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Diana began to sink after the divorce. She felt she had nowhere to go, no one to share her miseries with. She had cut off Simone Simmons. She was not on speaking terms with her mother— Frances Shand Kydd, sadly, had become a drunk. She had lost her driver’s license in 1996 after failing a Breathalyzer test. She told someone close to her that she had bicycled to a friend’s funeral and, because it started to rain, hitched a ride home in the hearse. She was increasingly indiscreet about the royal family, referring to them as “German dwarfs,” and said the Queen’s dresses looked like something from the Red Cross. Frances infuriated Diana by giving a paid interview to Hello! magazine in May 1997 in which she innocently remarked that her daughter’s loss of her H.R.H. title was “absolutely wonderful,” since it allowed her to find her own identity. More seriously, she angered the Princess with the ferocity of her objection to her daughter’s relationship with Hasnat Khan—”a Pakistani and a Muslim.” Diana cut her off after that. Frances’s letters apologizing to her were returned unopened.
Increasingly lonely, Diana became unhealthily dependent on Paul Burrell. His busybody influence only fueled her various paranoias. “He didn’t like anybody he thought was closer or had more access to her,” says Mervyn Wycherley, Diana’s former chef. Burrell had hardened her attitude to Fergie too. A friend of the duchess says Burrell whispered to Diana that Fergie, on her book tour in the United States, was using her relationship with the Princess to get publicity. In fairness, it was the TV interviewers, not Fergie, who kept bringing Diana’s name up.
In bad periods like this, the insecure Diana felt watched and spied on. She had her rooms at Kensington Palace twice swept for bugs. On a trip to Rome with her Argentinean friend Roberto Devorik, she startled him with her violent suspicions. A portrait of Prince Philip hanging on the wall evoked an outburst: “He hates me. He really hates me and would like to see me disappear.” She would wind up dead in a fake accident, she told Devorik.
“I am a threat in their eyes. They only use me when they need me for official functions and then they drop me again in the darkness.… They are not going to kill me by poisoning me or in a big plane, where others will get hurt. They will do it when I am in a small plane, in a car when I am driving, or in a helicopter.”
Devorik asked her why anyone should want to kill her. If she was so afraid, why didn’t she travel with a bodyguard, still available to her from the royal protection squad? She told him she thought they spied on her. She was fed up with being followed around.
“She saw the protectors as assailants,” Clive James noted. “It seemed she would rather have gone down in a hail of broken glass than live in fear.”
Diana did live in fear, but it wasn’t death she was afraid of. It was the thought of being dropped again in the darkness, as she put it to Devorik. She had carried that darkness inside her since she was a child. She had always fought it with her dazzle. Now more than ever, she feared being left alone in the dark.
“Roberto, you are so naïve,” she told him. “Don’t you see, they took my H.R.H. title and now they are slowly taking my kids? They are now letting me know when I can have the children.”
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Diana’s feeling of being marginalized was most intense as August approached. The boys disappeared into the heathery wilds of Balmoral, and they loved it. After her divorce from the Prince of Wales, invitations to similar secluded aristocratic estates with shooting for the boys did not gush forth, and she was not inclined to ask her brother for help. With her, William and Harry were stuck in London or harassed at Disney World or forced to behave themselves at some nouveau riche billionaire’s country mansion. She told the writer Shirley Conran that she felt that nothing she could offer William and Harry as a vacation could compete with Balmoral. “They do all those manly, killing things,” she said, “and there’s that wonderful go-cart track.”
The propinquity of Eton to Windsor meant William had forged a close bond with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Sometimes in the evening the boy would go for a walk in Windsor Great Park with Prince Philip, eagerly responding to his grandfather’s tough code and sense of humor, which Prince Charles had always scorned. Having failed with his own son, Philip saw William as the boy he had always wished he’d had. They shared a passion for military history. It pleased Diana, but it also made her jealous. William was her closest confidant. “She told me she had with her son William very private and very profound conversations,” Roberto Devorik said, “and he was an extraordinary moral support.” William was older than his years, burdened as much by his mother’s confidences as by his future responsibilities; she had taken him through the divorce terms before she agreed to them. She began including him in some of her lunches at Kensington Palace with the press.
“All my hopes are on William now,” she told me. “I’m hoping he will grow up to be as smart about handling the media as John Kennedy Jr.” But William was not John F. Kennedy’s son. He was the heir to the British throne. However much William might look like her and smile like her, he belonged as surely to Prince Charles and the Crown as to Lady Diana Spencer—perhaps more. Inevitably, William would have to become Windsorized. As England’s future King, it was his destiny.