On the sidewalk of a run-down back street in Hackney, one of the poorest and roughest parts of London’s East End, a couple of hundred schoolchildren were lined up on a recent cloudy afternoon. Clutching handmade Union Jacks, they peered excitedly down towards the end of the street, and were soon rewarded. A dark green Jaguar glided up, a policeman rushed to open the left rear door and out slid a pair of long, slim legs clad in dark stockings. The young woman who emerged pulled herself up to her full height of 5 feet, 10 inches and, with a wellpractised gesture, turned with a smile to let everyone get a good view of her before she disappeared into a church. Inside, she inspected a project aimed at helping inner-city chil-
ATTENTION WILL LIKELY FOCUS AS MUCH ON THEIR PECCADILLOS AS THEIR PET CAUSES
dren. She made small talk, smiled some more and then, after 45 minutes, was whisked off to lend her regal presence to yet another worthy cause. It was another working day for Diana, Princess of Wales, and she was doing what she does better than almost anyone else: she was simply being seen.
Power: That has always been Diana’s role. But as Canadians will find this week when she and her husband, Prince Charles, begin a seven-day visit to Ontario, the royal couple are increasingly using their potent drawing power to promote social causes that they have made their own. It is their third visit to Canada since they married a decade ago, and their schedule in Sudbury, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa will be notably short on the glitz and ceremony that was once the hallmark of royal tours. Instead, it will be long on encounters heavy with social significance. Diana is to meet AIDS patients, battered women and disabled children. Charles will visit ex-convicts at a rehabilitation centre and preside over a meeting between business leaders and environmentalists on the theme of “sustainable development.”
Even the royal couple’s official welcome to Ontario will take place not in Toronto, but at a traditional flag-waving ceremony in Sudbury, where, on Oct. 24,the prince was scheduled to give his blessing to a $500-million construction program aimed at controlling pollution at Inco Ltd.’s nickel-mining, refining and smelting operation. A gala evening is planned for Toron-
to’s Royal York Hotel on Saturday night, but even it was designed as a fund raiser for ABC Canada, a national literacy campaign, and Lester B.
Pearson College of the Pacific on Vancouver Island, one of Prince Charles’s royal charities. “They both feel there must be a sense of purpose when they visit,” one of the couple’s senior aides said last week, on condition of anonymity. “They don’t want to be just hand-shakers.” Sharing that view is Robert Davies, chief executive of International Business in the Community, a London-based nonprofit organization that was established last year at Prince Charles’s initiative and which organized his session with businessmen and environmentalists in Toronto this week. Said Davies: “You are really seeing not a ceremonial couple, but very much a working couple.”
Tabloid: That is the image the Prince and Princess of Wales would like to project.
But, inevitably, attention will focus as much on their personalities and peccadillos as on their pet causes. As future king and queen of the United Kingdom, Canada and their other dominions,
Charles and Diana are arguably the most celebrated, scrutinized and sniped-at couple in the world.
At 30, she has become the undisputed star of the royal road show. Each detail of her clothes, friends and household are grist for Britain’s tabloid newspapers, which track almost her every move.
He provides his own drama with sometimes tortured attempts to find a meaningful role for himself in early middle age (he turns 43 on Nov. 14) as he waits to inherit the throne from his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who at the age of 65 shows few signs of slowing down. And together, the royal couple are the targets of endless speculation about the state of their marriage, which marked its 10th anniversaryon July 29.
But the prince and princess who will be on display in Ontario this week and next are, by most accounts, happier and more stable than some reports might suggest. Diana, in particular, has settled into her public role as royal icon and her private life as mother to sons William, 9, and Harry, 7, with remarkable assurance. She has grown through her earlier incarnations as “Shy Di,” the 19-year-old beauty plucked from obscurity to marry a future king, and “Disco Di,” the rebellious young wife who insisted on playing rock music at home to the disgust of her staid older husband.
