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Diana revelations: What it's like to be stabbed in the back

After last night’s controversial Channel 4 show which featured Diana’s revelations about her marriage to Prince Charles, three writers — Frances Burscough, Una Brankin and Karen Ireland — on how they felt about being let down

Frances Burscough: My own bitter experience of betrayal happened many years ago, early in my marriage.

We had been thinking of buying our own place for some time and had our eyes on a particular row of houses that we thought would be absolutely ideal. All we could do was to be patient and wait until one of them went on the market.

At last, one day, a 'For Sale' sign went up in the front garden of the nicest of the lot and we were absolutely thrilled.

Straight away we made an appointment to view it and, just as I had always imagined, it was perfect. The price was a bit steep, though, and so the anxious process of number crunching began.

During that time we were very friendly with another couple who were of a similar age and circumstances to us. I told her about the dream house that had come up for sale and she suggested that her husband (also our friend) who was in the building business could have a look at it for us and see if it was worth the money they were asking.

It seemed like a good idea to me just to get the place checked out by a professional before we made an offer, so he went along to view it and then came back to give us his opinion.

He agreed with us, that it was a fabulous house, but he also pointed out various problems with it too. It may need a new roof in the future, there was some evidence of damp and possible subsidence in a particular area were potential issues. He gave us his off-the-record valuation of the property, which was a lot less than they were asking.

As a result we duly made an offer below the listed asking price. The estate agents passed on the information and said that the vendors were going to think about it for a while before making a decision.

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Property woes: Frances in her younger days

A couple of weeks later we got a call from the estate agents to say that our offer had been rejected because a better offer had been made on the house which the vendors had accepted.

When I pressed them for a bit more information, it turned out that the winning offer was actually a few grand above the initial asking price.

We definitely couldn't compete with that, especially given the prospect of costly renovations our friend had pointed out, so we reluctantly gave up our dream for the time being and sadly watched as the 'For Sale' sign was replaced with 'Under Offer' and then 'Sale Agreed'.

Meanwhile, our friends had for some reason gone off the radar. We hadn't heard from them in a while and they hadn't returned calls either. So one day I casually asked a mutual friend whether she knew why that might be.

"Oh, well they're up to their eyes in it at the moment, what with the move and all that ..."

"Move? What move? What are you talking about?" I asked.

"Oh didn't she tell you? They're buying one of those fantastic Victorian houses overlooking the beach. Apparently it's absolutely amazing too, lucky things ..."

My heart sank. I knew at once which house she was talking about. It was our house. Our dream house. The very same house that I'd told them about. The very same house that they'd both gone to view and then obviously wanted for themselves.

I tried to reason with it all in my head. Look, it's a free market. Anyone can make an offer of whatever they can afford, that's the whole point of the process ... but it just wasn't enough to excuse what they had done.

That didn't explain why they suggested one price to us and then instantly outbid us. It didn't explain the fact that they'd done all that secretly without breathing a word and then cut us off as friends simply to avoid having to explain. That, to me, was beyond belief. It was also beyond forgiveness.

A few months later all the signs had come down and I heard on the grapevine that they'd moved in and were overjoyed with their acquisition.

I didn't send them a card."

Una Brankin: Betray a friend, wrote Aesop, and you’ll often find you have ruined yourself. Ancient wisdom. The thing is, Diana’s voice coach is unlikely to feel morally bankrupt for handing over his footage for last night’s Channel 4 documentary.

Not when Diana would probably have enjoyed getting another dig at Charles and Camilla in front of an agog nation.

And all while looking radiant — note that she is perfectly groomed and carefully made-up in front of Peter Settelen’s camera.

Likewise, I’m sure my betrayer didn’t lose any sleep over her duplicity when she plunged a metaphorical knife in my back, in the hardest of times.

I was working for the long established Irish Press group in Dublin when it was controversially closed down, leaving 600 staff out of work — itself an act of gross betrayal.

Journalists were scrambling for freelance shifts and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t make the monthly mortgage repayments. Imagine my relief, then, when the designer Paul Costelloe came to the rescue.

I’d interviewed him in the past about designing for Diana — he told me she came out to the courtyard to greet him as he drove in for a fitting and chatted away to his astonished taxi driver (And that she was a size 10 to 12 at the time).

