Belfast Telegraph

How Diana can still fire telling shots from beyond the grave at the Royal family, especially at Charles, the man who would be king

By Lindy McDowell

Surely the most startling thing to come out of the controversial Channel 4 Diana: In Her Own Words documentary was her disclosure that she and Charles had only met 13 times before they were married.

Even Diana giggles at the absurdity of this in the televised tapes.

True, most of us would concede that there's such a thing as love at first sight.

Take, for example, Cinderella and her Prince Charming who'd only previously met twice (once at the ball, then at the glass shoe-fitting) before they got hitched. And still, apparently, managed to live happily ever after.

But in the real world, though, in the same circumstances?

Most 19-year-olds - never mind heirs to the throne - would get an earful from their ma along the lines of: "Are you out of your mind, love?"

Yet nobody put the brakes on Diana. Nobody in the powerful House of Windsor either, despite its many flunkies and advisors, thought to counsel Charles that it might be an idea to get to know his youthful betrothed a bit better before taking the plunge.

Whether through negligence, naivety, calculation or scheming, Diana was like a lamb led to the altar.

The glass slipper fits! Send then, for the wedding planners!

For anyone who is too young today to remember the War of the Wales', it's hard to convey just how utterly compelling, back in the '80s, were those lurid revelations emanating from the Palace about the true state of the supposedly fairytale marriage of Chas and Di.

Charles at one point compared it to a soap opera. Today we'd say reality TV.

It was The Great British Bake-Off (wedding cake and bunting) followed by Big Brother (in-house rows and slagging each other off) followed by Love Island (too much information about the sex lives of all involved).

Day in, day out the Royal story was on every front page as first her side, and then his, made ever-more sensational allegations.

The Palace old guard chastised that this was unseemly and undignified, and castigated the media and the public for prurience.

Doubt was cast on the veracity of the much-quoted 'Palace insiders'. Until that is, it was revealed that the ultimate Palace insider was Diana herself.

Diana, when she was alive, did not do discretion.

And now, in death, they still can't silence her either.

Was Channel 4 wrong to show the Diana tapes? Tapes which were made as she chatted in private to her 'voice coach' and which she obviously never intended for publication.

I watched the programme so I think that answers the question of where I stand.

As so often, though, I do feel the show's pre-publicity hyped up the extent of the revelations. Much of it, to use a phrase my old features editor Tom Carson used to employ, was just old soup, reheated.

The documentary was overly padded with vintage news footage from the Falklands War, Maggie Thatcher and the BSE crisis. Was this to set the tapes in time context? Or just to capitalise on the ad breaks?

Either way, it really did go on a bit. But it wasn't so much what Diana said, as how she said it that had the most powerful impact.

Those grainy, relaxed images were a reminder of just how lovely she was. Young, spirited, animated, she talked like a diary. All verbs and nouns. Few pronouns. Posh, but unstuffy. Wounded yes, but coquettish and full of fun. Even a bit self-mocking.

Charles by contrast, came across - comes across - as self-absorbed. Stuffy. Awkward and odd.

Camilla, Diana's 'confidante' in the early years of the marriage, doesn't exactly come out of it glowing either.

At a time when the Queen is scaling back her workload and Charles is being promoted front-of-house, this is all indisputably, unfortunate timing for the man who would be king.

In life, they called Diana a loose cannon. From the grave, she could yet destabilise the monarchy.

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