By Michael Neill
April 14, 1997 12:00 PM


When Princess Diana dispensed with her personal bodyguards in 1994, it brought her a welcome increase in freedom. The downside seems to be an increased risk of public unpleasantness. Witness the incident on Easter Monday when, in a situation her bodyguards might have finessed, she took on photographer Brendan Beirne, who had stationed himself outside the Earls Court Gym, where Di works out. As she was leaving, she spotted Beirne and, by all accounts, went ballistic. (She later protested his “distressing intrusion” into her privacy.) “She ran across the road and confronted me,” says Beirne. “I was backing off and she was coming towards me, trying to get the camera.” That’s when a passing Galahad—in real life, 28-year-old Kevin Duggan, who works in the hotel industry—got into the act, putting Beirne in an arm-lock while Diana ripped the film from his camera. Beirne, who won the Nikon award for royal photography in 1995, says he has had it with the Di beat. “It’s just too much aggravation,” he says.


As part of their Easter vacation, Princes William and Harry followed in the boot-prints of countless British adventurers by heading to East Africa on safari. The royal party—about 15 in all—started on March 21 at Kenya’s luxurious Kiwayu Safari Village. Then it was off with Prince Charles (who joined them on March 28) to the Selous Game Preserve in Tanzania—and possibly back to the Aber-dare Mountains in Kenya, where Charles once traveled with the late mystic Sir Laurens van der Post, his mentor. “He has always wanted to share a safari with his sons,” says Peter Archer, royal correspondent for Britain’s Press Association. “He has always taken the boys on holidays where they have to wear a blazer or tweed jacket. This breaks the mold.” In Africa, too, Wills should be safe from a mystery thief who has been snatching the name tags from his underwear at Eton. The suspicion is that, given his heartthrob status, HRH’s BVDs are being targeted by souvenir hunters.


The Duchess of York, who cleared her $7.1 million debt by putting her name to children’s books and hustling her memoirs, will make her debut as a newspaper columnist on April 18, when the New York Times Syndicate will begin to offer her weekly columns to 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and abroad. Her collaborator will be Jeff Coplon, who ghost-wrote her autobiography My Story. According to Howard Ruben-stein, her public relations rep, Fergie’s topics will include children’s issues and charity work. (Her fee was not revealed.) Fleet Street reacted cynically. “It’s a joke to think that she’s now a journalist,” says a royal watcher.