Sir Richard Branson recalls Diana sitting in the cockpit of one of his private planes with baby Prince William on her lap; as they flew past Windsor Castle she announced, “On our right you have Grandma’s house!” Heather Mills, who, like Diana, has been a tireless campaigner for charitable causes, recalls Diana’s work to eradicate the scourge of land mines, as well as the time she was photographed shaking hands with an AIDS patient in a London hospital, doing so much to counteract the stigma associated with the disease at the time. British radio and television personality Chris Tarrant recalls how clearly nervous he was upon meeting Diana for the first time, and how she put him at ease with an incredibly rude joke about Kermit the Frog. Photographer Tim Graham remembers Diana lying on the floor with baby William in order to coax a smile from the young prince. And her chief bodyguard recalls how happy and at peace she seemed on the day he agreed to her simple request: to be allowed to walk, truly alone for once, along a beautiful, deserted beach.
Some of these recollections are warm and intimate, celebrating Diana for her ability to make a human connection with everyone she met, others are perceptive and revealing, even about Diana’s human failings and frailties. Together, they coalesce into a multifaceted portrait of a woman that the world has long desired to know a little better.
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About the Author
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Former press secretary to Queen Elizabeth II Dickie Arbiter is a British broadcaster and journalist. He has covered royalty, heads of state, and other international personalities for more than thirty years, and his unique access to so many important figures of recent history makes him one of the most experienced commentators in Britain. He is currently in high demand throughout the world as a lecturer and commentator on radio and television.
I met Diana, Princess of Wales, at Buckingham Palace a couple of days before she became the "new royal kid on the block" at her wedding, on Wednesday, which took place July 29, 1981. The event stopped the world for most of the day, as a global television audience of 750 million, more than half a million spectators lining the wedding route from Buckingham Palace, and twenty-five hundred guests in St. Paul's Cathedral witnessed "shy Di" say "I will" to her Prince Charming and prepared to "ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after." As one of the commentators on that memorable day, I, too, was carried along by the euphoria of the royal match.
My first impression of Diana on that Monday morning was one of a nervous, apprehensive girl, barely out of her teens, hiding smiling eyes behind her fringe. I wondered how she was going to cope on her big day, whether she could pull off the pomp and ceremony, and how she was going to handle being a newly paid-up member of the Royal Firm. In fact, she did carry the day off, much to her credit, and mercifully she was unaware of what lay ahead of her.
When I joined Buckingham Palace, I'd spent more than twenty years in radio and television, eight of them accredited to the palace as a royal reporter. That naive twenty-year-old girl I met on a sunny July morning was very different from the twenty-six-year-old woman I went to work for six years later.
So when, as poacher turned gamekeeper, I walked through the palace gates, I knew the job wasn't going to be easy, but I was reasonably prepared for the royal ride ahead. My new job included being part of the team responsible for the Queen, as well as advising and managing media relations for the Prince and Princess of Wales, both as a duo and as individuals whenever they went solo.
Cracks were already beginning to form in the "golden couple's" marriage, and as every day brought endless media inquiries about who was doing what, where, with whom, and why, it became increasingly difficult to paper over them.
Charles and Diana crisscrossed the United Kingdom and the globe for eleven years and developed a reputation for being the best double act in the business. They made a lot of people happy in the process. However, during their later tours, questions about where they were going and why became less important for the watching media than how they were copying with the "ordeal" of being in each other's company. The media were always slightly ahead of the game with their questions, but confronting the royals was never going to provide the answers.
During her years on the royal road, Diana did wonderful work. With one simple gesture to HIV patients and leprosy victims, she exploded the "do-not-touch" myth. She drew attention to the plight of the homeless, drug addicts, land-mine victims, and other victims of ill fortune. She was also a very good full-time mother, but, sadly, she became a part-time wife.
I traveled a great deal with her at home and abroad, and we spent many hours in each other's company. We occasionally swam together early in the morning or late at night, and we had many laughs--she had a great sense of humor. She was intoxicating, and any man she met immediately fell in love with her--including me.