Anyway, I’d helped to organise a fundraising fashion show, in aid of the staff, with the help of a well-heeled former journalist who had joined a PR firm just before the axe fell on the Irish Press. The show was a success and raised quite a lot of money, thanks to the no-fee services of the models and the designers, including the affable Paul. Not long afterwards, I met him at another event at Brown Thomas on Grafton Street, Dublin, and to my delight, he asked me to help him out with a bit of publicity for his new fashion and glassware collection.

Writing press releases and setting up photo-shoots wouldn’t be enough to save the mortgage, but it was a step in the right direction, and a huge relief. If only I’d kept the news to myself.

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Helping hand: Diana wears Paul Costelloe

Later that evening, I ran into a former colleague, a frequent shopper at the exclusive store, and told her about the offer. I remember noticing that she seemed to stiffen a little at the news; her eyes deadened for a couple of seconds before she remembered to smile and congratulate.

But I thought nothing of it until I phoned Paul’s office at the appointed hour, a few days later, and his PA, who I knew quite well, told me that the madam in question had taken him to lunch the day previously and pitched for his PR account.

Not only that; she told him I hadn’t the facilities and back-up to handle his publicity. In other words, as I didn’t have a swish office in town and a team of underlings to do the real work involved, while I swanned about having lunch with ‘contacts’ and made up inflated invoices to cover the ‘expenses’ and rent on the fancy workplace.

I couldn’t sleep that night, and I never trusted anyone in business again.  In the end, Paul Costelloe played fair and gave me the work, much to her disdain — if not her shame. It’s easier to forgive an enemy than it is to forgive a friend, as William Blake said.

I managed it eventually, although I don’t forget...”

Karen Ireland: I always loved Princess Diana and remember doing a school project on her when I was in third year. She was a beautiful style icon who I looked up to and idolised and, most importantly in her later life, she was a loving mother of two boys.

I watched with horror as the events leading up to and including her death unfolded. She was betrayed by the royal family from the start and especially by Prince Charles.

It was his duty to love and protect his young wife and, in my mind, he did neither. He let her down terribly as the public watched on in helpless horror.

Betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow, one sadly I only experienced more recently in my life and, like the former Princess of Wales, I was betrayed and humiliated in a very public arena.

There is no need for gory details and they serve no purpose, but suffice to say I was bitterly betrayed after almost 18 years of marriage.

Both my parents passed away at a young age and my little family was something I clung to. I thought it was my saving grace after years of pain and loss.

But, there was more to come, and from the closest of quarters. Just like Diana my marriage was a little crowded too. It felt like I was on the set of a soap opera and everyone was watching my life unfold.

Everyone wanted to chip in and had an opinion on the matter, which made things worse.

In the end I ended up having to move towns and churches, as living with it all on my own doorstep and having all the wagging tongues was unbearable.

I needed somewhere fresh where my boys, who were and always will be the most important thing to me, could take refuge and start again.

So-called friends betrayed me too. In any marriage break-up they say friends are forced to take sides and in my case the ones who condoned the behaviour were two-faced and I knew I could no longer count on them to be there for me — they had picked their side.

I’ve never known pain in my life like I felt in those early months/years. Not only did I lose a husband and a family, I lost people who I thought were friends for life.

I spent so many long nights without sleep, searching for answers and looking at things which only hurt me more on social media.

I felt guilty and blamed myself — somehow I forgot that I was the person who had been wronged.

I married young and smugly thought that was me for life. Experience has taught me this — nothing lasts forever so just take each day as it comes and count it as a blessing.

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Family bond: Karen with sons Jesse, Korey and Te

I wouldn’t wish the type of pain and hurt I felt on anyone. I thought losing my parents was the worst heartbreak I would ever have to face but losing people who were alive and who you still had to see was somehow worse.

I’d love to be able to say I got over the betrayal and I forgave. That hasn’t happened yet. I know in time it will ease, as bitterness can eat you up and the future is a long time.

I certainly won’t ever be able to forget what happened, but I look for the positives in it now instead.

One blessing was that I learnt who my true friends were — they have stood by me and kept me going.

I’ve learnt to stay away from things that don’t involve me on social media and to mind my own business and keep my own counsel.

I think I’ve learnt how to be better at relationships and to value those who are important and not worry so much about what other people think.

I’ve been given a second chance at happiness with a new relationship and I value and appreciate that every day.

I am so thankful for my boys, who, without realising it, pulled me through and gave me a reason to get up every day.”

Belfast Telegraph


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