Diana’s birthday

One of the things that makes me nuts in interviews for my book tour is the question: "Is Paris Hilton the Princess Diana of today?"

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One of the things that makes me nuts in interviews for my book tour on “The Diana Chronicles” is the question: “Is Paris Hilton the Princess Diana of today?” Aside from the blond hair there is no one on the planet more unlike Diana than Paris.

Ms. Hilton’s defining moment was a webcam video of herself with a loomin phallus in her mouth, whereas Lady Diana Spencer at the age of 19 was beet-red-faced with embarrassment when a tabloid photographer snapped her with her infant charge outside a nursery school in a pose against the sunlight that revealed her shapely legs.

Diana took her celebrity and leveraged it into such moments of global humanitarian impact as being the first member of the British Establishment to kiss an AIDS baby, grasping the bandaged hand of a leper without gloves, and walking in an uncleared mine field to bring the media spotlight to the victims of anti-personnel mines. In her entire 16 years as Princess of Wales she was never once caught looking anything but her absolute best. Unlike Britney, Lindsay or any other of the pitiful starved waifs attached to hair weaves, she never acted out her private pain by throwing up in the backseat of a car, winding up in rehab or displaying her shaved pudenda to a stricken nation. If anyone else can think of a further point of resemblance between these two, suggestions gratefully received.

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I never for one moment thought the Prince William and Kate Middleton relationship was actually over. It merely went underground to hide from the feral media beast. It was typical somehow of the British press to immediately assume that William had dumped Kate because her mother didn’t have the right accent.

All my palace sources informed me that it was Kate who’d gone extremely cold-feet-ish about the situation. Originally, I am told, William had wanted Kate to be one of the presenters at the memorial concert for Diana this Sunday, July 1 — a notion nixed by the queen herself, who said, “We don’t want another media queen like Diana.” Buckingham Palace courtiers soon began to use the same on-message word about Kate — “flaky,” which is palace euphemism for way too much press and getting a little too demanding about having her own voice.

But make no mistake: William is nuts about Kate. The two of them had even canvassed an engagement announcement between the Sunday concert and the memorial service for Diana in August before it was all called off.

Now they’ve been sighted together. Don’t bet on the poised and private Miss Middleton being counted out as the future Her Maj.

On the other hand, why would she want it? Being Princess of Wales even post-Diana is almost a fate worse than death. The romance with the bachelor prince all begins as it did in Diana’s case with the dream but swiftly, even by the time of the honeymoon, will turn into the scream. What people often fail to understand about Diana’s story is that it wasn’t just the Camilla issue that was the curse. It was the oldness, coldness and dismal inevitability of the royal routine that made Diana feel as if she had been sealed living in a tomb. William can only handle it because he was born to it. Thanks to Diana’s nurturing as a wonderfully touchy-feely mom, William comes across as modern and young and hot and informal, but he is also, in one of Diana’s favorite phrases about the family, “Windsorized.” At heart William is a very conservative boy — he loves hunting, shooting and fishing. He wants to be a farmer, and he has been steeped from the cradle in the inevitable duty that is his lot.

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It would really be better for William if he married some ugly, invisible duchess, not a beautiful commoner like Kate. She would avoid the fate of becoming a global superstar, and not make the other royals jealous. She would be left in peace as she goes through the inevitable bulimia and postpartum depression attendant on being a zoo animal in a national theme park.
 

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NBC, after its shameful performance, ponying up a million bucks to interview Paris Hilton (and then not), at least had a sense of priorities in paying to televise Sunday’s concert in memory of Princess Diana. It promises to be just the kind of thing Diana would have loved, a celebration of her life not her death, the details of which the world has been so fixated on for the last 10 years.
 
The only thing that surprised me in Matt Lauer’s short interview with the boys tied to the concert was Prince Harry’s unfortunate comment: “Whatever happened in that tunnel, no one will ever know. And I’m sure people will always think about that the whole time.” My liege, we have been through 10 years of investigations about what happened in the Paris tunnel and it is clear that what happened was a traffic accident with a drunken driver, pure and simple. Any other version is simply the fairy story put around with obnoxious brilliance by Mohamed Fayed, unable to bear the fact Diana and his son died in a car with driver and bodyguard procured by his hotel, the Ritz.

The Operation Paget inquiry rigorously conducted by the former chief of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Stevens, reconstructed what happened in the tunnel with 3-D lasers and computer models. No doubt what Harry meant was he will never stop wondering about his mother’s state of mind that last sad, and chaotic, night of her life, but his comment is sure to be fully misinterpreted by the Fayed conspiracy machine.

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One thing is for sure, all the images the concert will show of Diana’s global acts of kindness will remind the world powerfully of how much she is missed. Bono, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and the other current celebrity humanitarians are following the template set by her, except she always did it better. Celebrities who work these particular veins are always having to prove something to their beneficiaries: that they’re not merely pretty faces yearning to spruce up their images on the backs of downtrodden Africans and Asians. Diana had no such problem. Her princesshood had given her that right from the moment she made her vows at St. Paul’s Cathedral. What better explanation could there be for her charity than the most obvious one: that she meant it?

On Sunday Diana would have been 46. Let’s at least celebrate on her birthday what she achieved in the short blaze of her incredible life

Tina Brown's column appears every Thursday in Salon.

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