The Butler’s Tale

I took a short break from my reading in the Bodleian Library yesterday afternoon in order to pop over the road to buy Paul Burrell’s book, A Royal Duty at Blackwell’s. I’ve made a start, and I’ll probably read it all over the next few days. Yes, all the juicy bits were excerpted in the Mirror last week, and on Tuesday the Guardian published a handy guide to the contents of the book to save anyone having to take the trouble to buy it. Perhaps I wasted �17.99.

I am, however, rather gripped by the Diana literature, and have been reading in it for a surprisingly long time, and this does appear to be a must-own contribution to the genre.

I don’t think I’m obsessive. For example, although I own a copy of Closely Guarded Secret, the book by Diana’s bodyguard Ken Wharfe, I’ve never read it, because people tell me it’s very dull. (Which also means that I’m not sure why I do own a copy, but apparently I do.) And although in general I have a good memory for points of detail, when it comes to the Diana books it is mostly in-one-ear-and-out-the-other stuff. I couldn’t, for example, say much to distinguish the various aristocratic women with silly names who always flit through these books’ pages — people like Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady “Kanga” Tryon and the like, though on the whole I can remember which one “Tiggy” Legge-Bourke is (even if I’m not quite sure if that’s the right way to spell her name).

But I have read a fair few of the recent efforts — both Andrew Morton volumes (but, sadly, not his fawning life of Daniel Arap Moi); the peculiarly-named Lady Colin Campbell’s minor classic Diana In Private (typical sentence, from memory: “There weren’t many virgins in Charles’s generation; he fucked most of them”); Kitty Kelley’s The Royals (a great disappointment: it didn’t live up to the hype at all and should always have remained the hit-piece on Prince Philip it was originally intended to be); and last weekend I was lucky enough to find a copy of the original Sylvie Krin collection, Born to be Queen, whose episode on “Venetia Barkworth-Smythe” (I think that’s the name – I don’t have the book to hand) is quite admirably prescient, presenting in embryo just about all the beans that Morton was to spill over a decade later. (Irrelevant aside: always remember that Pythagoras didn’t like beans because they looked like human embryos: hence the Pythagorean bean taboo that contributed to his untimely death [Diogenes Laertius, VIII.45]).

The most delightful book in the DianaLit genre, though, is one that I don’t remember receiving much publicity. It’s Diana and Dodi: A Love Story, by one Rene Delorm. The book is an eyewitness account of the last few weeks of Diana’s short life: Rene was Dodi Fayed’s flunkey during his fling with Diana, and one of his main functions was to pop the CD of the soundtrack of The English Patient into the stereo on Dodi’s yacht again, and again, and again, in order to provide suitably romantic background music. It’s a very funny book indeed, though perhaps not intended that way. (There’s a very odd page about this book here: e.g., “How Much Titillating Info on Personal Vices? 2 – A Little”. There’s also an interview with Rene here, and an informative BBC page which contains a soundclip of Rene here.)

So I am looking forward to Burrell’s book, though not expecting it to be very good. Still, I doubt it’ll take up too much of my life.

I’m still waiting for more revelations about Michael “the fence” Fawcett, of course.

Oh, and if anyone does have reliable details of the story to which Melanie Philips is referring in this post on her loopy-but-fun blog, including the identity of the senior royal, do drop me a line. It all makes me feel a bit out of the loop.

We’ll be rid of them soon. I’m still optimistic that it’ll be in my lifetime.

UPDATE [2/11/2003]: The admirable Catherine Bennett has enjoyed Burrell’s book as much as I’m hoping to, in yesterday’s Guardian, and has some things to say about Camilla Parker-Bowles which strike me as being offensive, funny, and probably accurate. (Spotted via the Normblog).

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