Diana Chronicles

Diana Chronicles

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by Tina Brown

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Ten years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Was she "the people's princess," who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions? Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?

Only Tina Brown, former editor-in-chief of Tatler, England's glossiest gossip magazine, Vanity…  See more details below


Ten years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Was she "the people's princess," who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions? Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?

Only Tina Brown, former editor-in-chief of Tatler, England's glossiest gossip magazine, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker could possibly give us the truth. Tina knew Diana personally and has far-reaching insight into the royals and the queen herself.

In The Diana Chronicles, you will meet a formidable female cast and understand as never before the society that shaped them: Diana's sexually charged mother, her scheming grandmother, the stepmother she hated but finally came to terms with, and bad-girl Fergie, her sister-in-law, who concealed wounds of her own. Most formidable of them all was her mother-in-law, the queen, whose admiration Diana sought till the day she died. Add Camilla Parker-Bowles, the ultimate "other woman" into this combustible mix, and it's no wonder that Diana broke out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.

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Editorial Reviews

The historical personages that intrigue us most are those who embody intense contradictions. No celebrity matches that specification better than Diana Spencer (1961-97), the late Princess of Wales. On one hand, this bundle of complexity was "the people's princess," a tireless activist concerned about AIDS and land mines; on the other, this candidate for sainthood was a self-absorbed, media-savvy neurotic who seemed intent on bringing down the British monarchy. In The Diana Chronicles, former Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Tina Brown uses her formidable connections to establish who Diana really was and how she became that way.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Chapter Twenty
The Last Picture Show

Is she an angel?
—Helena Ussova, aged seven, land-mine victim in Angola, January 1997

Diana never looked better than in the days after her divorce. Divestment was the name of the game, in her life and in her looks. The downsizing started with her Kensington Palace staff, which she reduced to cleaner, cook, and dresser. The assiduous Paul Burrell became maître d’ of her private life, combining the roles of P.A., man Friday, driver, delivery boy, confidant, and crying towel. “He used to pad around listening to all,” says a friend of Diana’s mother. “I was quite sure his ear was pressed firmly to the key hole when I went to Kensington Palace for lunch.”

Diana reinforced her break with married life by stuffing a heavy-duty garbage bag with her entire set of Prince of Wales china and then smashing it with a hammer. “Make a list of everything we need,” she told Burrell. “Let’s spend a bit more of his money while we can.”

Diana now used police protection only when she attended a public event. Her favorite officer was Colin Tebbutt, who had retired from the Royal Squad. He was a tall, fair-haired matinee idol who was also a Class One driver, trained by the SAS. Tebbutt knew that by going to work for Diana he was effectively shutting the door to any future work with the Prince of Wales, but he had a soft spot for Diana. “There was always a buzz when she was at home. I thought she was beginning to enjoy life. She was a different lady, maturing.” Tebbutt says she would always sit in the front of the car, unlike the other Royals, such as Princess Margaret, who called him by his surname and, without looking up from her newspaper, barked, “Wireless!” when she wanted Tebbutt to turn on the radio.

“I drive looking in all three mirrors, so I’d say to Diana ‘I’m not looking at your legs, Ma’am’ and she’d laugh.” The press knew the faces of Diana’s drivers, so to shake them off Tebbutt sometimes wore disguises. “She wanted to go to the hairdresser one day, shortly before she died. I had an old Toyota MRT which she called the ‘tart trap,’ so I drove her in that. I went to the trunk and got out a big baseball hat and glasses. When she came out I was dripping with sweat, and she said ‘What on earth are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m in disguise.’ She said, ‘It may have slipped your notice, but I’m the Princess of Wales.’ ”

