July 12, 2004 12:00 PM

Andrew Morton’s 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story rocked the Windsors’ world with its revelations—supplied by Diana herself—of bulimia, suicide attempts and Prince Charles’s infidelity. Now, in Diana: In Pursuit of Love, Morton sheds new light on the princess’s quest for a soulmate.

In December 1993, Diana made a tearful speech in which she asked to be allowed “time and space” away from her official duties. But there was another reason for her decision. Separated from Prince Charles the previous year, she was in love.

Her secret four-year relationship with art dealer Oliver Hoare was to leave her with a bruised ego, a damaged reputation and a broken heart. “It was very, very painful for her,” recalled her astrologer Debbie Frank. An Old Etonian and art connoisseur, Hoare, then 48, moved in cultured circles. “He is a bit of a sybarite, not in the bad sense, but he likes to live well and not make a huge effort,” a friend said of him. He and his heiress wife Diane were part of the inner royal circle who were aware of Charles’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. To begin with, Diana turned to Hoare for advice and comfort—and to tease information out of him about Camilla and Charles.

For two years, Di had been “besotted” with Hoare, Morton writes. The two met at friends’ homes or at Di’s gym.

According to her trainer Carolan Brown, Hoare “would come over and try and kiss or touch her. He was openly flirtatious and she would push him away with her hand. She made it clear that she was having an affair with him.”

Diana told her friend Lady Bowker that she fantasized about leaving England and buying a house in Italy with the art dealer. She talked gaily of having two daughters to match William and Harry. It was not a one-way street: In October 1993, Hoare had left his wife and moved into a friend’s apartment.

Diana panicked:

The rules of the game had been altered. Once Hoare became available, “she was terrified,” a friend of hers declared. Her emotional life had the quality of a self-fulfilling prophecy; she would desperately seek love, certain that she could not be loved, and if love was offered she would back away and even provoke rejection.

Diana admitted to her old friend, physician and surgeon James Colthurst, who worked with her on Her True Story, that she was intimidated and nauseated if a man became too ardent. “As soon as they say someone is madly in love with you, it’s absolutely repulsive,” she told Colthurst.

By January 1994, Hoare was back at home with his wife.

Di was haunted by the fact that Charles’s illicit relationship was enduring. While collaborating with Morton, she had unearthed love letters from Camilla. Morton writes:

We needed proof of Diana’s assertions that her husband was engaged in a long-term affair. The Princess rummaged through her husband’s briefcase and came across letters and saucy postcards from Camilla. It was evident that Camilla, who called Charles “my most precious darling,” was a woman whose love remained undimmed. I recall the lengths to which Camilla went to contact Charles, on one occasion writing to him while secreted away in a lavatory. One vivid passage read, “My heart and body both ache for you.” She reminisced about a “magical night” at a friend’s country house. “I dread the acting part,” she wrote, referring to a lunch where she, with her husband in tow, was to join Prince Charles.

In one letter, Camilla outlined the dates when she was available while her husband and children were away. Camilla advised Charles to erase guilt and rise above “the onslaughts of that ridiculous creature”—clearly a reference to Diana. Calling herself “your devoted old bag,” she reminded the Prince that she loved him above all others.

Determined to exert her power, Di set her sights on England rugby captain Will Carling.

“I bet I could get Will Carling to ask me out,” the Princess said in a lighthearted aside a few months before Carling’s June 1994 marriage to TV presenter Julia Smith. “I might be able to stop that marriage happening.”

“She was naive,” commented Brown. “Basically living her life backwards because she had had no experience of dating. She would flirt outrageously with him. But when he asked her out, she said no.” According to a former employee of Carling’s, “he did run around her like a puppy dog. It was pretty pathetic.”

Frequent calls, specially installed private phone lines, secret meetings and nicknames—Diana would jokingly answer the phone as “Mrs. Carling” to the man she called “Captain”—these all made up some furtive agenda. “She didn’t like being out of a relationship,” says Brown. “She needed constant reassurance that she was loved.”

