The Princess of Wales continues to bedazzle Britain and the world. Millions oohed at the pictures of her princely progeny, William, born June 21. But the crush of affection and fascination, says the premier palace watcher, Nigel Dempster of London’s Daily Mail, is too much for her. Diana, he contends, “lacks the intellectual backing to deal with it.” Here’s his report on her royal growing pains.
Marriages made in heaven must come down to earth sometime. For Prince Charles and Diana, that sometime is now.
People close to Prince Charles admit that the royal family is concerned about its newlyweds. “Quite simply, Diana freaked out,” says one member of her inner circle. “Those stuffy rituals that royalty must perform became too much for her.” Other acquaintances claim she has tried to rule Charles’ life. “Diana,” says one, “has become more royal than the Queen.”
Now 21, Diana has banished from her home many of her 34-year-old husband’s lady friends (and two of Charles’ valets). One evening she walked out in the middle of a dinner for her husband’s polo chums, saying that she had “never been so bored.”
In October, when Charles and Diana were at Balmoral, the weather was so appalling they could not even go on walks. Charles thoughtfully had her friends flown up to take her mind off the elements, but Diana demanded that they return to London.
Last month Britain’s tabloids speculated that the Princess was suffering from anorexia nervosa, the weight-loss obsession. Although Diana is very thin and is watching her diet, she is not anorexic. She simply follows the axiom that has been attributed to the Duchess of Windsor: “No woman can be too rich or too thin.”
Friends say that Diana has had to grow up too quickly. Only two years ago she was an ordinary, if privileged, teenager, bicycling to work at a fashionable London kindergarten in jeans and scuffed shoes. Now she is followed by photographers, whose unrelenting attention sometimes bothers her. Psychiatric help for Diana reportedly has been discussed to guide her through the difficult times ahead, as it did for the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. “She needs at least six months free from personal scrutiny by the press,” says an aide.
It might have been better, palace officials admit privately, if Diana had been allowed a few years to settle down with Charles before they had children. But the popular demand to provide an heir to the throne won the day. Now she is destined to spend the next 15 years with children around. There was a disagreement at the palace over whether William would be allowed to accompany his parents on their tour of Australia this spring. Diana wanted him along, persevered, and the Queen finally agreed. (When the heir is older, William and Charles may have to take separate planes.)
Diana’s position as Princess of Wales seemed for a while to have gone to her head. Her extravagant shopping sprees—racking up an estimated $150,000 to $250,000 a year for clothes—began to offend a doting British public. (Recently she has taken to recycling some of her old clothes.) Diana is often accompanied to the stores by her mother, Mrs. Frances Shand Kydd, clearly the most influential person in her life. When Mrs. Shand Kydd’s first marriage, to Earl Spencer, ended in 1969, she lost custody of her four children and was shunned by the Establishment. Diana’s new independence may reflect her mother’s distaste for the world that dumped her.
Diana knew what she was getting into and for much of 1982 was rebelling against it. After she felt the sting of bad press, though, Diana summoned a new lease of enthusiasm and booked a schedule which for a time was busier than her husband’s—e.g., visiting a hospital and attending a ballet gala and the premiere of E.T. She still has the style and the spunk that make the Britons who come out to see her say, “You’re beautiful, luv.”