I was appalled. She had asked Lord John Somerset to ask me to join her, and I rose rather unsteadily to do so. This was during a Jimmy Goldsmith ball, and I was writing the Atticus column in The Sunday Times, along with High Life in The Spectator. A German girlfriend of mine at the time warned me about going over. “If you go to her, that’s it,” she told me. “Auf Wiedersehen,” I answered. The princess signaled for me to sit, and that’s where the appalling part comes in. I missed the chair and ended up under the table. Without missing a beat, she stuck her head underneath and asked me: “Do you really think I’m crazy?” “All I know is that I’m nuts about you,” said I.
That’s how my friendship with Princess Di began, and I think this is the last time I will write about her because it seems everyone else has, so I might as well put in my two cents. The reason she wanted to meet me is that I had hinted that she was a nutcase trying to bring down the monarchy. After our rather inauspicious beginning—me under the table and her bending down discussing her mental state—she quickly turned me into a believer. Mind you, she never talked badly about her husband, nor anyone else in the royal family. And I didn’t pry. I’m not exactly a pro when it comes to prying. Just because I became a journalist does not mean I had to forget my manners. What Diana wanted was for me to give a dinner and invite editors of major newspapers. She never put it like that exactly, but had a female friend hint that it would really make her happy if I did.
So I did. If memory serves, Charles Moore, Alexander Chancellor, and Dominic Lawson came, along with a few other hacks. It was at my place in Cadogan Square, and I pulled out all the stops: great wines and enough food to feed a German division in Stalingrad. The trouble was that she didn’t touch the booze and only picked at her food. The rest of us got quite tipsy. Word of the dinner had gotten out, and a couple of friends rang the bell during dinner. I had a flunky tell them to wait outside until dinner was over. It was a joke, but one in particular took it rather badly.
What followed were more dinners at my house and a lunch at Kensington Palace, where I read out the end part of a short story by Jay McInerney. In it the grandchildren discover during a Thanksgiving dinner that granny had given a blowjob to grandfather the first time they had met. No one at the table laughed except the footmen standing over us. Not many invites to KP followed.
One thing I remember vividly was the last time I spoke to her. Until recently I thought I had been the last to speak with the icon of our time, until I read that Richard Kay claimed that it was he. I believe him. I was in my garden in Gstaad and Nigel Dempster was staying with me. In order to impress him and get on his nerves I told him I had Diana’s private number on her mobile. He didn’t believe me, so I dialed her after I made him promise he wouldn’t make it obvious he was listening in. “Hello, stranger,” she said. “This is a professional call,” said I in a stentorian voice, and she giggled. “Will you be wearing a towel over your head soon?” I added. “You gotta be kidding,” said she in an exaggerated American accent.
She was killed that evening. Is there anything to say about her that has not already been written, discussed, and commented upon ad nauseam by the world’s media? Of course not. Someone once told me that she only asked to meet me in order to use me. “I sure hope so,” I declared. Most of the Diana “experts” who have written about her and appear on TV, digressing, hardly knew her. Tina Brown comes to mind, Tina having met Di only once during a lunch for British women in America, or something as banal as that. According to many of them, Di tried to shape all the coverage by making herself selectively available to them. That she did. Although completely uneducated, she was smart and knew how to handle men—except, of course, those who really mattered to her. Mattered in the romantic way, that is.
Needless to say, Diana’s ability to sell is still going like gangbusters, and a new novel by an American woman has her surviving the Paris accident and coming back to haunt Camilla and you-know-who. The author says she wasn’t interested in writing something tawdry or shoddy. Heaven forbid. I think it’s time to let go. I feel embarrassed even writing this bit about her. The irony of it is that on that fateful night, a Diana hater and I had an argument about her and the royal family. When the news came in, the hater broke down in tears. She was a young attractive woman who decided to fight back on her own terms. End of story.