Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Monday, 7 April 2008 18:03 UK

Intimate picture of Diana's life

By Peter Hunt
BBC royal correspondent

My childhood image of a princess has taken a battering. There has been no glitz or glamour on display - just the vulnerability of a woman who spent one weekend alone in her palace apartment heating up food in a microwave.

Diana, Princess of Wales
Princess Diana's private life was publicly examined

For six months, Diana, Princess of Wales, was brought back to life by her friends during the inquest into her death, which ruled she was unlawfully killed due to the actions of driver Henri Paul and the paparazzi.

Diana had had, they said, a remarkable ability to make people feel good. Like a lioness, her priority, one insisted, had been to protect her children.

August and December were difficult months for her because she was separated from her sons. Prince William, 14, had promised to restore her title, lost on divorce, as soon as he was king.

The mundane appealed to this mother of a future monarch. She seized the chance to order drinks in a bar or queue up outside a jazz club. She wanted to wear a wig travelling to Spain, until it was pointed out her disguise would not match the photo of a princess in a passport.

People fell in and out of favour. She changed her mobile number all the time. One of her telephone conversations lasted 10 hours. Women, one friend said, could do that, men could not.

Another spoke of Diana looking for peace, she had gone to people to help heal her pain. To that end, her circle of acquaintances included a medium who was asked at the inquest whether she thought the spirits she contacted were reliable sources, and a complementary therapist who exhausted herself cleansing royal rooms of bad energy.

Spied on

While the healer was correcting the imbalances in Diana's magnetic fields, Paul Burrell - the butler who once had a bodyguard - was lifting up carpets, moving furniture and taking down mirrors looking for bugs. The princess believed she was being spied on.

She spoke of being bumped off - of an accident in her car. Someone had said there was a fatwa on her because the Saudis loved Prince Charles.

His father, she told more than one person, wanted to get rid of her. Correspondence between the Queen's husband and Diana was made public. It was written as her marriage was collapsing.

In one of his typed letters, Prince Philip offered to help but said he had no talents as a marriage counsellor. In her handwritten replies, Diana referred to him as "Dearest Pa" and praised his "great understanding and tact" - characteristics that challenge his caricature.

But what did those around her make of Diana's fears? In court, they spoke of not taking them seriously, of not feeling any danger when with her, and of how, when she was low, Diana was ruled by her heart not her head.

Mohamed Al Fayed
Mohamed Al Fayed described the royals as a "Dracula family"

Raine, Countess Spencer, was transformed during the princess's life from wicked stepmother to close confidante. She said Diana's endless visits to soothsayers and fortune tellers might have heightened her fears. The countess told the jury she herself had dismissed their advice because she was a Virgo and very practical.

Diana's private life was publicly examined. Depending on the witness, her relationship with Dodi Fayed was either a summer fling or one destined to end up at the altar.

Others referred to Hasnat Khan as her "soul mate". The heart surgeon said they had talked about marriage, but he feared his life would have been hell.

This was a princess, we were told, who could not have been pregnant because she was on the pill and having a period. Such intimate details were made public to challenge Mohamed Al Fayed's allegations.

Poignant account

The Egyptian who says he is proud of his country's civilisation and does not need a British passport, uses English that packs a punch. The royals were a Dracula family, Camilla, a crocodile wife, and Prince Philip's family name was Frankenstein.

More colourful than most, Mr Al Fayed's account was just one of many. A poignant contribution came from an unlikely source. Our man in Paris at the time of the crash sat in the witness box and read out his record of the day's harrowing events.

Michael Jay, the diplomat diarist, went to the hospital to pay his respects to the dead princess. She was, in his words, "calm, eyes almost closed, bruised but peaceful, under a blanket, only her head showing".

When Diana's body was moved, the cortege, the ambassador noted, drove past "rank on rank of French men, women and children and tourists too". His account went on: "As the hearse, a low-key green van, passes, they clap and wave goodbye."

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