The fault was in their stars, perhaps, but the doomed relationship between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer is one of the saddest Royal marriage stories ever told.
And told it has been, over and over, by friends, journalists, employees and, not least, by the unhappy couple themselves. Three people in that marriage? There were always far more than that.
Describing a Royal reality disturbingly reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, C4’s Diana: In Her Own Words featured video shot at Kensington Palace by the voice coach she had asked to help improve her presentation skills as she contemplated forging a new role in public life.
There was surprisingly little of this video footage, rather more personal observation and archive material, including from Diana’s 1995 BBC1 Panorama interview.
Still, it was thought-provoking. We were reminded of their odd engagement interview, as Charles pondered what being in love means. “It traumatised me,” Diana said. We revisited their marriage vows, both looking and sounding so forlorn, completely out of kilter with the celebrating crowds outside St Paul’s. “This is the stuff of which fairytales are made,” intoned the Archbishop in his strangely prescient prayer, adding that Royal couples on their wedding day “stand for the truth that we help to shape this world, and are not just its victims”.
Diana refused to be a victim. She made her distress and anger known, she turned to the people for support and sympathy. She divided opinion then and continues to do so now, her sanity and parenting skills still questioned. Before she died, some within “the establishment” appeared to believe that if she couldn’t put up and shut up, she must be mad, and should be dealt with accordingly.
Sinister, yes, but so much has changed since then. Look at our fresh Royals, William and Kate, equal and happy. Diana’s legacy … perhaps.
Yet, 20 years on, there is a different, equally sinister, undercurrent as social media enables all of us, in a click, to add our judgement, condemnation and hatred to this and every sad story.
What unites Diana and Camilla, apart from Charles, is the misogyny and vitriol they both continue to inspire from a society that despises any woman it perceives as getting above herself, or trying to shape this world. Diana is still branded delusional and manipulative for telling her story; Camilla is viewed with suspicion for not telling hers.
As the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death approaches, it is time to listen with kindness and an open heart to all sad stories.