DIANA LEFT CHARLES NEEDING THERAPY
Starting a major biography by an eminent royal author – who’s had unique access to the Prince’s closest friends – which may make you see that marriage in a new light
The Marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was already in deep trouble as they honeymooned at Balmoral. Suffering from insomnia and growing thinner by the day, the Princess wept for hours on end — when she wasn’t berating her new husband about his former mistress or complaining about the oppressive atmosphere of the royal court.
‘What is it now, Diana?’ Charles would implore. ‘What have I said now to make you cry?’ Again and again, he reassured her that his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles was in the past. he tried soothing Diana, but felt powerless to contain her emotional storms, which shocked him in their intensity and suddenness.
At his wits’ end, he began seeking refuge in the Balmoral countryside with his paint-box, books, fishing rod and guns, but that only made his young wife even more aggrieved.
Finally, in desperation, Charles invited his guru — the 74-year-old philosopher Laurens van der Post — to Scotland. But Van der Post could make no headway with the weeping Princess, suggesting only that she should urgently seek psychiatric help.
Unsurprisingly, Diana was prescribed Valium. She refused to take it, however, convinced in her growing paranoia that the Royal Family was trying to sedate her.
There seemed at least a glimmer of hope when she agreed to have therapy with Dr Alan McGlashan, a friend of Van der Post’s. But she saw him only eight times.
Instead, it was her distressed and bewildered husband who began having therapy with Dr McGlashan, and continued to do so regularly for the next 14 years.
According to Charles’s friend Van der Post, McGlashan perceived him as ‘misunderstood and starved’ of ‘really spontaneous, natural affection’, and provided the Prince with ‘the respect his own natural spirit deserves’. Nearly 20 years after the death of the Princess of Wales, many still see her as a woman who was scorned and betrayed. The truth, as I discovered when researching my new biography of Prince Charles, is far more complicated.
For the first time, many people who knew the royal couple well agreed to talk to me, both on and off the record, about what really went on in the most high-profile marriage of its era.
Some of their revelations were disturbing. The Prince told his cousin Pamela hicks, for instance, that Diana would resurrect a row with him even when he was saying his prayers.
As he kneeled by his bed, said hicks, the Princess ‘would hit him over the head and keep on with the row while he was praying’.
One of the saddest aspects of Diana’s short and turbulent life was the failure of those around her — friends and family alike — to convince her to obtain treatment for her extreme symptoms of mental instability.
By her own account — in her interviews for Panorama and for a book by journalist Andrew Morton — she suffered from bulimia, self- mutilation, depression and acute anxiety. She attempted suicide four or five times and exhibited clear signs of paranoia.
Aside from all that, Diana was tormented by feelings of emptiness and detachment; she feared abandonment; she had difficulty sustaining relationships; and she kept those closest to her on tenterhooks with her sudden mood swings, explosive rages and prolonged sulks.
In psychiatric parlance, the Princess of Wales was ‘ highfunctioning’ — or capable of putting on a great show in public — which made her private upheavals all the more unfathomable to those around her.
Charles was sympathetic, but he lacked the knowledge or the temperament to help a very disturbed young woman who, above all, needed consistent support and the right kind of therapy.
Instead, the Prince and household advisers and staff dealt with Diana’s bewildering and often infuriating behaviour by placating her and trying to distract her.
And, ultimately, out of frustration, they abandoned her.
‘Whatever “in love” means.’ Few have forgotten Charles’s awkward reply to a seemingly simple question during the TV interview that followed his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer on February 24, 1981.
Much later, his insalubrious phrase seemed to suggest a cynical lack of commitment from the start. In fact, in his bumbling way, he was simply being honest.
his friends knew he hadn’t fallen in love.
he had merely followed the advice of his beloved uncle, Dickie Mountbatten, to choose a ‘sweet-charactered girl’ without a romantic past — and there were few enough of those about.
In Charles’s defence, he genuinely thought he could grow to love Diana. At 31, he should have known better.
Certainly he understood little about the rosy-cheeked girl of 19 who kept giving him beguiling sidelong glances.
‘how could I have got it all so wrong?’ he wrote six years later in an anguished letter to a friend.
how indeed? On paper, Diana seemed perfect: aristocratic, virginal, tender with children, sporty and enthusiastic, sensitive,
informal and open, with an apparent love of countryside pursuits.
True, she had the dubious distinction of twice failing all five of her O-levels, then dropping out of her Swiss finishing school. But Charles’s mistress, Camilla, hadn’t been well- educated, either, and that had never seemed to matter.
