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Thursday 02 February 2017 | UK News feed
Diana and Prince Philip: the truthImage 1 of 2 Prince Philip and Princess Diana before the birth of William Image 1 of 2 Prince Philip and Princess Diana before the birth of William
By Andrew Alderson
12:01AM BST 14 Oct 2007
They did not hate each other. He did not call her 'a harlot'. And he wrote her sympathetic letters which he signed 'Pa'
The journey from Buckingham Palace to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand is less than two miles and, traffic permitting, takes just five minutes with a police escort. It may be a short trip, but it is one that Prince Philip is extremely anxious not to make.
Michael Mansfield, QC, who has made a name for himself taking on the Establishment in court, has requested that the prince be called as a witness at the inquest into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. Friends of the Queen's 86-year-old consort say that he fears his appearance in the court would turn proceedings into a charade.
Mr Mansfield is acting on behalf of Dodi's father, Mohamed Fayed, who has repeatedly claimed that the Queen's husband worked with MI6, the intelligence service, to have Diana and his son murdered in Paris. Prince Philip ridicules the notion but knows that should he be called to the witness box, even denials to questions such as "Did you want Diana dead?" or "Did you work with the intelligence service to have the princess murdered?" would result in sensational headlines around the world.
Yet, if the coroner decides Prince Philip needs to give evidence, there is one reason why he might relish appearing in court 73: it would give him the chance to disprove the myth that he and Diana were at loggerheads for the final years of her life and that he had been offensive towards her in a series of letters.
Today the public perception of the relationship between Prince Philip and his one-time daughter-in-law is that it was fraught, even abusive. Yet the truth, say friends of both, is very different: they had largely patched up their differences in the final years of her life, to such an extent that he was a figure she turned to for paternalistic advice. Prince Philip gave considered and caring written responses, signing his letters "Pa".
The widespread belief that the princess and Prince Philip were at "war" is largely down to the utterings of two people. One is Mr Fayed, relentlessly alleging that Philip wanted the princess and Dodi Fayed dead, -supposedly to prevent them marrying and having children together.
The other person who propagated the idea that Prince Philip loathed the princess is Simone Simmons, a faith healer to whom the princess turned sporadically as her marriage crumbled. Five years ago, in the aftermath of the Old Bailey theft trial of Paul Burrell, the princess's former butler, Miss Simmons, 52, made a series of damaging allegations in a story she recounted to a tabloid newspaper. She claimed that Prince Philip had written a number of letters to Princess Diana in 1992. In them, according to the faith healer, the Prince called Diana a "harlot" and a "trollop" and told her she should put up with Prince Charles's affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (now his wife).
The bundle of -correspondence formed part of the so-called "Crown Jewels'" - referred to during Burrell's court case - that went missing after the princess's death in 1997. "They were the nastiest letters Diana had ever received," Miss Simmons told the Mail on Sunday in November 2002. "She had death threats which were worded nicer than his letters. He called her a trollop and a harlot and said she was damaging the Royal Family. I thought, 'What a despicable man', to say things like that."
Two weeks after the story was published, Prince Philip took the extremely rare step of denying Miss Simmons's recollections of the letters. He was so incensed by the claims that he authorised Buckingham Palace's press office to issue a brief -statement: "Prince Philip wishes to make it clear that at no point did he ever use the insulting terms described in the media reports, nor that he was curt or unfeeling in what he wrote. He regards the suggestion that he used such derogatory terms as a gross misrepresentation of his relations with his -daughter-in-law and hurtful to his grandsons."
Even now, however, Prince Philip - because of his unbending discretion - has held back from telling the whole story. Today it is left to others to reveal that, far from being abusive, the letters were thoughtful, considerate and sympathetic. They were written in the summer of 1992 after both Charles and Diana had pursued extra-marital affairs, and just months before they announced their formal separation in December 1992.
Rosa Monckton, one of the princess's closest and most loyal friends, closely guards the secrets that the princess shared with her over the years: she speaks only if she feels it her duty to put the record straight on particular events. Rather than allow Miss Simmons to re-write history, Ms Monckton has revealed that the princess allowed her to read the letters written by Prince Philip between June and September 1992, as the marriage crumbled.
"I was struck by how kind and compassionate and understanding he was of her circumstances," she says, adding that she was impressed by their -sympathetic tone and the thought that went into them.
Gyles Brandreth, the former Tory MP, journalist and broadcaster, who has known Prince Philip for more than 25 years, also believes it is wrong to suggest that he was hostile and uncaring towards his -daughter-in-law during and after 1992. Mr Brandreth gained a greater knowledge of the contents of the letters as part of his research into his book Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage, -published three years ago. "They [the letters] were sympathetic, but unsentimental, direct, but to a purpose," he says.
Five years ago, Miss Simmons admitted that she did not have copies of the letters - but she insisted she had remembered their contents. Prince Philip, on the other hand, did retain copies, as he will reveal to the inquest if he is called as a witness.
Royal officials have pointed out a series of other errors made by Miss Simmons that cast serious doubts on her claims and her capacity to remember the letters accurately. For instance, Miss Simmons claimed the typed letters from Prince Philip were on cream A5 paper. In fact, Prince Philip always types his letters on white A4 paper.
Furthermore, the letters - far from being "short and curt" as Miss Simmons insisted - were lengthy. And finally, Prince Philip did not, as the faith healer claimed, sign his letters to the princess "Philip", but "Pa".
The Sunday Telegraph has established that Prince Philip was so incensed at the time by the claims, and the offence they might cause to Princes William and Harry, that he consulted his lawyers, Farrer & Co, with a view to suing for defamation and making a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Com-mission, the press watchdog. It was only when he was advised that a statement would be the "simplest and quickest" way to put the record straight that he refrained from legal action. It would be naive, of course, to suggest that Prince Philip and the princess never had their differences. In the early years of the marriage, he is understood to have found her difficult, demanding and manipulative. At the time, Diana was suffering from eating disorders, a tendency to self-harm and post-natal depression.
Like the Queen, Philip was also unimpressed by the princess's secret connivance with the BBC for her Panorama interview in 1995 when she famously complained that she was the third figure in the couple's "crowded" marriage.
"Never complain, never explain" is the rule for those in royal service. But friends of the prince suspect that he may have been sympathetic to the princess as she was retaliating for what her then father-in-law deemed to be a foolhardy exercise the year before, when Prince Charles admitted adultery in a TV documentary.
Prince Philip hopes that he never has to venture inside the Royal Courts of Justice to address the 11-strong jury. According to friends, he has no desire to obstruct justice but, apart from the fact that his presence would be a distraction, he simply feels that he has nothing to contribute towards identifying the cause of the car crash that claimed the lives of the princess, Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul.
If Prince Philip avoids being called as a witness, then his friends, and those of the princess, hope that Mr Fayed will nevertheless acknowledge that he has been misguided over the true nature of the relationship between Diana and her former father-in-law. They accept, however, that such hopes might be rather over-optimistic.
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