In her own words 'You always think you're prepared for everything,' but she wasn't prepared for the royal family or the press, as she told the BBC in 1995 after her formal separation from Prince Charles.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Your Royal Highness, how prepared were you for the pressures that came with marrying into the royal family?

At the age of 19, you always think you're prepared for everything, and you think you have the knowledge of what's coming ahead. But although I was daunted at the prospect at the time, I felt I had the support of my husband-to-be.

What were the expectations that you had for married life?

I think like any marriage, especially when you've had divorced parents like myself, you'd want to try even harder to make it work, and you don't want to fall back into a pattern that you've seen happen in your own family.

I desperately wanted it to work, I desperately loved my husband and I wanted to share everything together, and I thought that we were a very good team.

How aware were you of the significance of what had happened to you? After all, you'd become Princess of Wales, ultimately with a view to becoming queen.

I wasn't daunted and am not daunted by the responsibilities that that role creates. It was a challenge; it is a challenge.

As for becoming queen, it's ... it was never at the forefront of my mind when I married my husband: It was a long way off, that thought.

The most daunting aspect was the media attention, because my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn't; and then when we were married, they said it would go quietly, and it didn't; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop. And I was very aware of that.

It's been suggested in some newspapers that you were left largely to cope with your new status on your own. Do you feel that was your experience?

Yes, I do, on reflection. But then here was a situation which hadn't ever happened before in history, in the sense that the media were everywhere, and here was a fairy story that everybody wanted to work.

Were you overwhelmed by the pressure from people initially?

Yes, I was very daunted, because as far as I was concerned I was a fat, chubby, 20-year-old, 21-year-old, and I couldn't understand the level of interest.

At this early stage in your marriage, what role did you see for yourself as Princess of Wales? Did you have an idea of the role that you might like to fulfill?

No, I was very confused by which area I should go into. Then I found myself being more and more involved with people who were rejected by society - with, I'd say, drug addicts, alcoholism, battered this, battered that - and I found an affinity there.

And I respected very much the honesty I found on that level with people I met, because in hospices, for instance, when people are dying, they're much more open and more vulnerable, and much more real than other people. And I appreciated that.

So you very much created the role that you would pursue for yourself really? That was what you did?

I think so. I remember when I used to sit on hospital beds and hold people's hands, people used to be sort of shocked, because they said they'd never seen this before, and to me it was quite a normal thing to do. And when I saw the reassurance that an action like that gave, I did it everywhere, and will always do that.

It wasn't long after the wedding before you became pregnant. What was your reaction when you learnt that the child was a boy?

Enormous relief. I felt the whole country was in labor with me. Enormous relief. But I had actually known William was going to be a boy, because the scan had shown it, so it caused no surprise.

Had you always wanted to have a family?

Yes, I came from a family where there were four of us, so we had enormous fun there.

And then William and Harry arrived - fortunately two boys, it would have been a little tricky if it had been two girls - but that in itself brings the responsibilities of bringing them up, William's future being as it is and Harry like a form of a backup in that aspect.

According to press reports, it was suggested that it was around this time things became so difficult that you actually tried to injure yourself.

Mmm. When no one listens to you, or you feel no one's listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen.

For instance, you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it's the wrong help you're asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you're in the media all the time you've got enough "attention."

The depression was resolved, as you say, but it was subsequently reported that you suffered bulimia. Is that true?

Yes, I did. I had bulimia for a number of years. And that's like a secret disease. You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable.

I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: They decided that was the problem - Diana was unstable.

Instead of looking behind the symptom at the cause.

What was the cause?

The cause was the situation where my husband and I had to keep everything together because we didn't want to disappoint the public, and yet obviously there was a lot of anxiety going on within our four walls.

According to reports in the national press, it was at around this time that you began to experience difficulties in your marriage, in your relationship to the Prince of Wales. Is that true?

Well, we were a newly married couple, so obviously we had those pressures, too, and we had the media, who were completely fascinated by everything we did.

And it was difficult to share that load, because I was the one who was always pitched out front, whether it was my clothes, what I said, what my hair was doing, everything - which was a pretty dull subject, actually, and it's been exhausted over the years - when actually what we wanted to be, what we wanted supported was our work, and as a team.

What effect did the press interest in you have on your marriage?

It made it very difficult, because for a situation where it was a couple working in the same job - we got out the same car, we shook the same hand, my husband did the speeches, I did the hand-shaking - so basically we were a married couple doing the same job, which is very difficult for anyone, and more so if you've got all the attention on you.

We struggled a bit with it, it was very difficult; and then my husband decided that we do separate engagements, which was a bit sad for me, because I quite liked the company. But, there again, I didn't have the choice.

Around 1986, [according to a biographer], your husband renewed his relationship with Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles. Were you aware of that?

Yes, I was, but I wasn't in a position to do anything about it.

What evidence did you have that their relationship was continuing even though you were married?

Oh, a woman's instinct is a very good one.

Is that all?

Well, I had, obviously, knowledge of it.

Later, you agreed to a legal separation. What were your feelings at the time?

Deep, deep, profound sadness. Because we had struggled to keep it going, but obviously we'd both run out of steam. And in a way I suppose it could have been a relief for us both that we'd finally made our minds up. But my husband asked for the separation, and I supported it.

It was not your idea?

No, not at all. I come from a divorced background, and I didn't want to go into that one again.

What happened next?

I asked my husband if we could put the announcement out before the children came back from school for Christmas holidays because they were protected in the school they were at.

And he did that, and it came out on December 9 [1992]. I was on an engagement up north. I heard it on the radio, and it was just very, very sad. Really sad. The fairy tale had come to an end, and most importantly our marriage had taken a turn, a different turn.

Looking back now, do you feel at all responsible for the difficulties in your marriage?

Mmm. I take full responsibility, I take some responsibility that our marriage went the way it did. I'll take half of it, but I won't take any more than that, because it takes two to get in this situation.

But you do bear some of the responsibility?

Absolutely, we both made mistakes.

A book that was published recently concerned a Mr. James Hewitt, in which he claimed to have had a very close relationship with you, from about 1989, I think. What was the nature of your relationship?

He was a great friend of mine at a very difficult, yet another difficult time, and he was always there to support me, and I was absolutely devastated when this book appeared.

Did your relationship go beyond a close friendship?

Yes, it did, yes.

Were you unfaithful?

Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down.

How would you describe your life now? You do live very much on your own, don't you?

Yes, I don't mind that actually. You know, people think that at the end of the day a man is the only answer. Actually, a fulfilling job is better for me. [Laughter]

Does that mean that you feel that for the rest of your life you'll have to be on your own?

No, I'm not really on my own. I've got wonderful friends, I've got my boys, I've got my work. It's just by living at Kensington Palace obviously it is a little bit isolating, but, you know, maybe we all feel like that.

Do you think that the British people are happy with you in your role?

I think the British people need someone in public life to give affection, to make them feel important, to support them, to give them light in their dark tunnels.

I see it as a possibly unique role, and yes, I've had difficulties, as everybody has witnessed over the years, but let's now use the knowledge I've gathered to help other people in distress.

Up until you came into this family, the monarchy seemed to enjoy an unquestioned position at the heart of British life. Do you feel that you're at all to blame that survival of the monarchy is now a question that people are asking?

No, I don't feel blame. I mean, once or twice, I've heard people say to me that, you know, "Diana's out to destroy the monarchy," which has bewildered me, because why would I want to destroy something that is my children's future?

I will fight for my children on any level in order for them to be happy and have peace of mind and carry out their duties.

(This is an edited transcript of her interview.)

Pub Date: 9/07/97

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
50°