Diana at 50
Brown, Tina, Newsweek
Byline: Tina Brown
Chilling with the Middletons. Tweeting from Davos. And still the people's princess. If not for that tragic night, what her life might look like now.
After Diana's death, nine years after the car crash in the Paris tunnel, I attended a ball at Althorp, her ancestral home in the English county of Northamptonshire. The party was hosted, improbably, by Mikhail Gorbachev (with Tatler magazine) to raise money for his late wife's foundation. The crowd partying in the tent that night was Diana's crowd--the London uber-swirl of fashion and society and media. Had she been there, Diana would have lit up the gathering with her radiant blondeness. Sitting next to old Gorby, she would have caused his birthmark to flush deeper as she leaned in to hear him speak of his wife, Raisa, grasping his hand as she fixed her big blue eyes on him.
Diana would have been 50 this month. What would she have been like? Still great-looking: that's a given. Her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, with her cornflower-blue eyes and striding sexuality, was a handsome woman to the very end. Fashionwise, Diana would have gone the J.Crew and Galliano route a la Michelle Obama, always knowing how to mix the casual with the glam. There is no doubt she would have kept her chin taut with strategic Botox shots and her bare arms buff from the gym. Remarriage? At least two, I suspect, on both sides of the Atlantic. Always so professional herself, she would have soon grown exasperated with Dodi Al-Fayed's hopeless unreliability. After the breakup I see her moving to her favorite city, New York, spending a few cocooned years safely married to a super-rich hedge-fund guy who could provide her with what she called "all the toys": the plane, the private island, the security detail. Gliding sleekly into her 40s, her romantic taste would have moved to men of power over boys of play. She'd have tired of the hedge-fund guy and drifted into undercover trysts with someone more exciting--a high-mindedly horny late-night talk-show host, or a globe-trotting French finance wizard destined for the Elysee Palace. I suspect she would have retained a weakness for men in uniform, and a yen for dashing Muslim men. (A two-year fling with a Pakistani general, rumored to have links to the ISI, would have been a particular headache to the Foreign Office and the State Department.) Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative would have become her new post-palace power circles. She would perhaps have caused a press sensation with an unplanned pledge from the CGI stage to raise $50 million to help educate women in South Sudan.
Back in Britain, to visit William and Harry, she would have enjoyed some elegant schadenfreude over the scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.--the one that revealed that for years the British tabloids had been hacking into the phones of celebrities and royals and publishing their illicit skimmings. She would have sued for sure, and collected record-breaking damages (donating to the children's cancer ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children). Is it possible that even Squidgygate, the embarrassingly steamy phone call between Diana and her lover James Gilbey in December 1989, was really one of the earliest examples of press malfeasance? I never believed the bizarre explanation, investigated at length in my book, The Diana Chronicles, that a radio ham named Cyril Reenan had picked up this call and offered it to Murdoch's tabloid The Sun. Was Reenan, who later spoke of "being set up by a sinister conspiracy" and died in 2004, really a cover for a nefarious phone hacker? If so, Diana's obsession about eavesdroppers in the last days of her life--often mocked as paranoia--was simply the sound intuition of a careful student of the folkways of Fleet Street.
Politically, Diana would have been very much at home with David Cameron and all the old Etonians who now run Britain. She would, much earlier, have parted company with Tony Blair, stung by his failure to use her for big peacemaking missions overseas. …