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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Princess Diana's brother, Earl Spencer quizzed
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Next month sees the fourth anniversary of Princess Diana's death.

Her brother, Earl Spencer, opened an exhibition commemorating her life on what would have been her fortieth birthday.

The exhibition is the latest addition to the Althorp estate near Northampton, which opened for its annual two-month season. Visitors can also see the island where the Princess's remains lie and tour a museum.

Many have criticised the Earl for cashing in on his sister's memory. He said: "I am pleased to see the accusations get less and less each year. It is patently not true. Last year I personally made a substantial loss and I don't mind that at all."

How does he mark the anniversaries of his sister? Does he think Prince Charles should re-marry? Does he keep in contact with nephews William and Harry or any other members of the Royal Family?

Earl Spencer joined us for a live forum.The BBC's Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond put your questions to him.


Transcript:


Newshost:

Imran Javeed, Leeds UK asks: I would like to ask how you feel 4 years on and to ask if you ever worried about your sister during her life as a princess?


Earl Spencer:

I suppose the feeling is one of anyone who has lost a sibling and that is you certainly come to terms with it. The pain lessens but the realisation is ever-constant with you.

As for worrying about my sister when she was a princess, I did at times. I remember early on when she was married, I used to listen to a lot of news broadcasts because I was always terrified that she had been assassinated or whatever. I was a teenager and I assumed that she was terribly exposed as a public figure and that some lunatic or some terrorist organisation would have had a go at her. But all her adult life that I knew her and the world knew her, she was in the role of a princess so I suppose the basic feeling is that I saw her ups and downs like any other adult.


Newshost:

You must have worried about her emotional well-being at times?


Earl Spencer:

Like anyone you are closed to, they have happy times and less happy times and you have just got to be there for them whenever they need you.


Newshost:

Simon Ross in the UK asks: Everyone remembers the speech you made at Diana's funeral - how moving, how emotional that was. Was there any part of that speech that you now regret?


Earl Spencer:

No there is none of it I regret because at the end of the day it was the truth as I saw it then and apart from the fact I am still able to stand by every word, it would be pointless to look in that context because it was coming from the heart and written specifically for that day of the funeral. Looking back on it now seems rather pointless to me - I believe every word I said was genuine and that is all I wanted to be that day.


Newshost:

I suppose one of the main criticisms that were made of you was that it was not the right place and not the right time - it was a very poignant and emotional time to make such a hard-hitting speech. Do you not feel that now?


Earl Spencer:

No I don't. I never set out to be hard-hitting, I just set out to be truthful and so I think a church should be a place where truthfulness should be respected. To be honest, I have always felt that as the brother of the person whose funeral it was, I had a right to speak on her behalf in the way I saw fit.


Newshost:

Joan Clark of London asks: Do you wish now that you had let your sister live on the house on the estate - which in a bad emotional time for her during the collapse of her marriage she asked if she could live in a house here and you said no?


Earl Spencer:

Well that was certainly the right decision I believe. I offered her any other house on the entire estate - we are lucky enough to have 30 or so substantial houses here - but that was just not an option that one. It was exposed - it was only 50 yards from the road and for her and the boys to go and live there would have security nightmare and a privacy one and it just wasn't possible.

Diana could dig her heels in and get quite set on ideas and was not used to at that stage of her life to people saying no. But I still believe that a brother should say what he thinks to his sister whether she is a princess or whatever she may be. It just wasn't practical - she couldn't see that and it did cause a fall-out for a couple of months but that was the way it was. I still believe that was right and I offered her every other possible accommodation.


Newshost:

That was something you got quite used to didn't you - falling in and out? It was that kind of close relationship that could bear that.


Earl Spencer:

I don't think I was unique. Diana did take a lot of the pressures of her public life out on those closest to her and I see that as entirely understandable and my family and I got used to it. We were people who were not going to talk to the press about anything that was said or done. Occasionally when things were very tough for her it was easier for her to have a crack at one of us than somebody else maybe.