Diana first came sharply into the Prince’s focus during a Sussex house-party weekend in July 1980. Another guest, Charles’s former girlfriend Sabrina guinness, recalled: ‘She was giggling, looking up at him . . . furiously trying to make an impression.’
Charles then invited Diana to join him aboard the royal yacht Britannia for the annual Cowes regatta in early August.
His ever-vigilant valet, Stephen Barry, observed that she ‘went after the Prince with singleminded determination. She wanted him and she got him.’ The following month, Diana went deer-stalking with Charles, getting covered in mud, and ‘laughing her head off’ in a rainstorm, according to the Prince’s friend, Patti Palmer-Tomkinson.
To another friend, Charles admitted he ‘did not love her yet’, but she was ‘lovable and warmhearted’. He was ‘sure he could fall in love with her’.
As he dithered over whether to propose, three friends voiced their misgivings. Penny Romsey, the wife of Mountbatten’s grandson Norton, cautioned the Prince that he and his new girlfriend had little in common; she also questioned whether Diana’s feelings for him were genuine.
Diana appeared to be ‘auditioning for a central role in a costume drama’ she said — and, much to Charles’s anger, Penny’s husband seconded her concerns.
By January, Prince Philip had weighed in. He was concerned her reputation was on the line because of Press speculation. Charles, he counselled, should propose or release her.
Pamela Hicks, who read Philip’s letter, said it was ‘measured and sensitive. [But] Charles read it as: “You’ve got to get engaged.” He wasn’t in love, he wasn’t ready. He saw it as a ghastly threat. Psychologically, he assumed his father was bullying him, so he read it as a bullying letter.’
In a letter to a friend, Charles described his ‘ confused and anxious state of mind’ about ‘taking a plunge into some rather unknown circumstances’.
He said he wanted to ‘ do the right thing for this Country and for my family’, but was ‘terrified sometimes of making a promise then perhaps living to regret it’.
Despite his doubts, he proposed on February 6, 1981, and Diana said yes in a gale of giggles. The trouble started immediately after their engagement, when Diana moved into a suite in Buckingham Palace. On weekdays, she scarcely saw Charles at all, as he sped from one engagement to another.
Left to her own devices, she convinced herself that he was still seeing Camilla — and when the Prince assured her that the affair was over, she decided this wasn’t a ‘clear answer’.
VERYquickly, Diana became anxious, depressed and volatile. And she resumed the secret binge- eating and selfinduced vomiting that she’d resorted to since adolescence in times of great stress.
Faced with what he called the ‘other side’ of her previously jolly behaviour, Charles blamed prewedding jitters.
Diana, for her part, was already blaming Camilla. Years later, the Princess said she wept before her fiance left on a pre-arranged trip to Australia because he’d taken a call the previous night from Camilla, who had wanted to say goodbye to him.
But it’s hard to judge that claim, since — as Diana’s own brother, Charles, put it — she had ‘difficulty telling the truth’.
Before long, her suspicions had spilled over into obsession, and she was plunging into dark moods and throwing tantrums. ‘Is this normal?’ Charles asked one friend, feeling rising alarm.
His godmother, Patricia Mountbatten, said: ‘ Had he been a private individual, he would not have pressed on, but by then he was too committed. He realised that if he called it off, it would ruin Diana’s future. If Prince Charles didn’t want her, who would?’
On the afternoon of July 27, Charles and Diana went to St Paul’s for their second wedding rehearsal. Afterwards, as they returned to the Palace, she sobbed her eyes out in the car.
On her wedding eve, unknown even to her sister, Jane, who was staying with her, Diana had a bulimic attack and was ‘sick as a parrot’. Meanwhile, Charles lin- gered at a window, watching the well-wishers, and found himself weeping. ‘Stephen,’ he asked his valet, ‘is it possible to love two women at the same time?’ WAS Diana merely a naive and romantic victim, served up at the altar to a cold, unloving groom?
Some people in Charles’s circle claim they soon detected an unnerving wilfulness behind his bride’s vulnerability.
One of his former advisers, who met her for the first time in the Prince’s Buckingham Palace office, remembered thinking: ‘There is a rod of steel up this woman’s back.’
Diana’s father, Earl Spencer, later confirmed as much when he said: ‘Diana is very determined indeed and always gets her own way. I think Prince Charles is learning that by now.’
