Although I would not put her in the same boat as Trump – when it comes to narcissism there are different shades and levels - there are still many links and affinities between the two that I will try to draw out in this post. Both are good at manipulating others and spreading gossip and rumors while also playing the press in giving us a false, faulty, and often idealized impression of themselves. In the case of Trump, the media realized, sooner than later or rather later than sooner, that they were, to a large extent, responsible and guilty of getting him elected in the first place; they put him in the spotlight by giving him airtime and publicity regardless of whether it was good or bad press that he received. Often, it was the bad press that helped him gain more attention and notoriety bringing and ushering him many fans and followers in the process.
However, in the case of Diana, it was somewhere between wishful thinking and love at first sight that made us fall for her and made us not realize the many gaping flaws that lay beneath her projected and carefully crafted persona.
In fact, many of us may still hold and grab onto a positive perception of the Princess of Wales and may still swallow it whole; we may believe her to be kind and a champion of the weak and downtrodden as there are certain narratives we like and prefer to believe in while ignoring or turning a willing blind eye to more disturbing trends and unflattering facts of the matter. It is even more emblematic and symptomatic of the current era to jump to conclusions and to rush to blame by making the male counterpart accountable for most of the evils of the world, even in cases when this seems farfetched and not in accordance with the facts.
Diana’s Tale of Becoming the World’s Most Photographed Woman
Diana Spencer had since childhood envisaged and dreamed of being a princess. Her dream was not that farfetched as it may have seemed at first glance. Although the press and media tend to present her as a commoner entering, barging into, and eventually conquering the royal household, she was and had been already part and parcel of the noble class as the Spencer family had close ties with the royal family for several generations. In fact, she became Lady Diana in 1975, which was a handful of years before her marriage to Prince Charles.
The impression of Diana being like most other folks, common and ordinary is false, but it was promoted by the press intent on depicting her daily life, including photos of her as a schoolteacher. Although they may not have expressly stated it, the iconic photographs of her with school-age children around her spoke volumes at the time. Yet, in reality, Diana was not qualified to teach but she was a playgroup pre-school assistant and worked as a nursery teacher’s assistant, while also doing some cleaning for her sister Sarah, the same one who had briefly dated Prince Charles before her. Lady Diana wasted neither time nor attention to gain the Prince’s attention, the man who represented her gateway ticket to the royal palace and the dramatic scene in The Crown’s fourth season comes to mind as she playfully and seductively introduced herself to the prince in an unusual but attention-grabbing outfit for an alleged upcoming play.
Narcissists are great at charming others, at least for a while until sooner or later their true face appears and the charades and roleplaying come to a halt. Yet she was able to use her charms and her beauty to mesmerize the royal household and to gain raving reviews from everyone as she was generally well-liked and well-received. Like a chameleon, she must have been quite adept at giving everyone what they wanted most, all the while impersonating a carefully orchestrated shyness in front of others, particularly whenever cameras were within reach. The media became her greatest ally when convenient, and when inconvenient, her sworn enemy. And just like that, she had managed to leave behind those low-paying jobs as well as the flat that she owned and that she had shared with three roommates.
After the marriage, which must have seemed like an exact replica from her vivid childhood dreams, she loved to dwell and harbor in the camera’s beloved gaze. This went so far that not only did it rob attention from the royal household, but it made Prince Charles quite jealous. He was the one with the royal title, but it was his beautiful wife that got all the media coverage. Princess Diana was noted for her shyness but at the same time, she was quite photogenic. This came as no surprise as she knew she was posing for them and she loved all the attention she could get from their hungry eyes by parading and demonstrating a distinctive fashion sense.
Even when it was Prince Charles’s birthday, she pounced upon the opportunity to show herself off by revealing her ballet dancing skills to the world. This was supposedly to please him and was meant as a special birthday gift/surprise, but he was rather annoyed by her again stealing attention and recognition from him; he would have been simply content to enjoy the opera without the dramatic ballet intermission set to the music of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” - something that had little to nothing to do with the Prince but was merely about shoving the princess into the limelight on his special day.
Diana’s life can be broken down into different phases with most of them being tied to the preconceived idea of her being a victim. There was the misunderstood and neglected wife who only played second fiddle to Charles as he had his eyes on his married first love interest, Camilla. This went so far that Diana in her own words and account threw herself down the stairs 12 weeks into her pregnancy. Although there is no denying that she was struggling with various mental health issues, including bulimia, and she is often diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder, I think that narcissism would make more sense in her case. For instance, her fall was not meant to hurt her but was merely meant to draw more attention to her while also being a sly and indirect rebuke as well as a potential threat and menace to her husband and by extension the royal family.
