OPINION: A certain princess still haunts the Royals

In the week it was revealed that Prince Harry was going to war, royal headlines were again dominated by Princess Diana.

A decade after the Paris car crash, the eternally iconic People's Princess was the subject of DVD giveaways, wall-to-wall TV advertising and front-page blurbs in the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Sun.

The occasion for the latest Di-fest is the tenth anniversary of her death. Or rather the 9.5th anniversary - she died in August 1997. In fact, no excuse is ever really needed by news­papers to splash Diana across front pages. For editors, she remains a unique piece of box office, the biggest single shifter of copies in a generally flat market.

And for royal image makers this poses a supreme challenge. No matter how hard they try to reshape perceptions around the Windsors to fit a family in touch with 21st-century normalities, the ghost of Diana with her sainted constituency of caring returns to haunt them.

Compared with the Greek tragedy of Diana, the media reporting of Camilla's hysterectomy has been limited. Even the prospect of Harry facing Iraqi insurgents pales in comparison with haunting images of the hunted princess and the constant reminders of her rejection by the monarchy.

The royal PR machine also faces a challenge on another front. Increasingly the voracious newspaper and magazine gossip columnists, royal correspondents and even showbiz writers are finding rich pickings from the antics of the new generation of royals.

This week saw the first kiss-and-tell by an ex-boyfriend of Fergie's daughter, Princess Bea. Although the Mail on Sunday's account avoided the bedroom, it did paint a louche and vivid picture of alleged drug taking and wild partying involving the ever-demonised Fergie and her teenage daughters.

Exaggerated or not, the damage to the image of royalty was done. Fergie may protest that she is simply a working mother paying her way. But the fact remains that while she travels the world first-class, using the title Duchess of York, and while her daughters are princesses, the press scrutiny will continue. That fact, coupled with the heavenly presence of Diana, will continue to pose huge challenges for the monarchy throughout what is bound to be a decade of change.

SEPARATELY... I was wrong when I wrote that the final cost of the Olympics would be £10bn (PRWeek, 1 December 2006). This week's ‘leaked' figure of £9.3bn suggests a final depressing cost closer to £20bn.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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