Newshost:

Andrew, South Korea ex UK asks: How did the main members of the Royal family, such as the Queen and Prince Phillip, showed their sympathies to you after the accident?


Earl Spencer:

Prince Phillip was there at the funeral cortege and was incredibly sensitive actually and very kind that day and thoughtful and helpful. The Queen let it be known through various people, how much she sympathised with everything that had happened and wanted to support the family in any way she could emotionally and she was very good about it - both of them were. Also all the senior Royal Family - there hasn't been anything that I could remotely criticise them on - they have all done what they felt was fit and it is obviously a private matter for them.


Newshost:

But in those initial days after the death, the Queen didn't pick up the phone and talk to you?


Earl Spencer:

No but that is not her way so I wouldn't expect her to.


Newshost:

There were some bumpy times in that week leading up to the funeral weren't there - some disputes about what kind of funeral?


Earl Spencer:

Not with the Royal Family as such. I think it was a unique funeral and therefore there were unique tensions. Obviously there was what my family thought was appropriate and there were the normal ways that the Royal Court would deal with things and obviously a compromise had to be found. At the end of the day I was very happy with the service as it happened.


Newshost:

Were you part of what we hear were the disputes about how she was going to be brought back? Allegedly some courtier said to the Queen - well Ma'am, do you want her brought back in a Harrods van. There were disputes - were you any part of that?


Earl Spencer:

I wasn't a part of any of that. In fact, I got back to England after Diana had got back and I was incommunicado really because I was coming back from South Africa. Then I liaised with a senior figure in the household at Buckingham Palace about the arrangements for the funeral and they were very accommodating in the end. There were a couple of things I changed and the rest was fine with everyone.


Newshost:

Mina Gerhardsen, Oslo, Norway asks: Are you bitter on the press for how they treated Diana?


Earl Spencer:

I think all my family realise that the hell the press brought into my sister's life was unforgivable and I am sure there are elements of the press that would recognise that. But I am not somebody who harbours resentment for a long time. It is past and I look to the future and the present and I am very glad at the way the press did not bother William and Harry in the same way that they did their mother. It was agony hearing Diana in tears sometimes late at night when the pressures of the press were getting to her and it will be very hard to forget that.


Newshost:

Audrey Blake in the United States asks: Should Prince Charles remarry? And if he does should he still be allowed to be King?


Earl Spencer:

My view on this genuinely is that it is a matter for him and his advisors and it is certainly not a matter for me to comment on. That is my line. It really isn't a matter for me to contemplate or have an opinion on.


Newshost:

Obviously the public does have an opinion about Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles and there appears to be a great deal more acceptance now that there an item. When you see them out and about together you must have a view about seeing Prince Charles with Camilla?


Earl Spencer:

I don't have a view at all - genuinely not. I have never met her and I have never seen them together except in newspaper photographs. I have only heard people say that she is a very pleasant lady and that is all I know.


Newshost:

So if she were to marry Prince Charles and she were to become the stepmother of your nephews, what would your feelings be?


Earl Spencer:

As long as my nephews were happy with it, that is all that would matter to me.


Newshost:

Certainly the Princess once told me that she felt that Camilla had been very loyal and discreet and in fact deserved some form of recognition. Did you get the impression that Diana was resigned to that relationship?


Earl Spencer:

Diana had very strong opinions on that relationship but it would be wrong for me to divulge them now.


Newshost:

James Duncan-McIntosh in Canada asks: Do you think there is any chance of the throne skipping a generation? Do you think that William will be the next King?


Earl Spencer:

I would have thought not. I can't of time where it's happened before. The Royal Family is very much bound up in tradition so I imagine it will go the traditional way which would be Prince Charles next and then William after Prince Charles.


Newshost:

It is not something William talks to you about?


Earl Spencer:

He has never raised that issue at all. But what William and I talk about really isn't for public consumption.