Hostility: Now, in Britain at least, she is riding a wave of popularity as a kind of secular St. Diana—the perfect princess, juggling a career and her responsibilities as a mother (although with ample help in both areas). Criticism of the Royal Family falls on others, including Sarah, the Duchess of York, who is widely described as greedy and vulgar, and Prince Edward, who is dismissed as an erratic failure. Even Prince Charles frequently encounters
public hostility for supposedly neglecting his wife and sons in favor of his own solitary pursuits. Only the Queen herself and the indestructible, 91-year-old Queen Mother— the other tough women who keep the Windsor dynasty flourishing on the eve of the 21st century—rival Diana in popularity with the British public.
The princess’s mastery of her public role was apparent during her recent visit to Hackney. Up close, she is not quite the stunning beauty she is reputed to be. Her nose is too big, for one thing, and constant dieting and exercise have made her so thin as to be almost angular. And like many tall women, she tends to slouch slightly to disguise her height. But like a professional model, she looks better in photographs than in person; photographers claim it is almost impossible to take a bad picture of Diana. But these days, she is disappointing them in at least one respect: she no longer wears different outfits at each appearance and frequently wears muted colors when at work. In Hackney, she turned up in a black jacket and grey skirt, prompting some of the photographers who dog her every step to lower their lenses in disgust. “It’s quite deliberate,” said James Whitaker of the London tabloid Daily Mirror, who has reported on the Royal Family for more than 20 years. £ “She’s getting away from the
Indoors, inspecting a
church project for poor children and later at a nearby day care centre, Diana managed to combine royal magic with at least the illusion of accessibility. She put on her “concerned” expression to chat quietly with social workers, people who run drug-treatment programs among the area’s large black population, and mothers of handicapped children. She unveiled architectural plans for remodelling the church hall, and looked charmingly flustered when the cord she pulled did not make the curtains open on cue. She managed to convey concern about the inadequacy of social programs in poor areas without going so far as to imply criticism of government. It was a deft performance—one of more than 200 that the princess will give this year.
CHARLES AND DIANA ARE THE MOST CELEBRATED COUPLE IN THE WORLD
Controversy: All the leading members of the Royal Family lend their time and prestige to charities, and Buckingham Palace lists more than 90 organizations that enjoy Diana’s patronage. The groups that she favors promote safe and uncontroversial causes: underprivileged children, the deaf, marriage counselling and the arts. But an exception to the rule of avoiding controversy is the princess’s highprofile role as patron of Britain’s National AIDS Trust. As far back as 1987, when concern about becoming infected by AIDS through casual contact was widespread, Diana was photographed shaking hands with AIDS patients in a gesture aimed at breaking down public fear of the disease. And in a speech in London last April, she told her audience that people who carry the HIV virus, which is believed to cause AIDS, should not be shunned. “You can shake their hands and give them a hug,” said the princess. “Heaven knows, they need it.”
Since she took up the cause, Diana has made AIDS clinics a regular feature of her itineraries—and she is scheduled to visit Casey House, a Toronto AIDS hospice, on Oct. 25. Her concern for AIDS sufferers also has a personal dimension. In late August, a close friend of hers, London art dealer Adrian Ward-Jackson, died as a result of the disease. Diana visited him in hospital several times just before he died, for as long as seven hours at a time. “His death brought the whole thing home to her in a very personal way,” says Margaret Jay, director of the National AIDS Trust. “And her involvement is enormously important in influencing public attitudes.” It is also worth millions to charities like the AIDS Trust; wealthy donors, organizers readily concede, are more likely to buy expensive tickets to charity functions if they have a chance of meeting a celebrity like Diana at the same time.
The princess’s concern has won her much public applause, but some criticism as well. A London newspaper reported last week that she has received hate mail on the subject, although her office later described it merely as “negative letters.” Diana has adopted a similar approach to another dreaded affliction: leprosy. In Indonesia in 1989, she shook hands with leprosy patients in an attempt to counter the myth that the disease can be contracted through touch.
Prince Charles’s own recent royal progress has been altogether more rocky. In part, Diana’s beauty, poise and highly visible role as devoted mother to princes William and Harry make her a tough competitor for the affections of the British public. Expectations are also much higher for Charles: as heir to the throne, he cannot get by with low-key visits on behalf of worthy causes and an occasional carefully scripted speech. And the prince’s own restless nature and inquisitive mind would not allow him to wait passively for his inheritance. The Windsor women are notoriously long-lived, and the Queen could well survive another quartercentury. That would make Charles close to 70 before he finally ascends the throne.