Her desire for attention was also what fueled her excessive involvement with over a hundred charities. I am not denying that in many ways, the attention that she drew towards those causes had beneficial effects, but her intention and focus were not on the issues themselves but rather only on promoting herself and having her bask in the flashing light of the media. Most people would limit themselves to a handful of charities of personal interest and relevance and would not engage in a the-more the-merrier mindset when it came to charitable involvement and philanthropic contributions.
Apart from the wide range of charities ranging from children and youth to AIDS, leprosy, cancer, animal protection, and landmines as well as the homeless, drug addicts, and the elderly and the dying, she was also involved with a brain injury association, the British lung foundation, the blind and the deaf and the disabled. All her involvement and interest were shallow. No one would be nor could be seriously interested in so many simultaneous and quite different issues at the same time. There is no common theme her except the aim and intention of grounding her firmly in the limelight.
Add to this, her rather unconventional approach to her charity work. For instance, she was not averse to making physical contact with AIDS patients as well as leprosy victims and she would not be afraid of walking across a field filled with potential landmines. In all these cases, she unnecessarily and indiscriminately put her own life as well as the lives of her two children at risk. The Queen was horrified at this type of behavior and wanted her to do “something more pleasant” with her time and efforts. On one hand, we would certainly appreciate the princess’s rebellious attitude, but it seems to me that all these efforts were meant to not only defy her husband and her royal family but also to visibly irk, annoy and destabilize them all.
Then there is the persona and image of the caring mother. For instance, despite suffering from postpartum depression, she took baby William with her on a major tour to Australia because she did not want to or could not part with her child. This was heralded by the media as an ideal example of motherhood, but, in reality, it was the Australian prime minister who suggested this, and it was not Diana’s idea, to begin with. While and whenever the cameras were zoomed and focused on her, she would feign the doting mother, and everyone watching was fooled by those transmitted moving images.
A caring mother would not expose her children to harm, as mentioned earlier with her recklessly dangerous charity initiatives, but let us not forget that she was actively cheating on Prince Charles, to such an extent that some questioned or put in doubt his fatherhood. Her defiance was of the role as a wife and mother as well as the rules and the decorum of the royal family, and she would be the one making decisions about the children regarding their upbringing, education, and lifestyle, effectively denying him and undermining and eroding the role of Prince Charles as both her husband and as their father.
Divorce was inevitable but it did not stop the problems with her. Ironically, in 1993 she decided to retire from public life only to re-emerge or make a “partial return” the following year. And she did so with her usual fashion sense but even hired a voice coach to improve her public speaking skills. Like an actress, she would rehearse certain scenes as well as reshoot some media coverage so that it looked and sounded the way she wanted it to look and sound. Again, it was less about the issues but more about herself and the people’s perception of her.
She was not averse to spreading gossip, lies, and mis- and disinformation, while the public doted on every word of hers and blindly and unquestioningly believed her, even when she was uttering outrageous lies. For instance, apart from claiming that it was Charles who was abusing her during her marriage, she even accused the prince of wanting to have her killed so that he could supposedly marry his personal assistant and whom he had apparently pressured and forced to abort their baby. Prince Charles’s relationship with Camilla was allegedly a sham so that he could later marry the woman whom he really loved, the once nanny of their children.
Finally, Diana’s death was tragic, but it was also not exactly how it is represented. The media was blamed, and there is no doubt that they played a significant role in it, but there was more to the accident than is generally known, acknowledged, or discussed. Most likely, they were all drunk in the car; there is, in fact, forensic evidence that the driver was drunk and under prescription drugs, apparently anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication. Moreover, he was speeding and lost control of the car. No one in the car was wearing seatbelts. The media should not have chased them, but in a way, she was inviting and enticing them, and in the end, trying to escape from them sadly caused her and her lover’s untimely death.
My point is not to defile her and her image but rather to bring to light and demonstrate the power, hold, and sway that narcissists can have on all of us and how we are often fooled by them. For the longest time, I had the (mis)perception that Diana was a victim and that she had been mistreated by the royal family and by the press.
But once we dig deeper and examine the issues, she was a narcissist who was able to manipulate and deceive millions and millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, narcissists are the ones that make the biggest waves in history, but they are doing it only to satisfy their own needs and benefits, to get their narcissistic supply, whereas they do not care about others nor the consequences and repercussions of their actions.
In the end, they leave the world (their own people, country, party, the royal household, and family) in shambles, whether it is Trump with his presidency or the world’s cherished but only imagined and projected ideal of the rebellious princess who allegedly represented the common people and supposedly brought light and goodness to the world.