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Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy’

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Even before the name of the new little princess was announced, I, like many others, wondered if she would be called after her grandmother, Diana. Diana was thrust onto the world stage at age nineteen, a bit gawky, a bit naive, but utterly charming and sincere. By age twenty-three, she was the mother of two children, one a future king. By the time she died in Paris, at age thirty-six, she had grown into a beautiful, compassionate woman, anxious to be a healing and unifying influence in the world.

After Diana died, I found I missed her although we had never met. While she was living through her disastrous marriage and divorce in the glare of world wide publicity, I was living through my own marriage and divorce nightmare on a smaller, but nevertheless, public scale. On the days when I had to wait to check-out at the grocery story, I used to read the tabloid headlines written by Prince Charles’ supporters, accusing Diana of mental illness and instability; and I would comfort myself with the thought that at least no reporters were sitting in the courtroom to hear the man I’d married say exactly the same things about me. Although it was a public courtroom and anyone who walked in could have heard how, by having three children whom I loved more than life itself, I had maliciously morphed from an academic over-achiever who graduated Number Two in her law school class into a dangerous, crazy, lying freeloader. I felt a bond with Diana, although I was unenviably poor and she was enviably rich, because I realized that access to all the money in the world could never make up for the pain of having the father of your children heap lies and disrespect on you in a public forum.

When Diana died, I felt as if I’d lost a friend. And as the years passed and Charles and his publicists pushed Diana and her memory farther and farther into the background to replace her with Camilla Parker-Bowles, I wondered how many people remained who, like me, thought of Diana, not as a clothes horse or as a Royal Highness, but as a beautiful, loving woman, unfairly used and demeaned by a powerful and wealthy family.

My first novel, Dance For A Dead Princess has many themes, but one of the most prominent is the power of an aristocratic family to control its members. Nicholas Carey, the heredity duke, who is the hero of Dance for A Dead Princess, was forced to return from America when he was only sixteen to assume the position of heir to the dukedom, although given his choice he would have gladly remained in New York and studied to become a concert pianist like his mother. Diana was also affected by the power of her aristocratic family at a very young age when her father wrested custody of his children from their mother, leaving Diana and young Charles to be raised by nannies at Althorpe while grieving their mother’s loss.

Another central theme is the toll an unhappy marriage takes on the individuals involved. Having been unhappy in childhood, marriage for both Nicholas and Diana represented the chance to form happy unions of their own. For them, marriage was a chance to love and be loved rather than to be used as pawns on their aristocratic families’ chessboards. But Nicholas and Diana’s hopes were dashed yet again. Nicholas’ wife, Deborah and Diana’s husband, Charles, turned out to be powerfully in love, but not with their spouses. For Nicholas and for Diana, having lost the chance at a happy childhood, the loss of the opportunity to have a happy marriage was a second and even more powerful blow.

Some readers interpret Diana’s presence in Dance for a Dead Princess as an attempt to make believers out of the conspiracy theory of Diana’s death or as a crass attempt to sell books because her name is in them. But neither was ever my intention. I brought Diana into the book to keep her memory alive and to remind the world of the tragedy of her life. She was a beautiful, loving woman who was denied the thing she most longed for: the chance to create a loving family for herself, her husband, and her children. At one point in Dance, Nicholas observes how unfair it was for Diana to be called unstable and mentally ill all because she wanted what every wife wants, to have her husband to herself.

The haunting tragedy of Diana’s life was what I hoped every reader would take away from Dance. In the Prologue, the reader encounters Nicholas in Paris where he is grieving the loss of his beloved friend and the mutual support and companionship they offered each other in their isolated, unhappy lives. Nicholas stares down at the Place d’Alama Tunnel, thirteen years after that fateful August night, deeply longing for one more chance to talk to Diana. “How many nights had he spent talking to Diana about his marriage, about her marriage, about his guilt over Deborah and about the impossibility of being in love?” And he wonders how his friend felt as death approached. “ . . . What had she felt as she slipped away from everyone who loved her? Had she struggled against it, as Deborah had? Or had her torn and broken heart quietly accepted her fate? No, he doubted that. She’d have fought to stay with her boys.”

Whether or not there was a historical conspiracy to assassinate Diana is not the point of Dance. The role of the conspiracy in the plot is to give Nicholas an opportunity to express his unbearable grief over the loss of both Diana and his wife. Aching from all that loss in his life, Nicholas vows to expose Diana’s assassins, not as an act of vengeance, but as means of expressing his soul crushing sadness. And ironically, through this one, last powerful expression of grief, Nicholas meets Taylor Collins, the one woman who has the power to give him what he has always longed for, but has never had.

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Earlier this week, Scotland Yard announced it was investigating new information about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. A former member of the British Special Air Services the (SAS) boasted to his former wife that the SAS had brought about her death. His former parents-in-law reported the claim to the military police who passed it on to Scotland Yard.

The original announcement was appropriately neutral. Scotland Yard informed the public of the information and indicated the police would assess it for credibility. But Scotland Yard also said it would not reinvestigate Diana’s death at this time, a wise conclusion since no one yet knows if the new information can be believed.

The press, however, have transformed this simple bit of factual reporting into a speculative circus. Some commentators insist all possible “conspiracy” theories have been debunked and only crazy people believe them while others see a plot lurking in every corner. Rather than the wait-and-see position of Scotland Yard, most press reports require the reader to take a position: believe or disbelieve. The press’s approach to the new information illustrates the rule that human beings like to organize data and reach conclusions just as they prefer to return to the tonic tone in melody. In other words, we don’t like unanswered questions.

