8 March 2018 | Goingbegging
Flirting with Islam
Diana's divorce had filled her with a violent revulsion against Prince Charles and all his works. Never again did she want to see a union jack, a guard of honour or a palace footman as long as she lived. Instead she had developed a huge thirst for the very opposite - the Islamic male, so exotic, so powerful, so uninhibited. She meant, of course, the upper-class Islamic male, though she also seemed to identify Islam with some kind of third-world solidarity that made her feel more like the People's Princess she had longed to be.
In the first instance, this led to the startling televised interview with the quite unknown Martin Bashir, not only Islamic but a good broadcast-reporter with the right voice and manner to encourage confidences. And soon, at a chance moment in a hospital waiting-room, she would meet the love of her life, heart-surgeon Hasnat Khan. Their two-year romance would bring her joy and frustration in equal parts, and it would lead indirectly to her death. Because a third Muslim would arrive on the scene, sponsored by his manipulative billionaire father, who had spotted an opportunity to score points against the nation that had declared him unworthy of citizenship. Meanwhile the hundred days were ticking by, fast.
This film does not (mercifully) rake over the ashes of the murder theory, now discredited by anyone not delusional. But it does revive the question of Dodi's significance, or otherwise, in her life. Those wanting to prove that Dodi was 'the one' do have a few straws to grasp at, as eagerly seized-on by Mohammed Fayed and his paid mouthpiece Michael Cole. Her close friend Rosa Monckton reported that Diana had first described the relationship as 'bliss', before later deciding that it was just a summer romance. The Fayed camp seem to imply that Rosa had changed her story, perhaps under pressure from high places. Then there was her still-unexplained remark to the paparazzi that she would soon have surprise news for them. And then, of course, the famous ring, which was clearly a friendship ring only (she had declared to another of her old cronies that she needed another marriage like a hole in the head.)
But all the signs are that she was using Dodi to make Khan jealous. He was indeed uneasy about the relationship, though not for the reason she was hoping. He simply disapproved of Dodi and worried about Diana's future. Their strange, nervous farewell meeting on a bench in Hyde Park was not as final as it seemed. In Diana's last hours, Khan was known to be desperately trying to ring her.
The film is clearly meant to sound like a dramatic countdown of the last days, but we don't really get the drumbeat effect, and there's too much early history of Charles and Diana, which is strictly off-topic. Quite a gallery of commentators take their turn - Dickie Arbiter, Jeffrey Archer, Tina Brown, and the ubiquitous Paul Burrell, especially scathing about Dodi. Veteran royal reporter Richard Kay makes quite a good Greek chorus, though without contributing any new insights.
While she was married, people noted that every man on earth was in love with her, except her husband. While she was with Khan, people noted that every man on earth wanted to marry her, except her lover. No wonder she was ever so slightly mixed up.