The 11-year-old’s heart-rending eulogy at her father’s memorial service has earned comparisons with Diana, Princess of Wales’ young sons, writes Jane Hardy
After the untimely death of 50-year-old superstar Michael Jackson on June 25 in California, shocked and grieving fans around the world filled the front pages and headlines.
Yet three young children — Prince Michael (12), Paris (11) and Prince Michael II (7) — were the ones who really deserved our sympathy as they mourned the man they called Daddy.
Of the three good-looking Jackson children, Paris touched everyone in the Staples Center, Los Angeles, and further afield via the power of television when she made her own spontaneous tribute to her father.
Standing with the tightly-knit Jackson clan of aunts and uncles, Paris broke down in tears on hearing her uncle Jermaine sing the Charlie Chaplin tearjerker Smile.
It was Michael Jackson’s favourite song and at that point, she decided she had to speak.
According to family friends, Paris is a strong-willed, tough girl. She had said she wanted to recite a poem during the memorial, but was dissuaded.
Yet when she heard Smile, she said to her aunt, La Toya, “I need to say something. I want to tell them about Daddy.”
Paris waited her turn, after other members of the Jackson clan had spoken. Then she began.
After an emotional false start, her eulogy was simple and poignant.
Fighting back tears, Paris said “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him so much.”
It was an iconic moment, bringing back memories of Diana’s young sons walking behind her coffin on a sunny day and further back, Caroline and John Kennedy Jr mourning their father.
The moment had a deeper significance too.
Ironically, after all the allegations about Michael Jackson’s private life, all it took was one small girl bearing witness to a good, normal upbringing to rehabilitate the King of Pop.
Paris, earmarked as a future action star by her doting father, has clearly come a long way since she became the second child conceived by artificial insemination in an arrangement between Jackson and Debbie Rowe.
Her mother met Michael Jackson while working as a nurse in his dermatologist’s practice in Beverly Hills.
Immediately after birth, on April 3, 1998, Paris, like her elder brother Prince Michael, was whisked away from her mother and introduced to the world of the Jacksons. Michael later said he just waited for the cord to be cut then impatiently rushed her off in a towel, he was so anxious to get her home.
After her divorce from Jackson in 1999, Debbie waived visiting rights and has rarely seen her children since.
The children were isolated from their peers and have inevitably lived a life of privilege, with Michael Jackson contacting the Vatican to ask the Pope to christen his daughter.
But although the young Jacksons were set apart from society as they hid from the world’s media, often wearing masks or veils, they had what approximated to a good upbringing.
Even the infamous baby on the balcony incident, in which Paris’s younger brother was shown to fans in what might have been a dangerous manner, was probably simply rendered sinister by the fact the baby’s face was covered to avoid identification.
Ever protective, in 2006, Michael Jackson brought his brood to Ireland after a trip to Disneyland Paris ended in a media circus. The family came to Blackwater Castle, Co Cork, where castle owner Patrick Nordstrum put them up.
The Jackson three — Paris and her brothers — were escorted from the main part of the castle each day to a schoolroom.
Routine was important, and perhaps the whole point of this old-fashioned approach to parenting was that Michael Jackson was determined to provide his children with the rules and a normality he had never known.
Although journalist Martin Bashir, who conducted the controversial interview with Jackson in 2003, felt the children led “restricted” lives, others report that there was fun too.
In fact, the Irish magician Liam Sheehan, who entertained them during the Cork holiday, said: “They were outgoing children, full of fun. Paris was the more talkative, chirping around the house.”
It is hard to know what the future holds for the Jackson offspring, whether a devout Jehovah’s Witness upbringing with their formidable grandmother Katherine or a home with Ugandan-born nanny Grace Rwaramba who has entered the custody battle or even a return to the biological mother of two of them, Debbie Rowe, now owner of a ranch in southern California.
Whatever life holds, Paris Jackson has shown that her pedigree and upbringing have equipped her to lead a life more normal than her troubled father.
The Jacksons’ host in Ireland described Paris’s father as a man who put his children’s interests first.
“Michael’s children adored him and he was a very good, loving father. He raised them to be well-mannered and polite and all his decisions centred on the children's best interests.”
If one 11-year-old girl were to be asked, she would undoubtedly agree.
Paris Jackson factfile
BORN — April 3, 1998
FAMILY — Member of the famous Jackson clan, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson has two siblings, one her biological brother, Prince Michael, the other Prince Michael II or Blanket
CAREER — A privately educated schoolgirl who has travelled extensively after Michael Jackson had to leave Neverland because of debts
SHE SAYS — “I love him (Daddy) so much.”
THEY SAY — “(Her speech) touched everyone and I think you couldn’t script that. This is a young lady, she isn’t reading a prompter.” — Rev Al Sharpton