Mantel had already written an incandescent essay in 2013 about Kate Middleton (or, more accurately, the idea of Kate Middleton), the wife of Diana’s son William. In her piece on Diana, Mantel comments with sharp poetry and perception on the way the Princess was trapped by her own myth, and by her performance of that myth. (Read it here.)
‘Diana’s Public Life, in Photos and Headlines’
This visual survey of New York Times stories about Diana, from marriage to death, has a striking image under its headline. Diana has turned away from a cluster of photographers all eagerly snapping behind her, and seems to be looking forward at something. Her expression is hard to read — resigned? content? complicit? — and her left hand is raised in what seems like a beckoning, come-hither gesture. It sums up the ambivalent relationship of need and resentment that Diana had with the media by the end of her life, and prefigures her death.
The survey begins with Charles and Diana’s marriage at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and proceeds through landmark moments in the Princess’s life: meeting the Reagans in Washington; dancing with John Travolta; on a family holiday with the two small princes William and Harry; divorcing; and visiting land-mine-infested Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, in 1997.
Each photograph is accompanied by a short text with quotes from and links to the Times articles around each event, so you can delve through part, or all, of a life lived in the camera’s eye. (Read it here.)
‘Diana: In Her Own Words’
This National Geographic documentary uses the taped interviews that Diana made for Andrew Morton’s book as a voice-over, alongside archival footage. The documentary moves through her life, her death and its aftermath, and at almost two hours, it gives a good sense — if not always a flattering one — of Diana’s insecurities, victimhood and the chasm between her public image and private experience. Arguably the best part is the near-silent compilation of footage around her funeral, showing the genuine, overwhelming grief her death elicited, and the almost unbearable images of her two small sons walking behind her coffin. (Stream it on Netflix.)
‘Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview’
This new documentary, made by Channel 4 in Britain, makes very heavy weather of the way in which Martin Bashir, a young reporter for the BBC, managed to secure his tell-all 1995 “Panorama” interview with Diana, in which she spoke candidly about the affair between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, her own infidelity, depression and bulimia.