Every Tuesday night, the Princess sat at her desk in her study at Kensington Palace, writing her steady stream of heartfelt thank-you letters and listening to a piano playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and—her favorite—Manning Sherwin’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” In the living room, Maureen Stevens, a clerk from the Prince of Wales’s office, who also happened to be a talented concert pianist, gave Diana a weekly private recital as she worked. You can almost hear Stevens’s piano rippling in the background as Diana writes a fulsome note to her close friend, Harper’s Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis: “Dearest Liz, How proud I was to be at your side on Monday evening… so deeply moved by your personal touch—the presents for the boys, candles at the hotel and flowers to name but few but most of all your beaming smile, your loving heart. I am always here for you, Liz.” Sometimes Diana would stop and telephone the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay—“Ricardo,” she called him—to help her with the phraseology of a letter. KP was her fortress. On warm summer afternoons, she vanished into its walled garden in shorts and T–shirt and her Versace sunglasses, carrying a bag of books and CDs for her Walkman. On weekends, when William and Harry were home, Burrell would see her in a flowing cotton skirt on her bicycle with the basket in front, speeding down the Palace drive with the boys pedaling furiously behind her. On her thirty–sixth birthday, in July, she received ninety bouquets of flowers and Harry gathered a group of classmates to sing “Happy Birthday” to her over the telephone.

Diana’s charity commitments were pared down from around a hundred to the six she most cared about: Centrepoint, the Royal Marsden Hospital, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the English National Ballet, the Leprosy Mission, and the National AIDS Trust. The public announcement she insisted on reaped her unnecessary flak and the resignation of her media adviser, Jane Atkinson. But Diana had a reason for being explicit. She wanted to avoid situations where she was just a letterhead. “If I’m going to talk on behalf of any cause, I want to go and see the problem for myself and learn about it,” she told the chairman of the Washington Post Company, Katharine Graham, at that time.

There was a round of social purging. Lord and Lady Palumbo were excised after Peter’s candid warnings about Martin Bashir. Elton John was in the deep freeze after acting as a go-between with Diana and Gianni Versace for the fashion designer’s coffee–table book Rock and Royalty. (The pictures of the Princess and the boys appeared amid a portfolio of seminude male models, and Diana feared it would further annoy the Queen.) Sir Ronald Grierson was bounced after he made the mistake of offering a job to one of the many secretaries Diana froze out. And Fergie was back in Siberia, this time for good. The divorced Duchess had cashed in with an anodyne memoir, which was full of nice comments about her sister–in–law— except for one fatal line. She wrote that when she borrowed a pair of Diana’s shoes she had caught a verrucca—plantar’s wart—from them. Goddesses don’t get warts. Despite Fergie’s pleading apologies, Diana never spoke to her again. In 1997, the Princess gave a birthday party for her friend David Tang and told him he could ask anyone he wanted.

“Anyone?” he asked.


“All right, then—Fergie.”

“Absolutely not,” Diana replied, and would not be moved.

A new and unexpected ally was Raine. In 1993, Diana had finally made her peace with her formidable stepmother. The painful years of separation and divorce from Charles made the Princess see her old adversary in a different light. Still grieving for Daddy, her greatest support, Diana was at last able to recognize that Raine had loved him, too. She invited her stepmother for a weepy reconciliation over lunch at Kensington Palace. For moral support, Raine brought along her fiancé, the French Count Jean François de Chambrun. The precaution turned out to be unnecessary. Afterward, the Princess and the Countess were often sighted deep in a tête–à–tête at the Connaught Grill. One of Raine’s cautions was to try to stay on friendly terms with Charles for the sake of the children. She told Diana that both she—Raine—and her mother, Barbara Cartland, had maintained warm relations with all their former husbands and lovers.

