If any thinking person suffered the illusion that the British monarchy was anything other than a kind of cheap floor show at a gambling casino to sucker foreign tourists into supporting the island's Gross National Product (GNP), Andrew Morton dispels it in "Diana, Her True Story," based largely on the confessions of Lady Diana Spencer herself to the author.
Morton makes clear that Diana indeed was part of one of the greatest love stories ever told. Unfortunately it was the love story between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, with Diana in a supporting role as an unintended voyeur. Morton also makes clear that the Prince's love for and relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles was constant, without interruption, and his courtship of Diana, their royal marriage, and the birth of their sons William and Harry, were merely sideshows for public consumption, while in his real life he snuck out to see Camilla, hunted, played polo, and went on about his royal rounds.
The book's only weakness, in my judgment, is its slim size. I was taken aback to find it merely 160 pages, astonishingly slender, for such an interesting subject. And nearly 30 of those pages is occupied by photographs of Diana. Yet the photographs, many taken by Diana and her friends, turns out to be the truest picture of the late Princess, as it shows her in friendly and intimate moments and not posing at royal occasions.
This is, of course, Diana's side of the story, but Morton makes a compelling case that Charles was a mean cad who ridiculed Diana at every turn, had no patience for the pains of her bulimia, although he did send her to an army of psychiatrists after she attempted suicide at least five times, constantly criticized what clothes she wore, and consistently admonished whatever she said in public. Like most people who eventually succeed at speaking and appearing in public, Diana was in truth very shy. Yet when she mastered the art, the diminutive Prince Charles, who stands around 5 feet four, was jealous that his much taller Princess, who stood more than 5 feet ten, became far more popular. Indeed, left alone essentially without a husband, Diana turned to her public.
Diana, Morton vividly illustrates, was loved by the public because she truly loved people. Long before she was dragged out of obscurity to serve as the birther of a royal heir, she had dropped out of high school to take care of children, had a particular affinity with the sick which would reach its crescendo of public attention with dying AIDS patients and victims of land mine accidents.
Because of her genuine kindness and affinity for public duty, Princess Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales to her death after her divorce from Charles, emerges from these pages as a kind of champion of the egalitarian Britain of the Greatest Generation, and a contrast to the greedy English speaking world policies launched by Margaret Thatcher, which slashed the safety net for most working people, while it increased the billion dollar holdings of the wealthy, such as the royal family. It led to the greatest concentration of income at the top in modern history, and the after effects still paralyze the international banking system and the retirement security of the English, Americans, Australians, and to a lesser extent, the Canadians.
But what the heck. Princess Diana is dead and Prince Charles still hunts and plays polo.
[Hansen Alexander is author of "The Death of Chauvinism," a comic novel, and "An Introduction to the Laws of the United States in the 21rst Century," an Amazon, e-book exclusive.]