The relationship hit the headlines in August 1995, and Carling and his new wife separated the following month. In the meantime, Di had focused on Pakistani-born heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, whom she met when she was visiting a friend’s husband in a hospital. She had little in common with the unmarried physician, but love was blind.

“He’s drop-dead gorgeous” were her first words.

“I would say it was love at first sight,” said her friend. “She was so overwhelmed it can only have been a soul encounter.”

Khan was in many respects an incongruous suitor—overweight, a heavy smoker and a beer drinker, with only a surgeon’s salary. Overlooking his flaws was “a sign of her devotion,” noted Frank. “The lenience of a woman in love.” Frank also pointed out: “It was the first time in her life that she actually admired the man she was involved with for the work that he did. He cared so much for other people, and that resonated with her.”

Diana took to wearing some form of camouflage when she and Khan ventured out, often a wig designed by her hairdresser. She dined with her boyfriend in an anonymous fish-and-chip shop near his flat. Works on the Koran joined the small mountain of books in what she called her “knowledge corner” in her sitting room.

Diana introduced him to William and Harry, harbouring dreams of becoming “Mrs. Khan” and, apparently, of having a “beautiful brown baby girl” she planned to call Allegra.

Inevitably, however, there were tensions.

A certain “Dr. Armani” would bombard Khan with calls while her butler was regularly sent to the hospital with letters. On several occasions she became tearful because Khan couldn’t come to the phone as he was operating.

In November 1996 the media caught on; Di let it be known that the idea of a romance with Khan was laughable.

Khan felt that her denial rather debased him and their relationship. She was, after all, divorced and entitled to admit to a relationship with a new man. With a weary inevitability, the couple drifted apart….

Dodi Fayed, son of controversial Harrods owner Mohammed al-Fayed, was Diana’s last lover.

When she saw pictures of the two of them together, Diana’s former astrologer, Penny Thornton, observed, “You could see quite clearly that she was not only in love but in lust. Every woman in the world could see that she was having great sex.”

Generous and lethargic, Dodi was known for his beautiful manners. Like his father, Dodi lived a life of exaggerated security, surrounding himself with surveillance cameras and bodyguards. He and his father carried their precautions to such an extreme that before they had a meal, they had their plates wiped with lime to detect arsenic.

A dilettante who coproduced the occasional film, Dodi was more popular with women than with men.

“He was nice but monumentally unserious,” in the opinion of producer David Puttnam, who worked with him during the filming of Chariots of Fire. “Kind,” “thoughtful,” “sweet” and “sympathetic” were epithets used by his female admirers, who included Brooke Shields and Mimi Rogers.

Diana confided to Father Frank Gelli, her parish priest, that she was in love with Dodi and asked whether she could marry a Muslim in the Church of England. At the same time, she shrugged off the liaison to friends who were dubious about Dodi.

“She was so happy, so very much in love,” Gelli said. “I honestly believe if they were alive today, they would be married.”

But as Diana holidayed with Dodi aboard the Fayed yacht, her friend Teddy Forstmann phoned her and asked “what the hell she was playing at.” As a friend of Forstmann explained: “He is very protective of people he cares about and he thought that Diana could do much better than Dodi.” The Princess placated him by saying that the romance was a “summer fling.” It appears that the Princess was telling her friends what they wanted to hear, depending on their take on the romance.

Clearly, however, Dodi knew how to satisfy her cravings.

Diana, by turns needy and demanding, was now with a man who had all the time in the world for her. “She liked the feeling of having someone who not only so obviously cared for her, but was not afraid to be seen doing so,” said her friend Rosa Monckton.

“I have been so spoilt, so taken care of, all the things that I never, ever had,” the Princess told Lady Bowker.

Might the Princess have married her lover? Morton writes that Di said during the courtship:

“I understand why Jackie married Onassis. She felt alone and in need of protection—I often feel like that.”

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