Newshost:

Debbie Wilmott in London asks: As you nephews grow up, what qualities do you see in them that remind you of the Princess?


Earl Spencer:

I think the main one is their attitude to people whoever they may be. An incredible sensitivity and a caring nature about people's feelings and making sure they are looked after in a sort of caring way. When I see one of the boys worrying about putting a member of staff out or knowing that somebody has done something special and recognising that - I see a very strong relationship between that and Diana and also my father - my father was particularly good at that and indeed his mother. So I can see it through now four generations. It is a very special quality and I think it is one that will endear him greatly to the public.


Newshost:

Mary-Elizabeth Delaney in New York, USA asks: Do you think you have been able to see the boys as much as you said you hoped to in your speech at the funeral?


Earl Spencer:

In my funeral speech my oath, as it were, was on behalf of my family to see that the boys grew up to be what their mother would have wanted. I don't take any credit for it at all but they certainly have grown into what their mother would have wanted and she would be immensely proud of them. As for me seeing them - yes, I do see them but I just do it quietly. The point is I am their uncle and I know it is very difficult because they are two public figures in their own way and I suppose people felt after that speech that I would be flaunting them and wanting people to see us together but that is not the way I operate. As far as I am concerned I have a loyalty to them as my nephews and they are nephews who don't have their mother and therefore they need extra care and attention.


Newshost:

And they do come here sometimes?


Earl Spencer:

They are always welcome here.


Newshost:

I believe Prince William came on what would have been Diana's 40th birthday.


Earl Spencer:

He may well have done.


Newshost:

Helen in the UK asks: You must have realised that your remarks about Prince Charles not visiting Diana's grave would lead to suggestions that he doesn't care. Is it fair for you to invite the public to make this kind of judgment?


Earl Spencer:

I didn't invite anyone to make a judgment. I was asked a straight question as to whether Princes Charles had been here or not and I answered it. I wasn't in any way judging or asking anyone else to judge but I was asked a question and I felt a straight answer was appropriate.


Newshost:

Do you find it hurtful that he hasn't come in the four years?


Earl Spencer:

I really view it very much as a private decision on his behalf. As I have said he is always welcome here and if he chooses not to come here then that is entirely a private decision and it is nothing to do with me and it would be wrong for me to surmise otherwise.


Newshost:

Does it surprise you though?


Earl Spencer:

I suppose if I thought about it I would probably have more of an opinion but as far as I am concerned, as I say, the place is always here for him to visit if he chooses to or thinks it right to and if he doesn't choose to then I respect his private intentions.


Newshost:

And he has never rung to even discuss the possibility?


Earl Spencer:

I can't comment on that because again it is private and I wouldn't want to reveal what was said or not said.


Newshost:

Clay, Anderson, South Carolina, USA asks: Has the Duchess of York or any other member of the Royal Family been allowed to come and pay their respects? And do they have to have a personal invitation to view the island?


Earl Spencer:

Whether individual members of the Royal Family or former members of the Royal Family have been here or not really is irrelevant. The fact is that of course they don't need a formal invitation and they are all aware that they can come whenever they see fit and that is the way it has always been. I understand if they want to come or don't want to come - it is entirely up to them.


Newshost:

Usman Rafique, Lahore, Pakistan asks: One thing is for sure that Princess Diana was very famous and was adored by Asian community not because of her royal status, but for the fact that she had this special inclination towards poor and needy children. What my question to you is that did she give enough time to her own children?


Earl Spencer:

First of all, Diana adored Pakistan. It was this strange spiritual connection this very English girl had with such a different culture and I think America and Pakistan were the two places where she felt most at home.

On the wider front of her sons - well I don't think she really could have done a better job as a mother. She forged her own way as the Princess of Wales who was a very hands on mother. I don't think any other Princess of Wales has been like that and I think it is her testimony to her strength of character and her sense of duty as a mother that she put in so much effort and the groundwork is clearly paying off because the two boys have clearly flourished into very fine young men.


