Is it me, or is the Diana inquest turning into a long slow public humiliation for Mohammed al Fayed?
The Stevens report concluded that there was no conspiracy, and was damning in the number and quality of the details on which it based its conclusions. No – she wasn’t pregnant. No – she wasn’t going to marry Dodi. Yes – the French medical and post mortem professionals had all behaved professionally and – yes – Henri Paul was drunk. Accidents happen, and marrying royalty doesn’t change the laws of physics.
But though it was impressive to read the details of the Stevens report, it had nothing like the effect of the slow drip-feed of partial, personal, idiosyncratic evidence coming out of the inquest. It’s a compelling glimpse into the lives of the idle rich; lives cluttered with drivers and body-guards and butlers and spiritual healers and other odd and trashy acolytes.
Everybody seems to have been using everybody else; al Fayed was using Diana for headlines and glory, Diana was using Dodi to provoke Hasnat Kahn, Dodi was using his father to bank-roll his wooing of Diana, Diana was using al Fayed to sponsor her charities, al Fayed was using the press to puff up his own importance, the Press were using Diana to sell newspapers, and Diana was using the press to publicise her affair with Dodi. It’s almost as if al Fayed was buying Diana, with Dody as his proxy. Ach, that’s my imagination. Like everyone else, I am over-egging a summer fling.
So far we have discovered:
- Diana thought that al Fayed was bugging the yacht
- Diana thought that al Fayed was tipping off the press about her movements
- Diana was on the pill for the whole of that summer
- Diana’s letters to Prince Philip were articulate and thoughtful, but her letters to Dodi were inanely polite
We already knew:
- The photographs supposedly showing Diana was pregnant were taken before she was in a relationship with Dodi
- al Fayed regularly over-ruled the advice from his security staff, in particular on the night of the 31st August
- al Fayed employed a chauffeur who was known to be an aggressive driver, who was an habitual drinker and who had drunk a lot of alcohol that night
- al Fayed approved the plan to leave from the back of the building
Two inescapable sub-texts come from the press coverage of the inquest: al Fayed was beside himself with excitement at the idea of ensnaring Diana as a trophy daughter-in-law, and he strutted around Paris and the Med overruling his professional advisers, showing off his tin-pot entourage which did not have the numbers or professionalism to be up to the job.
I still feel sorry for al Fayed because, as the details come out day by irritating day, it’s clear that he was the one whose decisions more than anyone else’s brought about his son’s death, and it’s equally clear that he has spent the last ten years blaming everyone else. But there’s another picture emerging from the inquest, a picture of a greedy opportunist, bullying his staff, exploiting his family and their friends, manipulating everyone – his son, his son’s fiancée, Diana, the press, us – all for his own aggrandisement and glory. I used to think that the events of the 31st of August 1997 were the final pay-off of a beautiful and insecure woman’s faustean pact with the press; I am beginning to think it was more a matter of Saturnus eating his own children.