LONDON -- The de-sanctification of Diana, Princess of Wales, has already begun.
The first dissonant sounds in the harmony of grief that has unfolded much of this week came as Britain prepared itself for Diana's funeral. They are tentative criticisms, but of the sort often sent her way when she was alive.
She's getting it at home and from abroad, from people who professed to admire her in the past, such as Camille Paglia, the controversial American feminist, and from old enemies as well. Bizarre conspiracy theories are in the air, part of the traffic on the Internet, collected by newspapers in pubs and off the streets.
One Web site suggested Diana's death was a hoax, that she is disguised and living in some other part of the world.
Another theory has it that she was done in by British intelligence because Queen Elizabeth couldn't abide the thought of her being married to an Arab, the Arab being Dodi Al Fayed, who died with her in Sunday's car crash in Paris.
The Freemasons have been blamed for killing her, the Libyans and drug dealers.
Paglia -- who had publicly praised the live Diana for her power to project charisma and manipulate the world's media in a way that only a few women have been able to -- attacked the dead princess in an article in an Internet magazine called Salon for squandering that power.
"She began to waste her enormous gift," Paglia wrote. "At one point she had said that a fulfilling job was better than a man to give your life meaning. I wish she had pursued that avenue, because she met a very tacky end -- to die in the car of a gigolo playboy in flight from the Ritz."
Yesterday, an editor of the New Statesman magazine complained that the Scotland-Belarus soccer match set for today was called off out of respect for Diana.
John Lloyd wrote acidly in the London Times that he thought Aberdeen "might be a goo-free zone where sensible people had decided that mourning in a free society should be freely undertaken and that a match beginning after the public funeral ends could hardly be taken amiss."
He also complained that the political left had seized upon the image of Diana with the same zeal and purpose as they did Che Guevara's.
Diana is criticized for carelessness, for ingratitude, for what other people make of her, for being as flamboyant as Eva Peron, for being too charismatic for her, or anyone else's, good.
Just before she died, John Gummer, a former Conservative Party minister, attacked her for having failed as the Prince of Wales' consort and for being photographed in Dodi Al Fayed's company.
Gummer wrote in the Catholic Herald that "a little decent reticence would be the least we could expect from someone whose enormous privileges have given her so much for which she seems neither grateful nor obliged."
Did he rue his words? Gummer replied yesterday in the Times: "When people die you consider their good points."
In France a columnist on the mass-market newspaper France Soir defended the photographers arrested in connection with the fatal car accident. They are being persecuted as a result of British diplomatic pressure, Bernard Morrot wrote. He described Diana as the "divorced and flighty princess."
Stories, true and false, fantasies, unfounded secrets and outright lies about Diana are certain to emerge and multiply after she is buried today. She captured the imagination of the world, much as John F. Kennedy did, and Marilyn Monroe. Now it won't let her go.
The images of such people are the bread and butter and jam of the gossip industry, which is probably more extensive in Britain than in any other country. The faces of these people are rarely allowed to fade away as long as some interest in them remains.
Early in the week, the ninth Earl Spencer accused tabloid editors of having "blood on their hands." He has not cooled down. Thursday night he dis-invited the chief editors of eight tabloids to his sister's funeral. That they had been routinely invited by Buckingham Palace is a measure of their influence.
These papers, gossip sheets all, were the Sun, the News of the World, the Daily Mail, Express, Daily Star, People, Mirror and Sunday Mirror.
It was a desperate snub to an unforgiving crowd, men who always have the last word in England.
Pub Date: 9/06/97