But it isn’t likely that the “truth” of the princess’ death will ever be resolved. Or, if it is, the answer will be revealed a lifetime or so later. Think about it. If powerful governmental and multinational forces brought about her assassination, they have every tool on the planet available to perpetuate their cover up. They aren’t going to make any dramatic confessions based upon the ex-parents-in-law’s letter. And, if Diana’s death was a tragic accident, people who love a conspiracy are going to continue to spin their own yarns.

This whole controversy reminds me of speculation about the fate of Tsar Nicholas of Russia’s youngest daughter, Grand Duchess Anastasia. When I was growing up, a German woman named Anna Anderson made out a case that convinced many people she was the grand duchess and had miraculously survived the cellar execution in Ekaterinburg. Anna Anderson appeared to have information only the real Anastasia would have known. Some who had known the grand duchess believed Anna, but many others dubbed her an impostor. She wound up married to an eccentric professor of history in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she died in 1984. In 1956, Ingrid Bergman stared in a movie loosely based on Anna Anderson’s life and claims. Litigation to determine whether Anna was the real Anastasia never reached a conclusion.

In 1977, two investigative journalists, Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold, wrote a book called The File on The Tsar, claiming that not all of the royal family died at Ekaterinburg and the survivors became pawns in an international power game. They claimed Lenin, the Kaiser, the British royal family, and British intelligence were all involved. I read it at the time, and found it interesting and persuasive.

But The File on the Tsar illustrates how facts can be manipulated to fit the end the writer wants to believe. In 1991, the bodies of the Tsar, his wife, and three of their daughters were found in a mass grave near Ekaterinburg. DNA testing confirmed their identities. Then, in 2007, Alexi and the remaining daughter were found, and DNA testing confirmed that all seven Romanovs had died in the cellar that day. By that time, Anna Anderson had been established as an impostor because in 1984, when she died, DNA testing showed she was not related to the Romanovs.

The deaths of famous people hold our attention, especially when they happen under odd or mysterious circumstances. In fact, our fascination with these stories lies in our inability to know exactly what took place. If the facts were known and settled, we would go looking for another more interesting tale whose facts were not resolved.

Scotland Yard had it right in its neutral announcement; and the press, insisting on belief or un, had it wrong. No one can really decide what happened in Paris on August 31, 1997, based upon this new little bit of information. More than likely whether Diana’s death was deliberate or an accident will never be resolved. Or if it is, the truth will come out after a much longer time, as with the Anastasia mystery. In the meantime, the circumstances surrounding Diana’s death create material for fiction writers like me. I wanted to write about a beautiful woman whom I admired because she grew up in difficult circumstances on the world stage. She transformed herself from a naive girl into a charismatic woman who spoke for compassion and love, and she was willing to share her struggles with the rest of us who are struggling. Dance For A Dead Princess is not an argument for or against what “really happened.” It is intended to be a highly entertaining story about interesting and lovable people.

Anna Anderson on the left and Grand Duchess Anastasia on the right

Anna Anderson on the left and Grand Duchess Anastasia on the right

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PROLOGUE

Mid-April 2010, Paris

In the gray spring rain, he stood in the Place d’Alma staring down at the tunnel where she had vanished from his life on the last night of August 1997. He came here whenever he was in Paris. He counted the pillars until he reached number thirteen, the one that had taken her life. Tears formed behind his eyes, as they always did in this place. But he refused to let them overflow. Instead, he took a long breath of fresh rain mixed with the exhaust of cars speeding through the tunnel.

When the big black Mercedes had entered its skid that horrible night, his last living link to Deborah had been taken from him. Diana and Deborah, West Heath girls, friends forever. Deborah had been dead since 1994, but he had lost her long before she had become his wife just two years after Diana had married the Prince of Wales in 1981. How many nights had he spent talking to Diana about his marriage, about her marriage, about his guilt over Deborah, and about the impossibility of being in love? Too many to count. He ached to tell her now how empty his life had become without either of them.

He stared down the long, gray tunnel, wondering as always, what she had felt as she had slipped away from everyone who loved her. Had she struggled against it, as Deborah had? Or had her torn and broken heart quietly accepted its fate? No, he doubted that. She’d have fought to stay with her boys. Diana hadn’t gone into death quietly. That January, she’d had a warning of what was coming. She’d recorded a video tape naming her assassins and had given it to someone in America for safekeeping. But she would never tell him who it was. Too dangerous, she always insisted. If you had it, they’d come after you, too. Leave it alone, Nicholas. The tape is safer out of England.

His phone abruptly interrupted with a text message from his assistant. He was late for a meeting of the Burnham Trust at the Trust’s Paris headquarters, and everyone was waiting. Well, they could wait. All day and all night if he wanted. He was the Eighteenth Duke of Burnham and the second richest man in England after the Duke of Westminster, and he’d be late if he decided to be. He hadn’t wanted to be a duke, but having been forced into the job, he was going to enjoy every possible perk.

As soon as the news of Diana’s death had reached him, he’d vowed to find her tape and make it public. No luck for the last thirteen years, but his latest operative had just come up with a stellar lead at last. It was so stellar that not only was he pretty sure he was going to find the tape, he was also going to have the opportunity to unload the decaying family seat in Kent and exact his well-deserved revenge upon his father, the Seventeenth Duke.

Hever Castle as the Model for fictional Burnham Abbey

Tunnel, Place d”Alma, Paris

Diana’s Funeral

West Heath School for Girls

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