of that special coverage was noting that no one in the royal family marked the sad occasion publicly. Another part of the coverage was an in-depth conversation with Tina Brown, who wrote one good royal book (The Diana Chronicles) and one ridiculous royal book (The Palace Papers). Personally, I think interns wrote different parts of The Palace Papers, that’s how weird the tonal shifts were. Brown came across as blind to her own white privilege, anti-Americanism and pro-Middleton agenda. No one really came across well in The Palace Papers, which was not Brown’s goal at all – she set out, clearly, to embiggen the Cambridges as the last white hope of the Establishment. It fell flat because the Cambridges are clowns. Anyway, Brown has a lot to say about “fragile” Prince Harry and how Diana would not have liked Meghan. Some highlights:
Having lunch with Diana in July 1997: “Diana was really on top form and in many ways in her stride in a pale green suit with those amazing supermodel legs and incredibly limpid blue eyes. She was absolutely stunning in real life, and so much taller than you thought. She talked about two things. She was really excited about starting to do documentaries about her causes, and for that to fund her humanitarian work. In some ways, it was a foreshadow of Harry and Meghan’s plan 25 years ago, with the one major difference that Diana didn’t see any profit in it. She was doing it as a charitable venture.”
Diana would be “very unhappy” that her two sons remain estranged. “She never questioned that William would be king. It was her most ardent desire he would become king. She was never anti-monarchy in that regard. She had differences with the royal family—her biggest difference was that her husband wasn’t in love with her, he was in love with someone else. But she never thought for one minute that William would not be the future king, and that Harry would always be there to support him. She would not be happy with how things are… Diana would not have been pleased how Harry had been cut off from the family.”
How would Diana have felt about Meghan Markle? “Diana was very protective of her boys. She would have been very, very protective of Harry and I believe very anxious about this direction they’ve taken. I think she would have felt Meghan was steering Harry in a direction that was not good for Harry. I don’t think Diana would have been the great fan of Meghan that Meghan herself might perhaps imagine.” However, Brown thinks Diana would have been “thrilled” when Harry met Meghan, “and that her son was happy. She would have been delighted, supportive and thrilled someone of mixed race was joining the royal family because Diana was so inclusive.
Harry’s Spencer blood: “It’s very difficult to know how fragile Harry would have been if his mother hadn’t died. He was obviously utterly traumatized by her death. But the Spencers are a fairly turbulent family. Other members of that family, including Diana herself, have not been without their fragilities and neuroses. Harry may have inherited that Spencer turbulence. It’s always about drama in the Spencer family. With Harry, it could just be the genes speaking.”
A base at Kensington Palace: “She kept Kensington Palace as her base. Unlike Harry and Meghan she understood having the power base of monarchy was enormously important. Today, I believe she would have had billions of followers on Instagram, and used that to the max. By now, her charitable foundation would have been as big as Bill Gates’. She began that global humanitarian celebrity outreach that we went on to see with the Clooneys and Bono. She’s a real forerunner of that. It’s very tragic to know that didn’t happen.”
Diana’s scorched earth: “The scorched earth left by Diana still smolders. For the first ten years after her death, the royals were still destabilized by the catastrophes surrounding Diana—from her divorce, the damage to Charles, the car crash, the effect on the boys. The rise of Kate (Middleton) and William have done a great deal to reduce that dark dust, and decrease the Diana decibel. But with what Harry and Meghan have said and done, the next season of The Crown (which will focus on events leading up to and after Diana’s death) and Harry’s memoir will resurface a particular agony for Charles. The queen was re-stabilized after the death of Diana, whereas Charles has continually battled to end those ghosts. The rehabilitation of Camilla’s image has been utterly successful, but she lives in dread of Harry’s book. In some ways, Diana’s ghost still rattles at the gate.”
It’s so weird that in all of these pieces about how Diana would have felt about Meghan and Harry, no one ever asks “what would Diana say about the Middletons?” Or “what would Diana have said about William cheating on his wife with his Norfolk neighbors?” Like, maybe Diana would not have liked Meghan – we don’t know and it’s a thought-exercise with no solution. But it’s bonkers to play these what-if games and never acknowledge that Diana probably would have seen through the Middletons immediately, especially Carole and Kate. Diana would have strong feelings about William turning into his father, complete with side-chicks and tabloid games. For all the talk of Harry’s fiery, turbulent Spencer genes, let’s be clear – William has those same genes. William channels that turbulence into being a screaming rage-monster.
Also: Brown seems to think she can use Diana as some kind of cudgel against the Sussexes. Diana would have done documentaries but not profited from it! Diana would have kept a base in London! Diana would have wanted Harry to “support” William! That’s the company line, the Windsor line, through and through. That’s how the Windsors have tried to claim ownership of Diana’s memory without ever recognizing Diana’s fundamentally iconoclastic nature.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.