An Obituary given by the late W.F. Deedes, ( Lord Deedes ) one of the journalists who knew her
best and someone who accompanied her on her vigil to Angola in 1997.
Lord Deedes, regarded by many as a national institution and the longest serving Daily Telegraph journalist formed a
close friendship and became an adviser to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, after covering her campaigning work
against anti-personnel mines.
"Her admirers and detractors, most of them holding entrenched views about her, are not seeking further
So what is there to add? Well, there are some, particularly those associated with charities she helped, who find it
difficult to assess her in the light of all that has been written and said about her, to distinguish between the good and
the not so good in her. Furthermore, as a journalist who was fairly close to different phases of Diana's life, I am
struck by the extent to which so many commentators focus on the personalities involved, overlooking the part
played by newspapers and television, and the public mood that they engendered.
Between the abdication of Prince Charles's great-uncle King Edward VIII in 1936 and Diana's betrothal early in
1981, there had been a huge social shift in this country.
There had been changes in public attitudes towards the members of the Royal Family and even greater changes in
the attitude of the national press.
As Tim Clayton and Phil Craig observed in their book, Diana, Story of a Princess: ''In the early Eighties the British
tabloid press was changing character.
Its new face had sharper fangs and a more derisive smirk." It was principally in the hands of Rupert Murdoch, then
an avowed republican, and Robert Maxwell, whose Daily Mirror competed strenuously with Murdoch's Sun in the
search for sensation.
Their editors knew what was required of them.
Persuading readers to recognise their potential, to believe that no one was their superior, was a technique that I
associate with Lord Beaverbrook's pre-war Daily Express.
He was shrewd enough to perceive the social changes wrought by the First World War and to spot how a popular
newspaper might exploit them.
The colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady were no longer just sisters under their skins; they were lookalikes. After the
Second World War the trend accelerated.
Deference fell out of fashion, which in many ways was for the better: for too long ability had been suppressed
because of it.
Social divisions broke down. Public figures came to be judged less by their eminence than by whether they could be
addressed by their first names on the golf course.
In my earliest days as a Conservative MP in the Fifties, my agent told me to discard the dinner jacket at evening
functions with the Young Conservatives.
It didn't look matey to dress up. In the late Sixties, when many YCs had acquired evening clothes, my agent advised
me always to wear a dinner jacket. It didn't look matey to dress down.
So, at the time of the royal wedding in 1981, we were a more equal society than we had been.
Extremes of wealth persisted but social barriers were melting fast, except, many would say, at the court of Queen
Elizabeth II, which understandably was much slower to change its ways.
Why ''understandably''? Because monarchy, in my view, must adapt cautiously to modern ways.
In nations moving as fast as we did in the past century, there needs to be a balance struck between change and
continuity. So this wedding took place against a social background different from that of earlier royal occasions.
I often noticed that neither Charles nor Diana possessed anything like the self-confidence that we associate with the
When it comes to marriage, the heir to the throne is not his own master and Charles found it difficult to decide until
the last moment whether he was doing the right thing. Both his parents were concerned and communicated their
anxieties to him.
He appeared to have strong opinions of his own, which he sometimes expressed in public, but he was also prey to
acute self-doubts. He was not as close to his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, as he had been to his uncle, Lord
Mountbatten, who had been murdered by the IRA in August 1979.
His mother was not, as some allege, neglectful, but she was unavoidably engrossed in the nation's affairs. He
counted a great deal on the support of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Diana, much younger and unsophisticated - which was one of her attractions to Charles - had failed her O-levels
twice. Her life up to that point could hardly be described as sheltered, but she was totally unready for the circle she
was about to join and for the expectations held of a future queen.
Diana has been accused of making too much of losing her mother through divorce in the late Sixties, but in truth the
loss ran deep with her.
So did the existence of Camilla Parker Bowles. It is easy to say that in modern times a girl should be able to look
lightly upon her husband's past amours, but Diana happened to be someone who found it impossible to take such
things lightly. The relations between Charles and Camilla nagged her from the start of the marriage and increasingly
frayed the knot.
On this background shone the fierce light of the news media. To be fair, they were catering for what they supposed
to be limitless public interest in a long-awaited royal romance. For photographers Diana became the pot of gold at
the end of the rainbow.
They could not get enough of her. At first it was exciting for Diana, but it soon became exacting.
