OPINION: Seat of power is still occupied by Diana

‘Let it end here’ was the parting sentiment from the Diana memorial service. The careful messaging from Prince Harry and the Bishop of London was picked up and reported in print and broadcast headlines in the UK and globally.

Monk: 'The empty seat in church, while his wife hid at home, was a potent symbol of Charles’s powerlessness’
Monk: 'The empty seat in church, while his wife hid at home, was a potent symbol of Charles’s powerlessness’

And yet the House of Windsor image makers would be wrong to believe that those ‘peace in our time’ headlines will make an iota of difference to a continued media obsession with the Diana story.

The phrase from the service was reported merely as a further twist in the tale, a headline of conveniently short words suited to screaming typefaces. ­Editors will still feel no compunction about exploiting the myths that have been created around ‘the People’s Princess’. The Daily Express will continue inanely to alternate its front pages between Diana fantasies and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The mighty Mail will continue - with its compelling mix of journalism, comment and marketing - to add layer upon layer of intrigue to the Diana legacy, which will be lapped up by its six million readers.

A plethora of new books is planned: the inquest into the Paris crash of a decade ago is scheduled for this autumn and will daily spawn a million words, and almost as many TV images, globally.

Worse, for Charles and the custodians of the Windsor succession, the extraordinary mishandling of the question of Camilla’s attendance at the service provides a worrying harbinger. The advice of the spin doctors that Camilla should attend was crass. The subsequent public humiliation of having to dump his wife from the service just days before clearly set the precedent that in any battle between future monarch and public opinion, it is likely that the latter will triumph. Charles was left, ­Canute-like, at the mercy of the waves. The empty seat in church, while his wife hid away at home, was a potent symbol of his powerlessness.

What price now Camilla becoming Queen? All the PR noises of the past two years from the Charles camp have suggested that the public would accept Queen Camilla, just as they accepted the marriage. But after its triumph at the service, the force of public opinion will surely rise again before any coronation and create not just an empty pew at Charles’s side but an empty throne.

Charles’s image makers also face the possibility that public opinion, emboldened by its triumph in having driven even Camilla from Charles’s side, may balk at Charles even becoming king.

Let it end here? In many ways the story is only just beginning. Long Live the Queen!

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

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in