To L.A. Advisor, Diana Showed Spirits High and Low
My invitation to the funeral came in a phone call Wednesday night from Princess Diana’s chief of staff, a wonderful, caring man who served her for many years. His words--'Richard, you’re meant to be in Westminster Abbey. Book your flight"--still ring in my ear.
My connection to his boss began just over a year ago, in June 1996.
She had invited me to Kensington Palace for a private lunch to share my expertise as a public speaking coach. While captivating and at ease in social interaction, the princess, like so many other high-profile people around the world, was uncomfortable giving speeches.
“I would love to be more comfortable speaking,” she told me. “I’m so jealous of [Prince] Charles’ ability to stand up there and tell jokes with such ease.”
I responded that Charles could never, with all his training, do the one thing she could do: speak from the heart. Instead of launching right into her speeches, I suggested, she should do a prelude with some warm, natural personal conversation.
All told, I met with Diana four times over the past year; the last time was a courtesy call in London last month. We frequently exchanged faxes and spoke on the phone as well.
That first invitation to Kensington Palace came just days before she was to lose her royal status, finalize her divorce from Charles and begin a new phase in her life.
Bounding out in a comfortable but classic blue suit, face tanned and smiling, she extended her hand and excitedly said: “Oh, Richard, I’m so glad you could make it.”
Remembering the proper protocol, I dutifully reached out my hand and bowed, uttering something like, “It’s a pleasure to be here, your royal highness.”
Setting the tone instantly for our two hours together, she almost laughed and said, “Oh, please, call me Diana.” She could be open, relaxed, playful, heartfelt.
Sitting in a front-row seat inside Westminster Abbey on Saturday, I was deeply moved. When Charles passed within a few feet as he left the cathedral, I saw a tear in his left eye. I was touched by the subtlety but sincerity of his emotion.
As I listened to Diana’s brother, the Earl Spencer, so eloquently indict those who doubted her, I reflected on the pain she had shared with me about being so misunderstood. “I do care,” she said to me. “They just don’t seem to want to believe it.”
In our time together, I told her that she would prevail, that she would win over the doubters simply by being herself.
But there was also a flip side to her. Seconds after being up and bouncy, she would get very shy and quiet, drop her shoulders a bit, tilt her head down and to the side, and look up at you with big doe-eyes. Once, after I had complimented her on something, she assumed this vulnerable pose and asked, with incredible insecurity, “Do you really think so?”
I told her that my comments were always genuine, and then I remember blurting out, “You are really two people, aren’t you?”
There was a long pause, and then she said: “Yes. How did you know?”
But we didn’t speak only about her.
I was shocked at how open she was about so many things in her life. She talked about Charles, her relationship with his family, her mother, why she was drawn to the charities she had chosen and what she was looking for in a man.
“You know, I think romance is overstated, don’t you?” she told me during our first meeting. “I think now that what I really want is someone who can be a lifelong friend.”
But her sons were her favorite subjects of conversation. When talking about Harry, she would describe him in typical kid terms. And when she mentioned William, her whole face would light up. She told me she believed him to be “a very old soul.”
Richard Greene is a communication consultant who lives and works in Malibu.