I never thought I was the type of person to lose a friendship over a member of the Royal Family, being a hardline feminist and staunch Republican, but that is what happned to me in 2005. I wrote atongue-in-cheek article about why I fancied Camilla more than I ever did Diana, saying, “Diana was a playgirl who loved glamour, money and playboys and was neither feminist nor republican.”
On the day of publication I received an email from my friend Julie Burchill, the writer and controversialist, in which she ranted and railed about my disloyalty to the People’s Princess, whom Burchill loved.
My reply ended with the words, ‘To be honest, Julie, words fail me, and I trust that I will never hear from you again.’
It took two years for Burchill and I to speak again, and during that time, when hilariously recounting our spat to others, I asked friends and colleagues if they had also experienced any major arguments or falling-out over Diana. The topic provokes very strong feeling, including within feminism. It is not surprising that feminists have something to say about Diana. Burchill, and another great campaigner for women’s equality, Beatrix Campbell, both wrote books about the tragic princess, with Campbell claiming that Diana, “detonated the ‘magic’ and ‘myths’ of the Royal Family. It was sexual politics, above all, that ignited a new wave of Republican feeling.”
Bea and I disagree quite vehemently on this issue, and have had a few wine-fuelled rows about it over the years. I put out a request for other examples on social media and this is a fraction of what came back.
“There was this incident over the accidental breaking of a memorial plate,” Eve, an Australian feminist told me. “Everyone survived.”
Rosie tells me her grandmother fell out with everyone at New Year’s Eve once when someone said ‘she was a bit mental’. “Went totally batshit and ended up in tears.”
For Anna, falling out over Diana was about whether you hated the Royal Family or not. “Republicans loved Diana because she seemed to pose a threat to the institution,” she says, “which was rubbish, because she was a big part of it. Had she been happy with Charles, there would have been no better trumpet-blower for the Royal Family than Diana.”
Alison says “I am intrigued by the whole cultish worship of her but was never a fan. I thought she was a very unpleasant manipulative narcissist, but being married to a Windsor is enough to send anyone over the edge. Fell out with her friends left, right and centre. But I doubt anyone could have withstood the intense scrutiny she was under.”
“My stepfather lost his cleaner over Diana”, says Will. “He said to her that he thought Princess Diana was awful and hated her interview saying she wanted to be queen of people’s hearts. He said Princess Anne did much more work with much less publicity for good causes. The next time the cleaner turned up, she brought back some books he had leant her and said “Princess Di was LOVE” and walked out, never to be seen again.”
Jean did not just lose a friend over Diana, but her also her lover. “I was dumped because I slept instead of grieving for Diana all night!” says Jean. “It was ridiculous. We had been up really late and saw that Diana had died on the news. We were shocked and upset, of course but I was desperate for sleep. That was not good enough for her. Apparently, we were supposed to be glued to CNN, watching different angle shots of the same tunnel and listening to commentators conjecturing, whilst mourning and weeping through the whole night.”
Lilly tells me she was “stunned speechless” by her own unexpected grief when she heard of Diana’s death. “When I read Germaine Greer’s The Whole Woman, she speculated that so many women worldwide were affected because Diana’s global public image was of the ‘Scorned Woman’ archetype, and many, many women identified with the ‘Scorned Woman’, consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously.”
I have returned to the Diana topic since 2005. One day in 2011 I noticed how my dog Maisie’s eyes are just like Diana’s in the infamous “there were three of us in this marriage” interview, and wrote ashort, funny piece about it. I was deluged with complaints about this piece, which was clearly meant to be funny, not disrespectful. This just goes to show how much passion Diana still evokes.