In her new book “The Diana Chronicles,” published June 12 by Doubleday, former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown explores the interaction betweeen Princess Diana and the media, as well as other factors that shaped her public persona. In the following excerpt, taken from her own diary, Brown recounts an encounter with Prince Charles that touches on the royals’ curious remove from the media and Hollywood:
At a social event in California … I was struck by how remote Charles seemed from any real conflict. It was a reception in Los Angeles for the touring Royal Shakespeare Company, of which the Prince is patron. As the editor of The New Yorker at the time, I was listed as a host of the first night dinner. Except for the fact that the Prince cracked his knuckles all through the performance of “Henry VI,” he seemed almost preternaturally serene. “Is it disconcerting watching your ancestors murdering each other, sir?” I asked during the intermission. “They’re only distant relations,” was his typically Charlesian reply. “As a matter of fact,” he said, consulting his program notes, “I think I am descended from Vlad the Impaler, that appalling Balkan horror.”
To be around Prince Charles is to see that very little is allowed to penetrate the royal shell. His life is swaddled round the clock by a squadron of brisk, officer-class appa-ratchiks whose job is to answer his whims and keep his spirits up. “I get the most terrific people,” he said to me. “They flake out after two years but they miss it, don’t they?” he added, turning to the crisp, attentive figure of his deputy private secretary, Sir Stephen Lamport.
“Definitely, sir,” replied Lamport.
“I mean all the excitement,” said Charles.
“The excitement, sir, yes,” said Lamport.
At one point I found myself with the Prince in one of those unpredictable eddies of silence that happen at a big social event. “They’re strange, aren’t they, in L.A.?” the Prince mused, cracking his knuckles again. “I mean, they all want to go to bed at 9. At the premiere of ‘Frankenstein’ they made me say something, so I was all prepared, you know, to wax on about the British film industry. But they made me do it before dinner because everyone just pushed off in their cars.” I explained that Hollywood, like New York, is all about work. The glamour is the myth. “Surreal isn’t it?” he said. No, I wanted to say to the Prince who fell to earth, you are the surreal one.