But we also had our differences of opinion. She was very good with people she met in her public life but not always so good with the people who worked for her, some of whom she treated appallingly. She blew hot and cold--you were either in or out; there was no halfway house--and there were periods when we did not speak to each other. She would freeze you out, something she was prone to do to anyone who got too close to her.
Since her sudden, violent, and shocking death in August 1997, many people have crawled out of the woodwork, contributing to newspaper and magazine articles or publishing books, all of them claiming to be friends. In reality, Diana had so few real friends that you could count them on one hand. The rest of these self-proclaimed friends were swept up in Diana's wake and were, at best, acquaintances, basking in her reflected glory. Some were just straphangers, hoping one day to cash in, as so many have done since that fateful night in Paris ten years ago.
I stopped working for Diana after her separation from the Prince, but since I lived in the environs of Kensington Palace, we were still able to keep in touch.
What struck me most about her was that despite the acrimony that engulfed both her and the Prince following their separation in 1992, she never lost her sense of humor. Her infamous television interview is largely remembered for her wry comment, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." Once I came across her rummaging in the trunk of a new car. "Not a German car for an English princess, surely," I said. Quick as a flash she replied, "Well, at least it's more reliable than a German husband."
She was also incredibly generous and loved giving presents, always wanting you to open them in front of her. She always sent a card for my birthday, and when I turned fifty, she hosted a lunch for me at Kensington Palace for twenty of my family and friends.
Diana wasn't beautiful, but she did have the looks, charisma, and glamour that turned heads. She'd been on the front page of every newspaper and magazine worldwide, and hardly a day went by that a photograph of her wasn't published somewhere. She wasn't an intellectual, but she more than made up for that by being very smart and streetwise.
I won't ever forget the day Diana died or the days that followed. So much history was written in those six days between her death and when she was laid to rest at the Spencer family's ancestral home at Althorp.
I was alongside the Queen when she joined mourners outside the Buckingham Palace gates to see for herself the vast bank of flowers that had built up over the week. I was concerned about the reception that she and the Duke of Edinburgh might receive, given the vehemently critical press commentary during the week. I needn't have worried; as the Queen walked through the palace gates, the subdued crowd applauded in sympathy and offered words of comfort.
In this incident, as in so many aspects of Diana's life, the media headlines told only part of the story. She once claimed she was "hunted and haunted" by the media and even went so far as to describe herself as "a media toy." At times she was to blame for this, courting them for her own agenda. Having traveled alongside her on her journey from that fairy-tale wedding to her lying at rest in St. James's Palace's Chapel Royal, I was determined to play my part in ensuring that the media gave her a farewell that befitted not just her status but her impact as an individual who sought always to contribute positively to public life even while she wrestled with her private troubles.
Since her death, the same media have speculated on the advent of a "new Diana" when Princes William and Harry eventually marry and bring their wives into the Royal Firm. But their mother was a one-off. I don't want a new Diana; I was happy with the one we had. She did wonderful work for charity and made many ordinary people happy, and for that we should be grateful. I missed her when she died so tragically in a Paris underpass, I still miss her ten years on, and I will probably always miss her.
LORD JEFFREY ARCHER
Lord Jeffrey Archer is an accomplished British author and former member of Parliament and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. His novel Kane and Abel reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list and was eventually made into a miniseries. He was a good friend of Diana's and helped her fund-raise for numerous charities.
I first met Princess Diana at a Red Cross function twenty-five years ago, when I was the charity auctioneer and she was the guest of honor. After that, she regularly requested that I carry out the same duties at all her charity functions, which, of course, I was delighted to do. Over the years, what had started as a professional relationship developed into a personal friendship, and we often dined privately in each others' homes.
In 1993, the prime minister (John Major) asked me to be with her on the day the palace and the government were announcing that she would be retiring from public life. I think my saddest memory of that occasion was taking her home to Kensington Palace after she had received a standing ovation from the thousand people who had listened to her speech at the Hilton Hotel. I later learned from her butler that she had a TV dinner and sat alone in the drawing room before going to bed.