Diana also made an improbable friend of Katharine “Kay” Graham. They had met in the summer of 1994, when Lucia Flecha de Lima had brought Diana to Kay’s beachfront house on Martha’s Vineyard. Not long after that, Kay gave a luncheon for Diana and Hillary Clinton at her Washington home. At a British Embassy lunch on the same visit, Diana met Colin Powell again. He told her he had been nominated to lead her in the dancing at the gala that night to raise money for the Nina Hyde Breast Cancer Foundation. Scotland Yard had been worried that at a ball in Chicago earlier in the year a stranger had cut in on Diana’s dancing partner. The General was deemed able to handle such an eventuality, but the Princess suggested she do a few practice spins with him in the Embassy drawing room. “She was easy with any melody, and we did all right in our rehearsal,” says Powell. “She told me, ‘there’s only one thing you ought to know. I’ll be wearing a backless dress tonight. Can you cope with that?’ ” Flirting with the big boys—what bliss!

Diana thrived in America. “There is no ‘Establishment’ there,” she told her fashion friend Roberto Devorik—wrongly, of course, but correct in the sense that America had no Establishment whose rules or members could possibly hurt her feelings. Richard Kay says she thought of America as “a country so brimming over with glittery people and celebrities that she would be able to disappear.”

Like her life, Diana’s taste in fashion became pared down and emphatic after her divorce. “English style refracted through an un–English sensibility” was how Vogue’s Hamish Bowles defined it. Her new evening dresses were minimalist and sexy, a look that had been taboo when she was an in-house Royal. “She knew she had great legs and she wanted to show them off,” said the designer Jacques Azagury. She wore his stunning red bugle–bead tunic over a short pencil skirt in Venice in 1995 and his blue crystal–beaded cocktail dress six inches above the knee to another Serpentine gallery evening. Diana actually looked her best at her most informal. Jumping rangily out of her car for lunch with Rosa Monckton at the Caprice, wearing stone–washed jeans, a white T-shirt, a beautifully cut navy blue blazer, and bare feet in flats (she was usually shod in Jimmy Choo’s black grosgrain “Diana” loafers), she was spectacular. Vanity Fair assigned the Peruvian-born photographer Mario Testino to capture her as she now wanted to be seen: a modern woman, active on the world stage—“vivid, energetic, and fascinating,” in the words of Meredith Etherington–Smith, the former fashion editor who introduced Diana to Testino. When Meredith first saw Diana at Kensington Palace, she was astonished at how different she was from the formal, public Princess of old. Now she was “a tall, electrifying figure,” wearing no makeup and “revealing the truest English rose complexion. Her hair, no longer a stiff helmet, free of lacquer and back combing, flew around her head like a dandelion in the wind.” With her unerring sense of the dramatic, Diana timed Mario Testino’s stunning shots to come out on the cover of Vanity Fair the same week as her decree absolute.

Diana purged her closets of the past. She hated the sight of the froufrou’d and sequined relics of her roles as Princess Bride and Windsor Wife and Dynasty Di, embalmed in their suit bags. It was William’s brain wave for her to auction off her old gowns for charity in New York, and Diana loved her son’s creative notion. It would be at once a glorious psychic gesture to her new life and a boon to the charities she chose, the AIDS Crisis Trust and the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund. A royal rummage sale had never happened before. Most of the Windsor women, including the Queen, consign their old private-occasion items to a discreetly respectable resale shop in London’s West End. Diana’s auction would be a first.

Old clothes are often suffused with the emotions of the wearer. Meredith Etherington–Smith, who also worked as creative marketing director of Christie’s, was assigned by the auction house to help Diana choose and catalog the items. They sorted through Diana’s gowns every morning for a month while Diana relived the occasions when she had worn them. “Out! Out!” she would cry, pointing at some star–spangled throwback, or “No! I can’t bear to give up this one!” In and out of the catalog flew Victor Edelstein’s oyster dinner dress with a strapless bodice encrusted with white bugle beads and matching bolero, which she had worn that elegant night at the Élysée Palace in Paris with President and Madame Mitterrand. “It was such a happy evening,” she dithered. She had been afraid of the French being so chic, but she felt she had really pulled it off. She sighed over another Edelstein gown, an ink blue silk velvet creation. This was the dress in which she had wowed the world with John Travolta at the White House. She relinquished it in the end, knowing it would get the auction’s top dollar. (An anonymous bidder snapped it up for $222,500.) In retrospect, wrote the fashion maven Suzy Menkes in the International Herald Tribune, all the high-glamour outfits of Diana’s past looked “like a dress rehearsal for the little black number worn on the evening Prince Charles confessed his adultery on prime–time television.”