Two high walls enclosed her, an overexcited and insatiable news media and the formidable group of men and
women who served the Queen. Seeking to take her role seriously, she lost touch with many of her old friends who
might have jollied her along. Her future husband was away much of the time on his duties.
Nobody took much account of this until one day late in 1981 when newspaper and television editors were
summoned to Buckingham Palace by Michael Shea, the Queen's press secretary, and asked to cool it. Later we
moved next door for drinks with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
I was in a small group with the Queen when she observed quietly of a recent incident with photographers: ''It's hard
on a girl if she can't go to the local sweet shop without being cornered by photographers.'' The then editor of the
News of the World said rather plaintively: ''Why couldn't she send a footman for the sweets?'' ''I think,'' said the
Queen, ''that is the most pompous remark I ever heard in my life.''
The gathering had little effect: the tabloids were not taking orders from the Palace. They had contacts with some of
the royal servants, who kept them supplied with nuggets of gossip, and the photographers worried more about
being left behind on a front-page scoop than any reproaches Palace officials could muster.
As they saw it, their photographs kept Diana in the public eye; without them, nobody would know who she was. She
did have an eye for the photo opportunity and later she exploited it to the full, but in her early days constant
pursuit by photographers - and behind the pack the hidden lens - unnerved her, accentuating the feeling that she
was isolated and unprotected. It served the marriage ill.
Diana's phobia about the long lens and loss of privacy extended to her children.
When William was young, one or two of us were invited to lunch at Kensington Palace by Diana and Charles to
discuss her fears.
How would it be, she asked, if while out with his nanny in the park he was taken short and photographed relieving
himself behind a tree? That struck us as a bit far-fetched.
But, not long after, William was photographed having a pee behind a tree by one of the paparazzi, and the picture
appeared in a German magazine. Not all Diana's anxieties could be written off as neuroses.
The pressures grew. Newspapers and magazines, anxious to feed the public appetite for news and pictures, went to
extraordinary lengths to meet demand.
The television series Dallas attracted enormous audiences, but the Charles and Diana show outshone any soap
It is easy to rationalise this, to say it is the price of celebrity, of being a royal, of being a famous, good-looking
young couple. They're brought up to it, aren't they? It is harder to measure just what the cumulative effect was on a
never wholly stable relationship.
Furthermore, sections of the competitive press were alert to any flicker of doubt, to any hint of unhappiness, of
bulimia, of a ''scene''. A thousand ears were cocked for murmurs of discontent and a certain amount did leak from
This was a relationship under constant surveillance.
Diana did behave badly. Her affair with James Hewitt which began in 1986, newspapers are entitled to argue, was
more damaging to the marriage than any tale they cooked up. By 1991, the 10th anniversary of their wedding, it was
clear that the marriage was under stress, though divorce seemed out of the question.
Diana formed other relationships, one or two perfectly dotty.
Her next fall from grace was to contribute tape recordings that formed the substance of Andrew Morton's book,
Diana: Her True Story, which the Sunday Times serialised in mid-1992. It was a best-seller. For most it fulfilled
Diana's aim, which was to appear as the injured wife, but for some it represented a betrayal of the Royal Family.
To just a few, after Diana's denial that she had had anything to do with it, it established her as a liar.
There followed charge and counter-charge. There were the ''Squidgy'' tapes and the ''Camillagate'' tapes, telephone
conversations picked up by radio hams that caught both Diana and James Gilbey and Charles and Camilla Parker
Bowles in compromising exchanges and which got into the hands of the tabloid newspapers.
I attended Jonathan Dimbleby's launch of his documentary and book about the Prince of Wales in June 1994. It
was planned by Charles's supporters as a counter-attack but what caught public attention was his admission of
adultery with Camilla Parker Bowles.
I thought the whole exercise a thumping mistake, and so did my editor, Max Hastings. One might have expected it
to be the last word, but no; Diana was approached by Martin Bashir, who offered her the opportunity to put her case
on the BBC's Panorama programme.
Most of the advice she received warned her against it but she went ahead. The deadline for my thousand words
about it coincided with the end of the broadcast, so there was not much time to reflect on what had been said. Nor
was time needed for reflection.
I thought the interview embodied all the sadness and bitterness that characterises a broken marriage dragged into
the open and would do injury to the monarchy. I was in a minority. The broadcast augmented Diana's host of
The divorce was agreed in 1996 and Diana's life took a new turn. Discouraged from becoming an unofficial roving
ambassador, she sought to address herself to certain issues in the world that were being neglected. One of these was
There were millions of them scattered round the world, lurking wherever there had been conflict.