I learned of the Princess's tragic death when Sir Nicholas Lloyd, the newspaper editor, phoned me at four o'clock in the morning on August 31. I refused to turn on the television or the radio, as I attempted to convince myself that it couldn't be true.
Her funeral at Westminster Abbey was one of the most poignant events I have ever attended, and I was touched by Earl Spencer's kindness in seating Mary and me with the family in the private part of the abbey.
Following the hugely successful sale of her dresses in June 1997, at her request I purchased the remaining four hundred catalogs for £27,000, and the Princess promised to sign them for any auction she attended, where, on average, ten years ago, they would make £5,000 each. But sadly, her premature death meant that we didn't make the million pounds for the Red Cross that she hoped to achieve for the remaining unsigned copies. Ironically, I still have a few left, which I continue to auction, as long as the person sends the check to the British Red Cross.
I'm reminded of her almost daily, because whenever I do an auction, I always realize how much more I would raise if she was sitting there. She was an amazing servant who, in her seventeen years of public life, made a genuine difference in many peoples' lives.
I am fortunate to have the most beautiful signed, silver-framed photograph, a magnificent pair of cuff links, and several private letters, should I ever forget the minor role I played in her amazing life.
Diana would have been surprised by the public's unbelievable response to her death, and even more surprised that ten years later this interest has not waned. But then they don't make them like that very often, do they.
Moroccan-born couturier Jacques Azagury trained at St. Martin's School of Art in London. In his final-year show, he was hailed as one of the most promising new designers and launched straight into his first collection. He opened his flagship store in Knightsbridge, London, in 1987.
I was introduced to the Princess by Anna Harvey from Vogue in the mid-eighties when she was still experimenting with clothes and far from the fashion icon she later became. As soon as I saw how stunning she was, I urged her to make more of her allure, but she resisted, because she was afraid of drawing criticism from the Royal Family. Her natural instinct was to hide away her beauty, and it took years before she was able to believe she was actually a beautiful woman.
After the pain of her divorce from Prince Charles had subsided, she grew in confidence, and the Diana I saw was no longer the insecure, uncertain woman who would come into the salon with her shoulders stooped and head bowed. She looked her very best--slim but not thin, fit and glowing with joy, standing tall with her head held high.
She prided herself on being normal and didn't stand on ceremony. She made everyone comfortable when she came into the shop, sometimes unannounced, and if I was with another client, she would say "Carry on. I'll wait." Whenever I visited her at Kensington Palace, she would bound to the door and greet me herself, rather than have the butler show me into the drawing room. She didn't like formality; she found it oppressive.
As well as looking gorgeous, she loved wearing clothes and dressing up. She knew people expected it of her, and she did not like to disappoint anyone. I made clothes for her for almost ten years, but our heyday together was in the mid- to late nineties, when she was free to be herself and was not afraid of wearing clothes that made her look sexy, but not like a sex symbol. One of her favorites was a beaded, full-length, backless dress, which she wore to a political dinner in 1994. She was conscious that the occasion was quite serious, so we used understated colors--graphite on black. But the thigh-high split gave the dress a sexy twist. It became famous when she wore it for her first photo session with Patrick Demarchelier, with her hair slicked back.
The Princess was dedicated to her campaign for a ban on land mines. After she had returned from Angola in 1997, she came into the salon, and when she was telling me about her trip, she was almost crying. She explained how terrible things were there, and that she was trying to make people aware of it. It was so important to her that she agonized over what to wear for the charity dinner in New York on behalf of the Red Cross. She wanted it to be just right so that people would concentrate on what she had to say, not what she was wearing. Eventually, she chose a dazzling long red dress--red in honor of the Red Cross--with a high neckline. I wanted her to turn heads when she was dancing, so I persuaded her to allow me to put a deep V shape at the back, which was perfect.
The last dress she ordered from me was in late June 1997, when she was looking for a "statement frock" for a charity dinner at the Tate Gallery to be held on July 1--her thirty-sixth birthday.