As their disastrous honeymoon unwound, he was increasingly perplexed by her shifting moods. On the Balmoral leg of the holiday, the Queen, Prince Philip and other members of the Royal Family soon realised Diana was perturbed — particularly when she defied protocol by leaving the table before the end of a meal or didn’t show up for dinner at all.
But the Queen said nothing, and it never occurred to her to ask Charles what was the matter. While fundamentally sympathetic to Diana, she was also almost allergic to confrontation. THE sole glimmer of contentment for Charles and Diana came in October 1981, when Diana learned she was pregnant.
But her warm and approachable manner in public continued to contrast dramatically with her volatility in private. And it was becoming evident that Diana was no longer making an effort to please her husband.
While Charles spent hours in his garden at Highgrove, sometimes talking to his plants, Diana was visibly indifferent. At weekends, they visited considerably older and more mature friends of his, who made her feel uneasy.
The Prince’s advisers tried to guide her, with little success. Nor did she get on well with the Queen’s lady- in- waiting, Sue Hussey, now assigned to supervise Diana: the Princess simply ignored all of the older woman’s suggestions about which royal duties to take on.
Pamela Hicks recalled: ‘ She didn’t want to be told anything. “That’s boring, Sue,” she’d say. She didn’t try. She had no need to try because she saw that the people admired her.’
That Christmas, the pregnant Princess famously flung herself down the staircase at Sandringham — a deliberate message of ‘desperation’, she said later. She’d done it, she told her friend Elsa Bowker, after discovering love letters between Camilla and Charles in a drawer of his desk.
‘She said she didn’t think it was worth living or having a baby,’ said Bowker — adding that Diana ‘didn’t always tell the truth.’
Indeed, people who spoke to the Princess at the time report that she insisted she’d tripped accidentally at the top of half a flight of steps, and had sustained no injuries.
The gloom lifted briefly on June 21, 1982, with the birth of William. Writing to Patricia Mountbatten a week later, Charles said the
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in other ways, she seemed steadier, in part because of William, but she was also controlling her moods through an exercise regimen. As she grew increasingly assertive, she pushed out employees who displeased her.
Just three- and- a- half years after their wedding, some 40 of their original staff had left. To avoid further confrontations, Charles let her have her way.
After Harry’s birth on September 15, 1984, the Prince and Princess began sleeping in separate bedrooms. At Highgrove, that entailed Charles moving into a dressing-room to sleep on a single bed, along with a well-worn teddy bear.
But he continued to be solicitous of his wife, cutting back on public engagements and helping care for his sons in the mornings and evenings. He genuinely enjoyed his private moments in the nursery with William and Harry — bathing them, playing an affair. with them, reading to them.
UnlikeDiana, though, he was averse to tactile displays in public, and therefore got no credit for paternal devotion.
in April 1986, the couple started taking separate holidays. After five mostly unhappy years, Charles had given up. He genuinely believed that he had, as a member of his staff put it, ‘turned himself inside out’ for her, but her needs were inexhaustible.
She disliked nearly everything he loved: his country pursuits, his polo, his paintings, his gardening, even Shakespeare. She was indifferent to architecture, alternative medicine and the environment — sarcastically calling him ‘the Boy Wonder’ and ‘the Great White Hope’.
‘How awful incompatibility is,’ Charles wrote to one of his friends. ‘How dreadfully destructive it can be for the players in this extraordinary drama.’
in mid-1986, he rekindled his affair with 39-year- old Camilla, whose husband, Andrew, was conducting indiscreet liaisons of his own.
in the summer of 1986, servants at Highgrove heard Diana retching in her bathroom, signalling a recurrence of her bulimia. She also cut herself with a penknife during an argument with Charles.
One trigger for her renewed distress was the reassignment that July of Barry Mannakee, her
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By the end of 1986, the routines of Charles and Diana’s separate lives were set. She’d thrown herself into a full-blown, five-year affair with Captain James Hewitt — during which she also slept with car salesman James Gilbey — and her husband was still committed to Camilla.
in May of the following year, during a flight to the Cannes film festival, Charles broke the news to his wife that Mannakee had died in a motorbike accident at the age of 39. Diana cried throughout the whole flight.
Charles confided in his longtime Alpine guide, Bruno Sprecher, about Camilla. ‘He said that there was only one love in his life, and that was her, even when he got married to the Princess,’ Sprecher recalled. in The months leading to his 40th birthday in november 1988, Prince Charles was riven with anxieties over his failed marriage. But he never shared his troubles with his parents.