Equilibrium: A few years ago, the prince was prone to bouts of petulant self-pity when contemplating his role. In 1987, after undergoing public criticism for his controversial views on modern architecture, Charles told a radio interviewer: “There’s no need for me to do all this. I can’t just sit around and do nothing. If they’d rather I did nothing, I’ll go off somewhere else.” Since then, however, he has recovered his equilibrium and brought his interests into sharper focus. In 1988, he wrote and hosted a well-received BBC television documentary setting out his criticisms of modernist architecture and urban planning. He followed that up the following year with a book, A Vision of Britain, in which he argued that architects should turn back to classical models in order to develop “urban villages” that incorporate human scale and promote a vibrant street life.
The prince’s influence on British architecture has been considerable. His criticism almost single-handedly stopped several proposed modernist projects, including a planned steel-and-glass addition to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, which he labelled “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend,” and a major project in the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral. His critics argue that Charles is promoting backwardlooking “pastiches” of old styles, but the prince shows no signs of relenting. Only last week, plans were unveiled for an 18-acre development on land he controls in Dorset, in southwest England, that will incorporate the architectural principles he has championed. “He is putting his money where his mouth is,” said the couple’s aide.
At the same time, Charles has continued to expand on ideas he took up a decade ago. They include a social role for business in regenerating inner cities, environmental protection, organic farming and non-traditional medicine. Indeed, earlier this month he announced plans for another book that will describe how he has promoted environmentally responsible farming at Highgrove, his estate in rural Gloucestershire. His views are always carefully couched in nonpolitical language, but during the mid-1980s, they contrasted clearly with the emphasis of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on pushing development by simply taking restrictions off private enterprise. In the more socially conscious climate of the early 1990s, Charles’s views are less controversial—but his supporters are quick to point out that it is society that has changed, not the prince.
Eccentric: Charles’s interest in matters spiritual has also dismayed those Britons who prefer their royals to be in the down-to-earth, no-nonsense tradition of Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, and Charles’s sister, Anne, the Princess Royal. In July, Charles spoke to a gathering of psychiatrists and urged them to place less emphasis on treatment by drugs and more on spiritual healing. “The most urgent need in Western man,” he said, “is to rediscover that divine element in his being without which there can never be any possible hope or meaning in this earthly realm.” It was the type of statement that earlier this year prompted a leading British psychologist to label the prince a classic eccentric. Dr. David Weeks, who conducted a major study of 4,000 eccentric people, concluded that Charles is opinionated, outspoken and has “obsessional interests.” But Weeks cautioned that he was not implying that the prince was insane. Eccentrics, he said, are one of the sanest and happiest groups in society.
Eccentric or not, Charles’s wide-ranging intellectual enthusiasms have not made his 10year-old marriage any smoother. By all accounts, Diana’s interests run to gossip, pop music, fashion and family. But metaphysical musings are high on her list of things she finds boring. Her confidantes are mainly old girlfriends whom, it is said, she does not suspect of seeking her friendship only because of her current fame. Charles’s inner circle, by contrast, is a kitchen cabinet of informal advisers who include London architect John Thompson, the traditionalist urban planner Leon Krier and environmentalist Jonathon Porrit. The prince’s and princess’s social circles scarcely overlap— emphasizing their sharply different interests.
A Report Card On The Family
Britons are intensely interested in knowing which members of the Royal Family work hard at carrying out functions that include hospital visits, reviewing troops, attending official openings and making overseas visits—and which do not. Since 1979, Tim O’Donovan, a London insurance broker, has kept a meticulous record of official royal activities. In his latest tabulation of the activities of 10 members of the Royal Family between May 1, 1990, and April 30, 1991, Anne, the Princess Royal, emerged as the busiest royal. O’Donovan’s figures for official engagements carried out by the royals at home and overseas during the period:
The Princess Royal (Anne)............741
Queen Elizabeth H.........................571
The Duke of Edinburgh..................550
Charles, The Prince of Wales ........395
The Princess of Wales...................322
Prince Edward......................... 203
The Duchess of York (Sarah).........178
Princess Margaret........................ 159
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother 128 The Duke of York (Andrew).............28
In fact, say the British royal-watchers who chronicle the couple’s comings and goings,
Charles and Diana have almost nothing in common aside from their children.
