The life of Diana, Princess of Wales should have been charmed — but as we know, it definitely did not turn out that way. While little new information about the most famous woman of her generation was revealed in ABC’s two-night special The Story of Diana, it was a devastating primer on getting into bed with the devil — and in this case, the devil was the British press.
As Diana evolved from a shy kindergarten teacher to the wife of a future king. From a newlywed to a deeply unhappy wife, she eventually learned how to use the incessant intrusion of the press to her advantage. Or at least, what she thought was her advantage.
In Part 1, which aired Wednesday night, Diana is seen absolutely incandescent with anger at the intrusion of photographers into a ski vacation with Princes William and Harry — so angry that she confronts them and tells them to leave her alone. However, as her marriage goes south and she realizes all she will have left is her public image, she quickly learns how to manipulate that same enemy to her greater good.
When Diana fears the public will turn against her in the wake of the so-called “Squidgygate tapes” — a private phone call with a then-lover leaked to the press — she contacted writer Andrew Morton to secretly supply him with damning information against Charles and the royal family for his book Diana: Her True Story.
As we now know, Morton would smuggle questions to Diana at Kensington Palace, and she would smuggle her taped responses back to him, describing her battle with bulimia, her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and what she saw as her extreme mistreatment at the hands of the royal family.
It worked. The public sided with Diana. But the thirst for more and more information and the development of the 24-hour news cycle made the press frenzy around her even worse.
Charles tried to rehab his image by participating in a documentary-style TV show about his life, but in it he admitted cheating on Diana. Diana took the opportunity to use the press once again, scheduling her own now-notorious Panorama interview in which she famously said, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
The interview sealed the deal. The queen ordered Charles and Diana to divorce, and the public was definitely on Diana’s side, just as she wanted.
But once you let a tiger out of its cage, you can’t simply expect it to step back in again. Without royal protection once she and Charles split, Diana was unable to go to the gym without someone selling photos of her lifting weights or walk down the street to do some shopping without being mobbed by popping flashbulbs. She had invited them into her life on her terms, but once the door was open, she was never again able to close it.
Some believe her real attraction to Dodi Fayed was that he could be her Aristotle Onassis. Jackie Kennedy wed the Greek magnate because his wealth could protect her and her children. The Fayed family could provide Diana the private jets and bodyguards that had been taken away from her when she divorced Charles.
But sadly, they would have just six weeks together before a final tussle with the press would result in their deaths and that of Henri Paul, their driver. As they were chased by no fewer than seven paparazzi on motorcycles, Paul, whose autopsy showed was drunk, lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a pillar in a Paris tunnel. In the end, she could not escape the press she herself had courted for so many years.