The Queen almost certainly knew about Camilla. indeed, one of the monarch’s senior advisers at the time recalled that Camilla was not regarded as a ‘big threat’.
Along with Prince Philip, the Queen had repeatedly witnessed Diana’s difficult behaviour. So, in their view, if their son had the ‘safety valve’ of a confidante, it was preferable to outright warfare. Meanwhile, Charles’s godmother, Patricia Mountbatten, was watching over him with a mixture of pity and helplessness.
‘it was made difficult that he couldn’t cry on his mother’s shoulder,’ she said.
‘They were long, desperately sad years. He had to keep himself to himself. in any photograph of him from that period, he always looked sad. it was just the way he looked, and it expressed his inner feelings. He was in a terrible trap.’
The trap started to close around the hapless Prince when Diana decided in 1991 to share her side of their misbegotten marriage with journalist Andrew Morton.
Unbeknown to Charles, one of his senior advisers, Peter Westmacott, learned of Diana’s involvement in the secret project. Westmacott was unable to dissuade her from going ahead. Asked about her motives, he said: ‘Bitterness and vengefulness were not far off.
‘She was clever at being the innocent victim, yet on the other hand at pulling the levers so it would put her in a good light.’
The book struck a devastating and unprecedented blow to the entire Royal Family.
Charles was portrayed as a bad father and blamed for Diana’s torment and emotional distress, while Camilla was singled out as the undermining factor that had destroyed the marriage. Hewitt was spun as merely an ‘amusing and sympathetic’ companion.
At first, Diana lied about having participated in the book, but her role was unmasked within days.
CHARleSwas ‘appalled’ by his wife’s treachery. Yet even then he didn’t share his mortification with his parents — it fell to his friends the Romseys and van Cutsems to tell the Queen and Prince Philip about their son’s stoicism through those years of trauma.
everyone in Charles’s family took his side, including Princess Margaret, who had previously shown kindness, even tenderness, to Diana. Prince Philip sent his son a long letter, praising his ‘saint-like fortitude’.
in one last throw of the dice, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, met the Prince and Princess as a pastoral counsellor.
But the Archbishop saw ‘little evidence’ that Diana ‘ was prepared to make the marriage work’ and concluded ‘with some sorrow that Charles was more sinned against than sinning’.
There were more traumas to come, of course: the airing of an embarrassing conversation between Diana and James Gilbey, and Charles’s even more candid conversation with Camilla, in which he spoke of his wish to live inside Camilla’s trousers as, ‘God forbid, a Tampax’.
Then, in 1994, came Charles’s admission to Jonathan Dimbleby — both in a book and on TV — that he had resumed his affair with Camilla after his marriage had irretrievably broken down. This so infuriated Diana that she was privately hell- bent on exacting revenge.
That same year, Martin Bashir, a producer for BBC’s Panorama programme, won her over by persuading her that the Royal Family was spying on her. He had no reliable evidence to prove his assertions, but he fed the Princess’s insecurities.
The resulting programme went out on november 20, 1995, the wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip. Revenge indeed.
Diana mesmerised some 15 million viewers with her hour-long performance.
emphatically and emotionally, she redoubled her accusation that Camilla was to blame for Charles’s ‘devastating’ infidelity.
even worse for Charles, Diana expressed strong doubts about his ability to reign, couching her remarks in a pitying tone of high-minded regret.
The Queen reacted swiftly to the interview: on December 18 she sent letters to Charles and Diana, requesting that they divorce as soon as possible. Their divorce was finalised less than a year later and tensions between them finally began to ebb. Charles even dropped into kensington Palace from time to time to talk about the boys, and Diana felt comfortable enough to call him to ask his advice.
She continued having affairs — with Oliver Hoare, a married london art dealer, among others. Then, in 1996, she became infatuated with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat khan.
khan, however, found her possessiveness suffocating: she would react angrily when he couldn’t take her phone calls because he was performing surgery. in July 1997, he ended the relationship and she moved on to Dodi Fayed, a notoriously irresponsible playboy dangerously addicted to cocaine.
For the rest of her short life, Fayed turned Diana’s head by showering her with gifts, and soothed her neediness with unceasing attentiveness.
When Charles heard the news about Diana’s death while being driven through a Paris tunnel with Dodi, he was distraught. At 7.15am, when his sons awoke, he told them what had happened.
later, lashed with grief, selfpity and regret, the Prince turned to his courtiers. ‘They’re all going to blame me, aren’t they?’ he said plaintively.