INTERVIEW – He is the only one to have written Lady Di’s biography, with her permission. Thirty years later, he wants to disentangle the true from the false in a new work, Diana, in pursuit of love.
Madame Figaro. – You are the only journalist to have written an authorized biography of Lady Diana, published in 1992. From those years, of writing, of negotiations – even remotely – with the Princess of Wales, what do you keep from her? What impression did she leave on you?
Andrew Morton. – She was a wounded woman. However, what struck me about her was first of all her temerity. She was a very brave woman. She also had this quality that few people have: she knew how to approach people without bothering them or embarrassing them.
As you write in your book, Diana is often described as “unstable”, “unbalanced”, “suffering from serious personality disorders”. We saw it in The Crownbut also in Pablo Larrain’s film, spencer.How to disentangle the true from the false on this specific point?
Diana was very sane. What people have to take into account is that as soon as she joined the royal family, she felt like people were lying to her. And it was, indeed. the people around them, prince charles and she betrayed his trust on a daily basis. About her doubts about Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, his entourage told him “they are just friends, don’t be silly!” Every day, his valet, his bodyguard or even his butler assured him that Charles was in such and such a place, when he was elsewhere.
A specific example?
There was a day when Charles broke his arm during a polo match. The first person to come see him in the hospital was Camilla. And as Diana was herself driven from Kensington Palace, she heard the radios of members of their bodyguard crackle, understanding that they were making sure Camilla would be gone when the Princess of Wales arrived there. Diana therefore had every reason to be paranoid. From what I know of her, she was never mentally unstable.
fear of abandonment
You write that after her separation from Charles, Diana was wiretapped, that she was followed in the street. You also talk about her friends’ fears that Diana might be in danger. Do you think Diana’s life was in danger at the time she died?
There have been many conspiracy theories about this. No, I don’t think Diana was in mortal danger at the time of her car accident. She was in a vulnerable position, of course, because she was this woman, alone, daring to attack the royal institution. But she was not in mortal danger. All that can be said about August 31, 1997 is that Diana would still be alive if she had worn her seatbelt. Even if it’s hard to come to terms with such a banal death…
In video, return to the night of his death in Paris
Many have questioned his sanity, and by extension his ability to be happy. Has Diana ever been happy in her life?
Even though life has often been difficult for her, she has always kept her sense of humor, and this way of bouncing back, even at the worst. She once said that she inherited this from her mother, Frances Shand Kydd: she knew how to take a higher view of what was happening to her. And always smile, smile, smile. Although she often went through what have been called “dark times”, during which she suffered from severe bulimia, Diana was a deeply joyful woman, especially when spending time with her sons, William and Harry.
She simply stopped talking, communicating with those around her for eight or nine months
However, you address in the book the distress she felt as a child, to the point of walling herself in total silence for several months…
If you want to try to understand Diana, it is absolutely necessary to take into account her deep fear of abandonment. In the book, I talk about this episode in her life, as a child, where she simply stopped talking, communicating with those around her for eight or nine months. She stayed inside herself. And she was only 6 years old. It was just after his mother left, leaving one day with her suitcase in her hand, without looking back. Diana therefore remained with her father, a distant and cold man. Since that day, her manic fear of abandonment has never left her. In a way, she can even explain her marriage to Prince Charles. Because marrying a prince was a fairy tale, and in fairy tales the prince is prince charming, he doesn’t give up. It’s all ironic, isn’t it?
Clairvoyants, astrologers and lovers
You also write that Diana was surrounded by an army of clairvoyants and astrologers from whom she constantly asked for predictions, on her compatibility with certain men for example, or with certain signs of the zodiac. What does this reveal about her, about her personality?
First it’s Fergie (Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife, Editor’s note) who initiates him to all this. Fergie called him telling him that she had spoken to her clairvoyant and that she had predicted that Charles was going to die in a car accident. (Laughs, Editor’s note). Diana has seen a lot of Penny Thornton (famous astrologer in Great Britain, Editor’s note) in 1984, when she was very badly. She knew that her husband loved another woman, she didn’t fit into the royal daily life and asked Penny what the future would bring her. It was a kind of cry for help. And Penny’s predictions served as solace in those dark times.
Lady Diana’s alleged lovers
After her breakup with Prince Charles, Diana multiplied romantic relationships, from comedian James Gilbey to art dealer Oliver Hoare, including rugby player Will Carling, surgeon Hasnat Kahn, billionaire Dodi Al-Fayed… Some say that she took revenge on Charles, others that she just wanted to be free and have fun, others that she hated loneliness…
Some of her lovers were married men, and that meant among other things that she didn’t have to commit in any way, she could just have fun. Of course, she felt lonely and isolated most of the time, so she needed that company. With Dodi, it was different. At that point in her life, she didn’t need a man in her life. She had a solid circle of friends and her humanitarian commitment occupied her more and more. She was moving on. In my opinion, Dodi was therefore not the good one, as some want to imply, it was just a love affair.
She had imagined a racetrack where ten suitors competed
You say she had this game with some members of her staff, where she classified the men in her life into categories…
With the help of her hairdressers and Paul Burrel, she had imagined a sort of racetrack where ten suitors were competing. Hasnat Khan still held first place. The others were moved like pawns, depending on how she felt about him at the M moment. This anecdote was a way for me to prove that she was not seriously involved in these romances.
Is it crazy to think that she always loved Charles?
Diana’s loyal friend, James Colthurst (who made Diana’s recordings in 1992, and brought them to Andrew Morton for his book, editor’s note) told me that he had once asked him: “If he asks you for forgiveness, puts his knees down and asks you for a new start, would you accept?” And she answered yes. Despite everything, there was a strong bond between the two.
On this topic, you write that Charles still wears his wedding ring today, and prays for Diana every night. He still signs his correspondence with a pen she gave him…
He too was very hurt by the end of their marriage, realizing his own madness in the whole thing. Charles is a sentimental, he always has been. He clearly had a place for Diana in his heart. It wasn’t all his fault. The faults were on each side.
At the very end of your book, you quote the royal historian Robert Lacey who spoke about Diana’s attitude during the last months of her life: “I think she could no longer be controlled and things would have empire. And I believe (…) that his death is the best thing that could have happened to his reputation.” Do you agree?
I completely disagree with Robert on this subject. I think on the contrary that she had just found meaning in her life, that she was no longer controlled by her bulimia, or by the palate. She had direction. The photos of Mario Testino taken a few months before his death are so revealing of this new, sexy, engaged Diana in his life. It was just the beginning.
Diana, in pursuit of love, by Andrew Morton, ed. the Archipelago, August 2022.