Newshost:

And they don't resent the fact that she was off on tour a great deal?


Earl Spencer:

I would think they would be the last people to do that because they understand a sense of duty and she really did keep it to a minimum and made sure it coincided when they were away at school.


Newshost:

You were saying that she felt so at home in Pakistan and this leads one to think about Dr. Hasnat Kahn the heart surgeon from Pakistan who was reputed in many way to have been the man she would have liked to have spent the rest of her life with. Was he in your view the love of her life?


Earl Spencer:

Dr. Kahn has been very private about his relationship with my sister and all I can do is respect that by being equally private about it.


Newshost:

Jane in Italy asks: Should there not be a plaque or a statue in Westminster Abbey? Also Margaret Driver from California thinks there should be some kind of memorial in the United States because a lot of people can't afford to come over to the UK.


Earl Spencer:

I can understand people's impatience to honour Diana but certainly in this country there has always been a way of doing things and things tend to take time. I am sure at the end of the day there will be more public memorials to her but I don't know what Westminster Abbey's policy is but I am sure that will all work itself out in time.

As for memorials overseas, there are some already but they tend to be in shape of hospital wings named after her. It is a very difficult balance between having a symbolic, often expensive memorial to somebody like Diane who was really famous for being hands-on and being humanitarian or having some working enterprise like a hospital or a hospice that celebrates what she did in her lifetime. I am very confident that over time people will reach the level that they want and if the Americans want to have a specific national memorial to Diana, I am sure it would evolve.


Newshost:

Would you object to a statue?


Earl Spencer:

A statue is very difficult. Diana was very photogenic but I never seen a successful statute of her. This was a problem we overcame here by having a silhouette of her. A lot of Diana's appeal was her energy and you can't capture that in stone. I just can't see it working. I like the fountain because the spirit and the freshness of the water seems to symbolise a lot more of what Diana was about than a piece of stone.


Newshost:

If she was here with us today what direction do you think her life might have taken?


Earl Spencer:

I think she would have seen the landmine issue through as far as it could have gone. I think she would not have allowed various governments to fudge the issue as they have done in the past four years. I think she would have carried on pioneering difficult causes. I think she would have taken enormous in her sons and where they have got to now and would be trying to steer them forward so they can balance their private needs and their public role.

Also I hope she would have found happiness in her private life too. Certainly by the time she died she had so much more maturity about her and so much more direction than she had had for a very long time and I just feel that she had established so much of what was important to her and what she wanted to do and what didn't work for her and that she was at a crossroads really and I think it would have been a fascinating time in her life if she had lived those extra years.


Newshost:

She certainly struck me in those last months as really very much in control. Her physique was strong and she just knew where she was going.


Earl Spencer:

There was a sort of steel about her that hadn't always been there. I think it was tragic that she was taken when she had reached such an equilibrium in her life.


Newshost:

Jean O'Brien in Sterling Heights, USA asks: How do you feel about the perception by some people that you are cashing in on your sister's name in order to get publicity for yourself?


Earl Spencer:

The perception is very unfortunate and obviously deeply hurtful because my role is first of all to honour Diana's name and to show why she was so popular in life and why she was so mourned in death. That is what I attempt to do here and the public who come here seem to like it very much.

I am not in this for myself and I am not in it for any other reason than to do what is right by Diana. So for people criticise me for having motives for which I just don't have is obviously deeply hurtful. I am somebody who has lost a sister and it is obviously forgotten. I can't believe it when people write the more snide articles about me that they can actually piece it together - brother and sister. It is almost like she was a famous person and I am just someone who is trying to do something to benefit myself - well that just isn't the case.

From this place over the past four years, we have generated over 800,000 for her memorial fund and I am very proud of that. I am very proud of everything we have done here and it is a pity that these criticisms come. But the only good point from my point of view is that these criticisms get less and less because they are basically unsustainable and gradually I think that message is getting through.

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