Thursday, August 30, 2007

Anatomy of a Diana Tell-All

It seems like every year a new book on Diana comes out. Some are by the familiar faces, the ubiquitous royal watchers: Ingrid Seward, Judy Wade, Sarah Bradford, and Andrew Morton. This year's big release is The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown. Getting in on the act are the books by her former employer, her psychic, her childhood nanny, and Trevor Rees Jones, the sole survivor of the 1997 crash.

In a special category by themselves are the ones written by people who worked in her service. Some might consider this to be a betrayal of her memory, others (like myself) enjoy the juicy bits while pretending to be offended. Yet, while these books cover different details of her public and private life, they have a pattern, in variation, that is hard to ignore.

The Disclaimer

Includes why the book was written, usually to because they want to set the record straight because they can no longer stand by idly while her memory is being tarnished. Simone Simmons even claims Diana told her to write her book. Each author claims to tell the truth - Jephson's book: 'most authoritative, balanced account'. Paul Burrell: 'the one man who can separate the myth from the truth of the Diana years'. And Ken Wharfe: 'His account represents the most intimate portrait of Diana to date'.

Author's Bio and Credentials

From childhood to present day we get a recap of the author's biography: where they were born, went to school, if they are married or have children. Previous job experience. Their rise in the royal ranks and how they came to the exalted position beside the princess. And in the case of Jephson and Wharfe, how they eventually fell from grace.

The Special Closeness
Each of them shared a special, exclusive closeness with her, to the point where they barely acknowledge their competition. In Wharfe's case he only refers to Jephson in relation to his job and an inaccuracy in his book. Jephson acknowledges a debt of gratitude to Wharfe and explains his departure. In two sentences, Burrell mentions Jephson's exit and generously acknowledges his closeness to Diana. However, despite being 'loyal to the end' and Diana's 'rock', neither Jephson or Wharfe make specific reference to Burrell.

Opinion on the end of the fairy tale

No tell-all about Diana would be complete without offering an opinion on the breakdown of her marriage. Understanding the pressures she experienced, some side with her exclusively, others take a more balanced view.

The Difficult Princess

Revelations on how notoriously difficult she was to work for. Yes, she had her bad days, but she's still the much beloved 'People's Princess'. So this is balanced by a list of her good qualities, including allowances made for the unique pressures she faced. Jephson's book in particular gives a rather acerbic account of his time with Diana as well as psychological analysis of her personality. This is also the section for any residual bitterness the author may hold towards Diana.

Maverick Princess

Yes, each of them had a special, pivotal role in helping her deal with her position. Surreptitiously enabling her, organizing special escapes and meetings with her lovers. Each of them have an admiration of her ability to contravene the royal system. However, in Jephson and Wharfe's cases this is one of the reasons why they left her service.

The Toll

Diana could be a demanding employer. As she left the royal circle, her staff started to shrink to bare bones. Those that remained took on multiple duties. As such, the author details the toll working for her, took on them psychologically, as well as on their relationships or lack of relationships.

The Day she died & conspiracy theories

Where they were when they found out. How the accident was preventable (in Wharfe's case, if only he'd been there), including a post-mortem of events leading up to the accident and laying the blame with Trevor Rees Jones. Burell in particular reminisces about putting Diana's seat belt on her the last time he saw her. The tears and reluctant mixed feelings. The shortcomings of the Queen and the rest of the royal family in their reactions. Of the three, Jephson briefly mentions her death and chivalrously steers clear of any speculation.

The Epiphany

What they are doing now. What they've learnt, how Diana made them a better person or gave them a new understanding of themselves. Interestingly, but unsurprising, each of them, whether writing books or appearing in television specials, has made a career out their experience with her. The security guard Ken Wharfe, and the ex-Private Secretary, Patrick Jephson who now takes their places amongst the other royal watchers in giving us an inside behind the scenes look. Burrell's book covers his trial and offers a tantalizing hint of future books. True to his word he wrote The Way We Were: Remembering Diana.

Any book on Diana can, and will be looked upon as a betrayal of her memory; yet people will still buy and read them. While I enjoyed each of these books, I feel that Wharfe's has the most balanced view - neither acerbic nor fawning. Burrell unfortunately seems to be obsessed with Diana, and Jephson is too cynical. Jephson and Wharfe seem to possess an integrity that Burrell lacks, terms of their ability to draw the line, once they realized they couldn't effectively serve Diana. As well as not allowing their duties or their recollections to consume them as it seems to have done with Burrell, even 10 years later.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

To purchase any of these books, click on the links and book covers.

Other resources consulted:

The Diana I knew by Mary Robertson
Diana: The Secret Years by Simone Simmons with Susan Hill
Little Girl Lost by Mary Clarke
Love and War by James Hewitt
Princess in Love by Anna Pasternak

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