Some say the Devil’s signature achievement lies in convincing us he doesn’t exist. Substitute more secular terms – ruling class, say, or imperialism – and the wisdom of those words is far reaching. As is that of a further tweak: the British Royal Family’s signature achievement lies in convincing the world its power is illusory when it is multi-faceted and frighteningly real.
Take this comment, in a puff piece from the Independent in January:
Any legislation passed by Parliament must also get the Queen’s stamp of approval (technically known as Royal Assent) before becoming law. It’s mostly a formality, though: No monarch has refused to give Royal Assent since 1707 …
See what writer Caroline Praderio does here? She takes infrequency of a power’s use as proof it lacks teeth. I dare say Australia PM Gough Whitlam thought much the same about the Governor Generalship till its 1976 incumbent, John Kerr, told him the queen no longer required his elected government’s services. And if the power to dismiss her UK government is just a formality, let’s take it away, shall we? And while we’re at it call time on that other quaint relic, allowing for the possibility – rather charming really, like the freeman’s right to drive sheep over London Bridge, or peer of the realm’s to be hanged with a silk rope – of backing up such dismissal with tanks on Westminster lawns, their occupants armed to the teeth at our expense; their allegiance not to elected government but – you got it – HM the Q.
Such powers are among a thousand tricks, many of which we’ll never even suspect till they’re pulled out of the bag on a rainy day to resolve some ‘constitutional crisis’ in favour of a rotten status quo; others hidden out in the open, for sale to us as colourful pageant.
Note, I haven’t even got to the personal stuff yet: the fact of a royal family riddled with racists, nazi skeletons in its closets. Ditto Big Phil’s industrial philandery. On the latter, serial shagging and even its trail of destruction – Diana Rigg said work dried up after he’d had and discarded her – are lesser issues. The greater corruption, and cowardice, flow from a famously prurient press, obsessed with every blow-job given to a Man U star by the latest Bad Girl of pop, but printing not a word, not a fucking word, on the sexual fetishes of a man so lacking in empathy we do have to consider the possibility of clinical psychopathy.
(A rotten press depends less on rotten journalists than on corrosive influences. Reporters keep editors sweet. Editors keep proprietors sweet. Proprietors want knighthoods, baronetcies and the doors they open.)
With such thoughts in mind, let’s turn to the people’s princess. I am not and never was a fan. I never thought her physically beautiful – though she had the requisite English rose look, that’s for sure – and doubted her purity of motive. I say this not to vilify but because had she in fact been the loveable innocent of her mythology, she’d have been less of a threat to the mafia-like clan headed up by Elizabeth and Philip.
By the time of her death Di was a shrewd operator with good organising skills and ability to use the media. The latter is contested by her official biographer, Ros Coward – ‘she promoted her image only for the good of others and it was she who was manipulated’, Guardian 2004. But true or not, Coward’s second assertion does not validate her first. Nor is the equating of Diana’s own interests with the good of others unproblematic. Again, my aim is not to denigrate. This untimely death gave me no more and no less sadness than that of any young woman. Rather, my aim is to suggest that her media savvy and global brand made her, once we factor in ample cause for incandescent rage, a threat.
Perhaps an intolerable one.
Royal family and British state had much to fear from this renegade. Her relationship with Dodi Fayed raised the prospect, appalling to a royal family steeped in racism, of a future king with a Muslim half sibling. Her campaign on landmines – at the time I downplayed its significance due to my ignorance on the scale of Britain’s for-profit arms sector – trod with elegantly stilettoed heel on powerful toes, not least those of John Major’s Defence Minister, the delightful Nicholas Soames. (A priceless soundbyte in the film I’m about to link to has a close friend quoting Di as saying “he speaks as if he has a cock in his mouth”.) Worse even than these things, though, was a threat potentially existential. Who could be sure that this woman, her now stratospheric fame laced with near beatification – but also a woman severally wronged by husband and in-laws both – would never betray breeding and class to head up a campaign to end the monarchy?
The British Royal Family had motive in spades to do Diana in. Can there be even a moment’s doubt that it also had the means?
And opportunity? Here we need to engage with more detail – more than I have space for. An excellent short piece by Kit in OffGuardian on August 31, twentieth anniversary of the deaths of Diana, boyfriend Dodi and driver Henri Paul, links to a documentary film made by Keith Allen. Kit advised the film be viewed quickly before it mysteriously vanishes. I echo that advice and, kindly soul that I am, add a few questions to focus your viewing:
- In any other inquest involving a woman dying violently and just as she had predicted in a handwritten note accusing ex husband and in-laws, would we not expect said persons to be summoned or at least questioned under oath? If the royal household is exempt from such lèse–majesté, what does that say about ‘our’ benign monarchy?
- Given the conflict of interests here – a Royal Court investigating a violent death that solved multiple problems for incumbent royals – what safeguards were put in place to preserve justice?
- Two of Britain’s most senior policemen undeniably perverted the course of justice, so why have neither been charged, and why do both now sit in the House of Lords?
- Why were all CCTV cameras switched off at the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel on August 31, 1997?
- Why did French police say no other vehicles were involved, only retracting this when witnesses came forward to tell of a white Fiat Uno and several motorcycles crowding the Mercedes in the tunnel? Why were these vehicles and drivers never located?
- Is it coincidence that Diana – close friends insist she always wore a seat belt – could not do so that night because it was defective?
- Why, with several doctors rapidly on the scene, did Dr Martineau assume sole charge? Why did it take 37 minutes to remove Diana – badly injured but far from beyond hope – from the back seat of a car whose rear was undamaged? Why did it take a further 44 minutes for the ambulance to leave the scene? Why another 22 minutes on dead-of-night roads to reach the hospital? Why no radio contact with ambulance control? Why have Martineau’s team never been interviewed or even identified?
- Why, since Diana was no longer royal, did a royal equerry claim the body, then have it embalmed within hours, removing all internal organs – and with them all possibility of ascertaining whether or not she’d been pregnant?
- Why was the autopsy on Diana performed by Dominique Lecomte? Is it true that she is, as the film alleges, known for cover ups? Why did all the expert witnesses sign a statement that her results were inept (58 basic errors) and ‘biologically inexplicable’; her report ‘untruthful’?
- What is the significance of whether driver Henri Paul was, or was not, drunk? What evidence do we have? Why were blood samples destroyed, making it impossible to ascertain by DNA test whether they were even from Paul’s body?
- Why did Dominique Lecomte and George Peppard (Henri Paul autopsy) not attend the inquest, though obliged to do so under EU law, and why did the French Government back them?
I don’t say this is an exhaustive list but it’ll do for starters. Have a nice film.