Princess Diana’s shocking televised confession of adultery and charges of a royal conspiracy to destroy her triggered an avalanche of sympathy and criticism of her and the monarchy Tuesday and opened a debate on whether she and Prince Charles should quickly divorce.
Buckingham Palace, reacting to public sympathy for Diana and to her pledge not to go quietly, offered to “help her define her future role and continue to support her as a member of the royal family.”
“Wow!” said the conservative Daily Express tabloid in its lead editorial Tuesday, reflecting the nation’s first reaction to Diana’s candid interview on the BBC Monday night.
“A woman fit to wear the crown,” was the headline of an editorial in the left-leaning Daily Mirror tabloid. “It was not just the most amazing royal interview ever. It was as gripping an hour of television as there could be. … It was a truly fantastic, historic performance. What happens next, no one knows. But Diana has secured her place in the nation’s heart.”
Diana’s “bombshells” unleashed unprecedented assaults on her mental health, but even greater sympathy for her life in a largely loveless marriage and her determination to soldier on.
Stuart Higgins, editor of the right-wing Sun tabloid, which has Britain’s largest daily circulation of 4.1 million, came close to hero-worship when he said, “She’s a supermodel combined with Mother Teresa. It was a big gamble for the Princess of Wales, but already our phones are buzzing like mad with total support.”
Editors of magazines devoted to royal gossip and of books about the monarchy generally praised Diana’s performance. But some raised their eyebrows at Diana’s criticism of the monarchy and her doubt about whether Charles would ever be king.
Charles’ chief defender was his friend and former aide Nicholas Soames. He described Diana as being in the “advanced stages of paranoia.”
Harold Brooks-Baker, editor of Burke’s Peerage, said, “It seems that the Prince of Wales married a very disturbed girl whom he was unable or unwilling to help. I think it was a very, very damaging broadcast for the monarchy.”
In its front-page story the Express said Diana “shook the British monarchy to its very foundations” by admitting she committed adultery with her former riding instructor, Army Maj. James Hewitt, and by casting doubt on whether Charles would ever become king.
By admitting adultery, Diana struck back against her husband, who in a television interview 17 months ago admitted being unfaithful with his life-long love, the now-divorced Camilla Parker Bowles.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper, a strong supporter of the monarchy, called her interview a “tragic performance.” In an editorial, the paper said “in rougher times” doubting that her husband would become king “would have led to civil war.”
Royal watcher Ross Benson said “the British monarchy has been changed forever.” Another columnist said the “remarkably - and painfully - honest interview … will kill her blonde bimbo image forever.”
But Vernon Bogdanor, a constitutional expert, said, “I think the princess will perform her role better when she is no longer wife to the heir to the throne.”
If Queen Elizabeth II were to die, Diana would automatically become queen unless she divorced Charles.
Diana said she didn’t want a divorce, but would talk about it if Charles brought it up.