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Portrait of a Troubled Princess

by Sally Bedell Smith

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8129-3030-4
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

An engrossing character study of the beautiful, brave, but psychologically bent princess who became an icon, by Vanity Fair contriduting editor Smith. Diana, her family, her friends, and the media who dogged her seemed bent on denying the serious emotional problems that shaped her private and sometimes public actions. According to Smith (Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Churchill Harriman, 1996), Diana almost certainly suffered from borderline personality disorder, a psychiatric diagnosis characterized by feelings of inferiority, dependence, and confusion about identity. Borderline personalities are often “self-destructive, easily depressed, panicky and volatile,” while superficially “charming, insightful, witty, and lively.” As revealed in this profile, backed by archival research and personal interviews, Diana was all of the above and more. Given to bulimia, self-mutilation, lies, and suicide attempts through most of her adult life, Diana’s problems began at six years old when her “childhood was shattered” by her parents’ separation; the pressure of her royal engagement brought all her insecurities to the surface. Charles was unable, although at first not unwilling, to cope. He arranged psychiatric counseling several times, to no avail. In 1985, Diana took the first of a series of lovers, and Charles turned to Camilla; envy, vengeance, pride, fear, rage, despair , and ignorance all played roles in the divorce that followed, says Smith. She maintains an even keel in assessing the princess, giving credit for her genuine devotion to her children as well as her warmth, compassion, and generosity. The author also acknowledges Charles for trying, if ineffectually, to help his wife, while indicting the British tabloid press for using her to sell newspapers. Probably not the definitive study (many witnessses to Diana’s life are still unwilling to talk on the record), but an informed and astute appraisal of the 20th century’s possibly most celebrated celebrity. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) (First serial to People magazine; Literary Guild selection; author tour; TV satellite tour)