Their marriage reached a low point late in 1987, when they spent more than a month apart and the British press engaged in a fever of speculation that the royal union might crumble entirely. Since then, they have managed to rebuild a relationship that allows each to pursue separate interests while maintaining at least the outward appearance of married life.
The prince lives mainly at his Highgrove estate, while the princess spends weekdays at their apartment in London’s Kensington Palace.
They see each other mainly on weekends at Highgrove but, by some accounts, even those meetings can be frosty.
Earlier this year, the London tabloid Today published a description of their Highgrove weekends that quoted a former police guard there, Andrew Jacques, as saying,
“The only time they meet up is at mealtimes, and very often that ends in a blazing row for all to hear.”
Climax: Many royalwatchers maintain that the marriage is effectively dead.
The couple, they argue, sleep, work, socialize and even vacation almost entirely apart. Charles tends to get most of the blame in the popular press, which frequently portrays him as a remote figure who abandons his young wife to go off fishing in Scotland, rarely makes time for his sons and prefers the company of such longtime women friends as Camilla Parker-
That view, Charles’s supporters maintain, is
Bowles and Lady Dale Try on. The latest round of rumors reached a climax when Charles and Diana spent July 1—her 30th birthday—apart. “He is the most selfish man I’ve ever come across,” says the Daily Mirror's Whitaker. “He has made no concessions to the fact that he’s been married for 10 years. He just carries on his bachelor ways.” naïve. Harold Brooks-Baker, publisher of Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage—the definitive publication on the British aristocracy— and a strong monarchist, argues that Charles and Diana’s union was a “semi-arranged marriage” to provide Charles with a young, virginal bride of appropriate social background who would be able to produce an heir for him. “The idea that it was the great love match of the century did a great disservice to the Royal
Family,” said Brooks-Baker. “How could it be, when Diana was the younger sister of one of Charles’s old girlfriends [Lady Sarah McCorquodale]? He hardly knew her.” Added BrooksBaker: “This is not a middle-class marriage. Charles has spent more time with his wife than any Prince of Wales in history.”
Another royal-watcher, author Penny Junor, maintains that Charles and Diana have forged a surprisingly successful, if unromantic, partnership. In 1986, Junor interviewed Charles and wrote then that his marriage was not happy. But in her new book, Charles and Diana: Portrait of a Marriage, Junor writes that they have come to love each other “with the familiarity and affection of two horses who have spent 10 years working in harness.”
The one thing that almost all those who follow the royal relationship agree on is that
Scrutiny: The unrelenting glare of tabloid attention on that marriage, and on the private lives of other members of the Royal Family, has opened the monarchy to unprecedented scrutiny. Sarah, the Duchess of York, confessed recently that she feeds letters from her husband, Prince Andrew, into a paper shredder for fear that they might find their way into a newspaper. “I think it is better there are little facts that are unknown,” she told a television interviewer.
the couple will never formally end their marriage. Although Diana’s own mother deserted her husband for a lover in 1967, abandoning her four children, those who claim to know the princess well assert that she would never do the same. And for the prince, his devotion to his duty as royal heir outweighs all other considerations. “There will never be a divorce,” Brooks-Baker says flatly.
But the constant hounding has not seriously dented the Royal Family’s standing—at least in Britain. A poll last year for The Sunday Times oí London found that most Britons continue to believe that the royals are generally hardworking and respected, and that they do a worthwhile job. As for Charles, fully 88 per cent said that they think that he will eventually make a good king. For a man who was derided only a few years ago by the press as “prince of loons” for his unorthodox views, that is a remarkable finding.
Charles and Diana last came to Canada in 1986, to visit Expo 86 in Vancouver. Since then, they have defined their royal roles—both separately and together. Canadians will have a chance this week to judge for themselves how well the prince and princess have equipped themselves to take the monarchy into the next century.