When Princess Diana was desperate to get her story out, she turned to one writer: Andrew Morton. His book, Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words, was a blockbuster, and completely changed how people saw both the princess and the royal family. And until she died, Morton kept Diana’s involvement a secret.
Morton reflects on Diana’s life and enduring legacy in the TLC documentary, Princess Diana: Tragedy or Treason?. He spoke about what it was like to secretly access the innermost thoughts of the most famous woman in the world—and how her life and death changed the face of the royal family.
Morton says as a reporter, he had met Diana on a few occasions but did not know her well. He did know her friend, James Colthurst, and when she was looking for a trusted author, she picked Morton in part because he was an independent writer. Because he was not affiliated with a newspaper, television station or radio station, her message wouldn’t be filtered through a media outlet. And before she went with him, she tested him. “She filtered out some information and I was able to write a story about it,” he says. “And it gave her a sense of control in a life that was out of control. What I didn’t realize, what nobody realized, was how desperate she was to get her story out.”
Her participation in the book was a secret—and it almost got out.
Diana recorded herself on tape and transmitted the audio to Morton through Colthurst, so she had deniability with the royal family. Technically, she could honestly tell the Queen she never spoke to Morton for the book. Diana actually did try to meet with Morton one time, but they almost got caught. “We did make an arrangement to see one another for dinner once, and she was followed by paparazzi who hung around at the end of the street where we were due to meet, so we canceled it,” he said. “It was too dangerous.” If the palace had found out Diana was the source for Morton’s book, “it would have just blown everything sky high,” Morton says.
Prince Harry sticks out his tongue on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 1988.
Diana had a terrific sense of humor.
In Morton’s view, not enough people take the time to talk about how funny Diana was, and instead focus on the tragedy and drama of her life. But William and Harry recently spoke out about how funny their mother was, from playing practical jokes to giving them sweets to hide under their shirts. “The focus, until William and Harry spoke, it was always making Diana out to be a rather gloomy, depressive character. She wasn’t,” Morton says. “She was amused by life, and the tapes that I’ve got, there’s a lot of humour in them. That’s one of the elements that’s always missing. But Diana never took herself too seriously.”
Her desire for freedom threatened her safety.
Princess Diana ended up declining royal protection after her divorce. “One of the things she used to talk about all the time was the fact that she wanted to travel light, without a bodyguard. She felt that she could do everything herself,” he says. “She did find it intrusive because she couldn’t speak to who she wanted or do what she wanted when she knew that someone else was in the car listening.” But some say if she had a bodyguard the night of her death, she would have been warned to put on her seatbelt—and that could have saved her life.
Princess Diana: Tragedy or Treason focuses on many conspiracy theories surrounding her tragic death. And though multiple investigations have debunked them, people still hold on to their ideas of what really happened to Diana. Morton thinks this is because of how she was treated when she was alive. “In a way, she was kind of conned by the establishment,” he says. “When you look at her life, she was being told throughout her adult life—from the age of 20 until the separation—that her husband’s relationship with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was just perfectly platonic, a friendship.”
But Morton shrugs off one particular detail conspiracy theorists latch onto: that she wrote a letter saying Charles was going to kill her, and a car accident would be involved. “While I was writing the book, Fergie was often in touch with Diana about all kinds of messages and prognostications from [astrologers],” he says. “So I often wonder, if she was so concerned about car crashes, and she was, why on earth didn’t she wear a seatbelt that night?”
Diana would be like Jackie O if she were still alive.
Before she died, Diana was working on separating herself from her royal life, “not as a princess of Wales but as a princess for the world,” Morton says. “The nearest parallel I can think of is Jackie Onassis.” She was focusing on her humanitarian work and wanted to use her leverage for good in the world. But at the same time, she was looking for a stable relationship, and was heartbroken when her relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan ended. “Like Jackie Onassis, it was very difficult to find someone who would fit the bill, someone who was prepared to accept that level of intrusion and focus,” he says.
Diana with Prince William and Prince Harry in 1995.
William has carried on Diana’s legacy—and some wish he were king next.
Prince William and Prince Harry are both incredibly popular royals, and that’s in a big part thanks to their mother. “William seems to incorporate the best of Diana and the best of the queen,” Morton says.” [He’s] cautious, thoughtful, stoic on one part of it, which is traditionally royal, but sensitive, human, and accessible on the other, which is very Diana.”
But Diana’s popularity has led many onlookers to wish the monarchy would skip Charles and go straight to William. “I think most people just see the next reign, the reign of King Charles III, [as] an interregnum, and the continuity of the monarchy will take place with William,” he says. “Quite frankly, for the last 25 years, that’s been the drumbeat beneath the melody playing inside the monarchy, to skip a generation. That’s not going to happen, but it does mean that Charles is not going to have the same sort of support and authority as the queen.”
From: ELLE USA