But now in the year after her divorce, relations with Prince Charles were on a nicely even keel, starting with that tea in July. The arrival in 1996 of Mark Bolland as Charles’s assistant private secretary inaugurated an era of glasnost between the offices of the Princess and the Prince. Bolland was a shrewd go–to guy with a marketing background and a useful four years of experience as director of the Press Complaints Commission. He lived in the real world, not the Palace bubble. He owed his job to Camilla; he had come to Charles at the recommendation of her divorce lawyer, Hilary Browne Wilkinson. In spite of that—or more likely because of it—part of his writ was to end the War between the Waleses. It got in the way, he believed, of the necessary rebuilding of Prince Charles’s image. Bolland’s first act was to persuade Charles to fire his private secretary, Commander Richard Aylard, the facilitator of the Dimbleby fiasco, and rid the Prince’s office of holdovers from the bitter years of marital competition. Nor was Bolland a fan of the undislodgeable Tiggy Legge–Bourke, sharing Camilla’s belief that Tiggy spent a lot of her time “winding Charles up.” Another positive augury, surely.

Better than all of the above, however, was that Diana’s love life had simplified in a wonderful way. In the fall of 1995, she had at last fallen for a man who was worthy of her affections, who wasn’t married, and who reciprocated her feelings: the thirty–six–year–old Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan.

From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

Helen Mirren
"Intensely well researched and an un-put-down-able read, Tina Brown's extraordinary book parts the brocaded velvet and allows us an unprecedented look at the world and mind of the most famous person on the planet. A social commentary, a historical document and a psychological examination, written by a superb investigative journalist."--(Academy Award Winning Actress Helen Mirren)

