6 SEPTEMBER 1997, Page 46

High life

We shall remember


Athens A in the death of JFK, we shall all remember our whereabouts when the terri- ble news came about the Princess of Wales. I happened to be with Jeremy Menuhin, the wonderful concert pianist son of Lord Menuhin. A common friend of ours had just remonstrated with me about my friend- ship with Princess Diana. 'Everyone is dis- gusted by the way you went from one side to the other,' he said, or words to that effect.

When I challenged him to name names he refused, but nevertheless burst into tears when later on I informed him of the accident. It was par for the course. One moment he was vociferous in his condem- nation of Diana, the next he was crying over her death.

My own conversion took place as soon as I met her. I was seated at a charity party when John Somerset came over to my table and said that the Princess wished to meet me. A German woman friend warned me that if I went over she would never speak to me again. `Auf wiedersehen,' was all I said. The trouble was it was late and I was quite drunk. When Princess Diana motioned for me to sit down next to her, I missed the seat and ended up on my knees. My genuflection did not go unnoticed. She burst into uncontrolled laughter.

After that it was very simple. I began to worship the ground she walked on. I had originally attacked her in print following the Andrew Morton book. Those who encouraged me to do so were not necessar- ily against her, they were trying to score Brownie points with the Prince of Wales. There was only one problem. I do not think the Prince wished it. Neither he nor Diana ever uttered a single word against each other. It was always those trying to curry favour who stirred the you know what.

Private conversations are, of course, to be kept private, so I will write only of my impressions of Princess Diana. Basically, I thought she was terribly lonely. In fact, she sat night after night, year after year, all alone in Kensington Palace watching televi- sion. If that's a life for a beautiful, desir- able and vibrant young woman, I'm Pamela Harriman. Mind you, the vermin did not help. They made sure she had privacy only behind the Palace doors, as long as she didn't go too near a window, that is.

The hounding of Diana was a terrible thing. I realised how unfair and horrible it was the two or three times she came to my house for dinner. I had told her that I hoped the filth who were hounding her would not follow her to my house. The last thing I needed were paparazzi outside my door. She managed to shake them off and I'm not about to write how — but it took literally an hour to do so. As well as a change of cars. Now what kind of life is one that involves having to play hide and seek for an hour in order to have a simple din- ner with friends?

The last thing I want to do is to write about Diana as an insider. I was nothing of the kind. I was a recent friend who made her laugh. She enjoyed my prison book and wrote kind, very warm letters. Happiness had eluded her throughout her life. She never complained, never spoke against those who undermined her, but she didn't exactly go quietly into the night. She chose to live in the fast lane once separated from her husband, thus becoming the icon of our age and the first superstar princess. She also became the stuff of Greek tragedy.