Thinking about Channel 4’s Princess Diana Tapes
I personally hope we will all turn over from Channel 4 on Thursday evening and not watch the programme on the Princess Diana tapes. It seems to me such an intrusion of privacy and likely to cause hurt and harm to those close to her, namely her sons. We already know that she was a flawed human being but then surely we are all flawed to some extent, aren’t we? Don’t we all make mistakes? Don’t we all, over a lifetime, do the odd thing of which we are not proud? Maybe say something we shouldn’t have said, pass on gossip we should have kept to ourselves, mixed with someone we know we should have kept a distance from? Don’t we all spend a little time of our lives in the wilderness? Would we want our dirty linen aired in public – and especially in front of our children?
Of course she was part of the Royal family and so there are aspects of her life that are in the interests of history but is how often she and Prince Charles had sex really that relevant for future historians? The interest feels like prurience to me.
In my experience, in my own life and in the lives of those with whom I have had the honour of working, we tend to make more mistakes when we are unhappy, or lonely. I think there is plentiful evidence that the moment Diana walked into the Royal family she was isolated and unsupported. Her family life at home was fragmented and so where were her anchors? I don’t find it at all surprising that she looked for love in other places and often in the wrong places.
A key principle of cognitive-behavioural psychology is to accept that we are all fallible. That there is no perfect life, no perfect person, no perfect way of being or living one’s life. The principle is that there are many shades of grey, in life and in people. Rather than black or white judgements we seek to help clients to find perspective and balance, so as to be able to forgive themselves and others and move on with their lives in greater confidence and strength.
There is no hero or heroine alive now or in history who did not have a dark side as well as a light one. Diana inevitably had strengths and touched many people around the world. Perhaps we can also accept that she, like any one of us, had faults but that doesn’t take away any goodness she might have done. It just makes her human.
I was in Venice with my two sons the day she died. They are a couple of years older than William and Harry. The nature of her death shocked us all and, as a mother of sons, seeing the young boys grieve while having to remain public figures was poignant. Their and the Royal family’s confusion at the outpouring of grief was visible and unsurprising. It was an extraordinary response. People were crying, pin-striped suited men carried flowers to Kensington Palace, you couldn’t walk across Kensington Gardens for flowers and candle vigils. I shall never forget the atmosphere in London in those weeks – a silence seemed to take over the City, a stillness. It was a strange feeling that I don’t think can be explained easily other than that something in her death and the bereavement of those boys touched a part of our own grief. These feelings were mirrored across the world.
But her public persona doesn’t give us a right to her private life. Whether you were moved by her or not surely we can respect any human being sufficiently not to want to expose their deepest secrets? She did not make those tapes for publication. William and Harry have already been exposed to Prince Charles’ tapes and the slanging match of divorce. Anyone who has divorced knows that there is a period of time when one tries to justify one’s own position. Most of us wouldn’t want these intimate details to be shared in public and especially not to our children.
Those young men experienced the trauma of losing a mother, a sudden tragic death. Can we not respect and empathise with them enough now to request that Channel 4 not show the programme on Thursday? And if they continue to do so, then simply to switch off?