A few charitable organisations were engaged in locating and lifting them, but it was discouraging as well as
dangerous work because more mines were constantly being laid in the wars bedevilling Africa.
The manufacturers of these mines represented a huge vested interest, which reduced the chances of securing an
international ban. Furthermore defence forces in Britain, America and much of Europe saw the mines, properly laid
and charted, as legitimate means of defence. For my part, having familiarised myself with the subject since the early
Nineties, I had learnt the importance of not appearing to deny our own forces a weapon they considered useful.
By January 1997, after discussions with the British Red Cross, Diana had settled on a visit to Angola, a country
infested with mines after a long and bloody civil war, some of which I had witnessed. The Daily Telegraph thought I
should join the party, which included most of the ''royal pack''.
Just before we left, I was called to Kensington Palace to provide Diana with my small input on the subject; before
flying to Angola, she did her homework thoroughly.
When we reached the wretched capital Luanda there was a sudden change of plan. This, Diana made clear, must be a
working visit; the VIPs lining up to meet and entertain her would have to take second place. Supported by our
admirable ambassador, Roger Hart, she adhered to this throughout our days in Angola.
The journalists, accustomed to covering royal visits in daintier places than Angola, were dismayed by their
Luanda appeared to have lost its heart and all self-respect. Garbage accumulated on the street corners, the hot
weather rendering the stink unendurable. Diana, looking her best in informal tropical gear, seemed thoroughly on
top of the job.
She delivered a short and sensible speech at the airport, then quickly addressed herself to Red Cross business. They
ran a prosthetic centre in Luanda that manufactured artificial limbs, fitted them to amputees and provided the
necessary training and therapy.
We spent some time there, Diana entering into every detail of the operation and talking with some of the victims.
But she had set her heart on going further afield. She wanted to visit Huambo and Cuito, where there had been a
siege and brutal fighting during the civil war and which were still infested with mines.
On the day before it was reluctantly agreed to allow Diana to visit these hellholes, there was a lunch in London.
Two journalists on The Daily Telegraph and the Times entertained Lord Howe, a junior minister.
During the meal, he spoke critically of Diana's visit to Angola and talked of political interference. After the previous
earthquakes, any subsequent tremors set newspaper telephones ringing. Diana's visit to Angola had created a
If it was causing offence to the Tory government, that doubled its news value. The Telegraph telephoned, advising
me that every line of copy I cared to send from Angola would be welcome.
We had flown to Huambo and were standing in a disconsolate group near a minefield.
Diana approached me. ''A disturbing night,'' I said to her softly. ''Idiot minister,'' she replied succinctly. Shortly
afterwards, the doyen of our press pack approached me, indicating that it was customary to share any crumbs that
fell from the royal table
Had Diana said anything interesting? I visualised the consequences of putting her remark into circulation. ''They
had a disturbed evening,'' I replied cautiously. Half a dozen young men from the Halo Trust group then greeted her
cheerfully and with them she explored a minefield that was being cleared.
The Angola trip was a success and, thanks to the ''idiot minister'', attracted more public attention than it might
otherwise have done. I ended a long summing-up by writing: ''She has this yearning so many of our younger people
have today to take a hand in the world's woes, to tie up wounds, to cherish the afflicted. If the mother of our future
King... feels drawn in that direction, no matter what form it takes, we should stop carping and doubting. We should
Good to her word, Diana intimated her intention to pursue the issue. In the midsummer of 1997 I took the chair for
her and helped draft her speech at a conference on landmines under the auspices of the Mines Advisory Group held
at the Royal Geographical Society in London. She told me she thought we should make another visit overseas that
With the cooperation of Norwegian People's Aid and Landmine Survivors Network from Washington, a three-day
visit was arranged in August. We flew to Sarajevo in a private jet borrowed from George Soros where much of our
time was spent visiting victims of mines.
None of them was quite clear who she was, but all had long and harrowing stories.
Diana allowed at least half an hour for every interview, listened intently to each word, flinched at none of the horror
stories and then, quite often without saying a word, conveyed across the language barrier a depth of feeling that
plainly brought them comfort.