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Diana Chronicles 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
TZ06830 More than 1 year ago
Not good. Tina Brown says she was a friend....who needs friends who write like this? Have read so many books about The Princess of Wales and this one was so angry. Why was Tina Brown so negative...jealous of her popularity? Perhaps.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like another reviewer I expected better from this book, instead it was a bomb. Too often the author used Diana's quotes to Andrew Morton either against her or to support a claim or point of view the author wished to make. Mrs. Brown stated she believed Diana was the mystery blonde who made romantic nightly visits to Prince Charles on the royal repeatedly before the wedding, yet also believes Diana was totally inexperienced on her wedding night. Which is it? This is the type of stuff a reader can expect through-out this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I run the risk of repeating my title but I was expecting a better read from this book. I have read most books written about Diana, and I found this book borrowed heavily from other publications. That plus a few new tidbits that were difficult to believe and that is it. There are no pictures just text. Trust me this is not a book for Diana fans. The author apparently is not a Diana fan, and many of Ms. Brown's theories and ideas lack substance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is extremely boring and jumps around without having any organization to the text or purpose. It is very hard to follow. I am very dissapointed and had hoped that this book would be an interesting read. This is not the case for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am astonished at the hype given this book. It is gossipy read but not the definitive Diana book and it is rather biased in favor of Prince Charles. Brown's prose is very florid making for smooth reading and she does credit Diana for her charity work but I cringed reading some of her very unlikely allegations based on hearsay. The worst by far is Brown's saying Diana was the woman on the Royal Train. All other sources say Camilla and Brown's evidence is rather shaky. And it is very unlikely that Diana not yet engaged to Charles would risk her reputation as a girl with a history but o past by hitting the sack with Charles. If she had most likely Charles would have dropped her like a hot potato. Plus Brown contradicts herself saying later that Charles was disappointd with Diana's inexperience on the wedding night. How come when Brown says he got a preview? Brown contends that Diana blithely told her mother (based on hearsay) that what's the difference if she were marrying the man or the title. Brown ignores Diana's mother's book where Frances Shand Kydd clearly stated to her biographer that though she had misgivings she said nothing to her daughter, adding that it was time for Diana to get married. I tend to believe this first hand account. And if Diana wanted the title only she wouldn't have cared if Charles dallied with his mistress. Another blatant contention is that it wasn't Charles' fault that he wore the C and C cufflinks on the honeymoon. His valet laid out the outfits including the cufflinks. But Brown fails to explain why Charles didn't remove the cufflinks when he knew it made Diana unhappy. Brown also doesn't explain about Diana's finding Camilla's photograph among Charles' calendar on honeymoon. There are others and I cannot believe her portrait of Charles as 'Mr. Sensitive' when he found out Diana was injured in the crash and his wanting to take care of her. Charles was immersed in Operation Camilla and in effect drove Diana out of the country with his infamous party for Camilla. And why didn't Mr. Sensitive take care of Diana when she was alive and ditch the mistress? Brown is way too soft on Charles. The danger of this book is however entertaining many of the gossip is presented as gospel fact by Brown and people may tend to believe this spin. I recommend reading this for entertainment but not if you are looking for accuracy. I recommend Bradford's book instead.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Diana fans like me are running out of decent options for reading about the People's Princess. What are we to do? It we stop buying these unfavorable books written about the Princess then her enemies gleefully state people are no longer interested in her. Yet the majority of the books written are unflattering and portray Diana as a troubled young woman who could not accept the fact that she came in last in a Get Prince Charles to Love Me contest. Personally I think Diana was treated terribly by the Palace machine and the royal family. This book is very unflattering to Diana. Yet Tina Brown, the author, is billed as a friend and admirer of the Princess. Unfortunately the book does not bear this out. Instead the author of The Diana Chronicles seems to side with Prince Charles and Mrs Parker-Bowles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book a touch disappointing. I had hoped for more insight into Princess Diana's life, but found the book skimmed the surface on her, yet went into long drawn out history about the 1000's of people & titles surrounding her. I found very little new information that I had not already read elsewhere. The book seemed scattered & disjointed. Every chapter started out with a specific subject, then endlessly branched out into completely unrelated events, people & places. I consider myself an educated person, but many time I found myself wishing I had my dictionary nearby, there were so many unfamiliar words that I had no idea what she was talking about or trying to describe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to read this book. I have been a big fan of Diana for years and was eagerly anticipating this book after all the rave reviews. But it did not live up to the hype. It did have some new and interesting information, however, I was not all that fond of it. I really cannot put my finger on what I didn't like...it just was not the 'it' book that I thought it would be. It didn't even have any pictures -- none at all!! Much prefered 'After Diana' by Christopher Andersen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Disappointing. Tina writes from an editoral point of view of all that has been said before. I would like to read about her rock heros. When and where she met Elton John, Linda and Paul-etc. Tired of all the Royals disputes, bored with Charles and his awful 2nd wife.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this will be my last book on Diana they are all very much the same. Her death will always be a mystery
Guest More than 1 year ago
An average book about not so average people and events. There is a better book that will bring you happiness instead of the depression that this book brings. All women want to be a Princess and have a Prince whisk them away to live happily ever after. The tragedy in Diana's story is that in life and death ... she did not have the kind of relationships we all dream of. To get a taste of reality, get the book by Stan Cronin, 'How to Date Your Wife.' In it, real wives, successfully married, tell what makes their husbands a prince and what it takes to make them feel like a princess. WOW! You can live happily ever after.......
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I am just starting to learn about the life of Princess Diana and found this book a great way to start. Brown depicts Diana as a very real person, with her complex qualities that could range form humanitarian to scorned wife. In addition, the book gives geat detail about the places and events surrounding the princess's life, as well as the Royal Family. As the reader you come to understand the people in the book and what was behind their decisons during the 'Diana Years.' But most importantly, Brown deciphers and gives meaning as to why Diana became the People's Princess.