We sat alone with a young widow whose husband had been killed while fishing. With no interpreter very little could
be said. What passed between them is beyond reckoning. When we parted, the widow seemed restored to life. All
this in the middle of a fling with Dodi Fayed.
She was an easy travel companion and between the rather grim interviews found time for small jokes. ''Have a gin
and tonic!'' she would exclaim and then as my eyes lit up would produce from behind her back a bottle of water.
Sitting in the back of a car with her, I often scribbled away at copy, pleading like the photographers, ''I have my job
to do, Ma'am". Every encounter we had left her with something to think about, so she was often content to remain
silent. She made my filing to London painless by allowing me to use her satellite telephone.
We finished our tour by looking round the ruins of Sarajevo. It had suffered cruelly during the Bosnian war, with
mortar bombs falling constantly on the city, and much of its open space had been given over to the burial of the
Diana saw a woman tending her son's grave in one of the huge cemeteries, walked down and embraced her. It
seemed the most natural thing to do. There were no cameras in sight.
Before we left, our Bosnian hosts asked Diana over lunch if she would consider a visit to Stockholm where they
would be discussing an international ban on landmines. I thought it might be politically sensitive and said so. ''You
can write my speech,'' she said.
We agreed to go. Before that month of August ended, she had been killed in a motor accident.
We all have our memories of that day. The BBC called me at home in Kent in the early hours of Sunday morning.
There had been a car accident in Paris. Dodi Fayed was dead. Diana was injured but OK. They were sending a car.
We were five minutes away from Television Centre when the BBC called my driver. ''Does Lord Deedes know that
Diana is dead?'' After the BBC, I spent the rest of the day with The Daily Telegraph in Canary Wharf, writing all the
words they wanted.
It was not until Diana's funeral in Westminster Abbey, on which more words were required, that I fully grasped the
extent of the wounds inflicted in the turmoil of that marriage.
In one sense Diana had died victorious. The public had come to see her not simply as a wronged wife but as an
injured angel. Her sins were not only forgiven her, to many they were endearing. They made her seem human, so
much easier to relate to than the woman who occupied the throne and always put duty first.
The sinners were to be found in the royal circle, where she had had such a hard time, who now seemed reluctant to
lead national mourning for her.
The tabloids had a coup de main reserved for them. Why were flags not at half mast? Where was the mourning such
a loss called for? Why was the Royal Family so reluctant to show that it cared?
There was no way of explaining that there were still some people, the royals among them, who preferred to do their
mourning undemonstratively behind closed curtains. Spurred by the tabloid newspapers, many decided they
wanted the Royal Family to demonstrate its sorrow publicly.
An admirable service, arranged at extremely short notice in Westminster Abbey, was not enough. There had to be
something akin to an act of penance.
Those who had failed to appreciate Diana's shining qualities should feel ashamed and be eating humble pie. Lord
Spencer, who delivered the address, was loudly applauded for implying as much.
While listening to Spencer in the Abbey, my mind crept towards an expression sometimes used by my former boss
at The Daily Telegraph, Lord Hartwell, about articles and speeches of which he did not altogether approve. ''Bit
over the top, I thought,'' he would say.
At the root of Diana's unquiet from the start of this marriage lay the friendship of her husband with Camilla Parker
Bowles. Most people will blame the Prince of Wales for that; others will declare that her obsession was
unreasonable, childish even.
Goodness knows, Queen Alexandra put up with far worse from King Edward VII, but that was a different age. I
think Diana, largely through inexperience, also found the royal entourage oppressive. It is a pretty rarefied
atmosphere and different from anything she had known before, but it was not the main cause of her troubles.
Contrary to public belief, the Queen did her utmost to ease Diana's way.
Come to think of it, was the Queen ever likely to make married life more difficult for her eldest son and heir? She
did what she could to preserve the marriage. The Queen was understanding of Diana's difficulties and for Diana to
imply otherwise, as she sometimes did with loose talk about ''them'', was mischievous.
I always thought it unlucky that Diana's outstanding gifts for sharing grief and for bringing peace of mind to the
disadvantaged somehow got lost in palace corridors and the tumult of that marriage.
Given more opportunity to display that side, things might just have turned out differently. Paradoxically, it was not
until after her marriage had hit the shoals and wild impulses had driven Diana into inexplicable follies that her gifts
began to shine forth.
Shortly before her death she had set sail on a fresh course. Who can tell where that voyage might have borne her? "