In Search of Herself

Diana In Search of Herself is the first authoritative biography of one of the most fabled women of the century. Even those who knew Princess Diana will be surprised by author Sally Bedell Smith’s insightful and haunting portrait of Diana’s inner life.

For all that has been written about Diana–the books, the commemorative magazines, the thousands of newspaper articles–we have lacked a sophisticated understanding of the woman, her motivations, and her extreme needs. Most books have been exercises in hagiography or character assassination, sometimes in the same volume. Sally Bedell Smith, acclaimed biographer, former New York Times reporter, and Vanity Fair contributing editor, has written the first truly balanced and nuanced portrait of the Princess of Wales, in all of her emotional complexity.

Drawing on scores of interviews with friends and associates who had not previously talked about Diana, Ms. Smith explores the events and relationships that shaped her, the flashpoints that sent her careening through life, her deep feelings of unworthiness, her view of men, and her perpetual journey toward a better sense of self. By making connections not previously made and by explaining patterns of behavior not previous explored, this book allows readers to see Diana as she really was, from her birth to her tragic death.

Original in its reporting and perceptive in its conclusions about the severity of Diana’s mental health problems, Diana In Search of Herself is the smartest and most substantive biography ever written about this mesmerizing woman.

New Insights and New Information

For the first time, a thorough analysis of Diana’s character and temperament, leading to the conclusion that she may have suffered from one of the most elusive mental illnesses–the borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by a confused identity; sharp mood swings; extreme fear of rejection and abandonment; an inability to sustain relationships; persistent feelings of loneliness, boredom and emptiness; depression; and impulsive behavior such as binge eating and self-mutilation–all of which Diana experienced in her adult life severely and chronically, as indicated by her behavior, her own revelations, and insights offered by friends and family.

Fresh analysis of her childhood and teenage years, tracing her latent emotional problems that originated in her mother’s departure from the family when Diana was six, along with her father’s emotional withdrawal. Based on new information from friends, teachers, and relatives, the book sheds new light on her parents’ marriage and divorce, explains how the warmth, stability and structure of Diana’s boarding school helped keep her problems in check, and how her symptoms of bulimia first emerged in her adolescence when she faced stressful situations.

For the first time, an analysis of her relationships with Charles and her lovers as part of an overall pattern showing Diana’s need for constant approval–a level of support that no one could maintain. The book offers new information and insights about each of these relationships–from her security guard Barry Mannakee through her riding instructor James Hewitt, art dealer Oliver Hoare, Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan, and playboy Dodi Fayed.

–A fresh perspective on the pressures that forced Charles and Diana into marriage, including the notion–contrary to the mythology–that Charles wasn’t calculating enough in choosing her, and that he allowed his heart to rule his head; a detailed account of the turbulence of the Wales marriage, including Charles’s efforts to help her by bringing in psychiatrists; how Charles’s temporizing behavior with Diana inadvertently made her problems worse; evidence disproving some of the most damaging stories that have circulated about the Wales marriage, including the famous “royal train” story and the assertion that Charles spent the night before his wedding with Camilla Parker Bowles; and what really happened when Diana fell down the stairs early in the marriage when she was pregnant with William.

–How James Hewitt’s weakness served Diana’s needs and how his insecurities enabled her to control their relationship; how he dealt with Diana’s “emotional roller coaster” differently from Charles, but no more effectively.

–New details about Diana’s controversial affair with Oliver Hoare including first-hand accounts from a mutual friend, Elsa Bowker; new information establishing that Diana did in fact make numerous silent phone calls to his home; how Diana even gave Hoare her father’s gold cufflinks, which she later would give to Dodi Fayed; how in a fit of jealousy Diana once jumped out of the car she was riding in with Hoare and disappeared for several hours until he found her crying near Kensington Palace.

–Numerous fresh details on Diana’s two-year secret affair with Hasnat Khan, including his appeal to her and how he helped restore some stability to her life; how she used disguises when they went out together because he loathed publicity; how she tried to to find him a job in South Africa as part of her dream of moving there with him; how a combination of press scrutiny and Diana’s attempts to control Khan drove him away.

–New information and insights into Diana’s romance with Dodi Fayed, including how Hasnat Khan’s breakup with her in July 1997 led directly to the Fayed romance, and how her public performance for the cameras was an effort to make Khan jealous; the first detailed analysis of Diana’s relationship with Dodi–how they were damaged in similar ways, and as one friend put it, “in love with the fantasy about each other.”

New insights into the behavior of Camilla Parker Bowles, including how she maintained confidential communication witih a London tabloid reporter for nearly a decade, offering him guidance on his newspaper’s coverage of the Wales marriage.

The first in-depth analysis of Diana’s relationship with the press, including how she used tabloid reporters and how the press warped her sense of who she was through its unrealistic expectations, distortions, exaggerations and outright inventions; how she moved from sending passive signals to manipulating reporters and editors; how she used various techniques to defuse rumors and confuse readers, and why she appealed to journalists in ways Charles did not; how her friend Peter Palumbo recruited Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil to give Diana “some direction” because Palumbo feared Diana might commit suicide; how she was so dependent on press coverage that when a friend arranged for a private vacation in Indonesia, she felt compelled to alert a tabloid reporter because she couldn’t stand the isolation.

New insights into ther struggle to make a role for herself, including the real story behind her taking on AIDS as a cause; a fresh analysis of her unusual rapport with strangers that tapped into her fragile sense of herself; a detailed account of how her retirement from public life wasn’t retirement at all and included numerous public events, appearances on fashion magazine covers and cooperation with two television documentaries.

New analysis of her volatile relationships with her family and freinds–how she assigned roles, maintained control by keeping friends apart, and constantly worried about rejection; how her ruptured relationships with her mother, sister Jane and a number of close friends left Diana increasingly isolated in her final year.

New information on the steps leading to and motivations behind her Morton and Panorama interviews, including her compulsion to expose Camilla Parker Bowles and Diana’s need to justify herself to the public, which she regarded as “an extension of her family”; how Panorama producer Martin Bashir preyed on Diana’s insecurity and even convinced her that her apartment was bugged; how before the Panorama interview, “all questions were submitted in advance and she rehearsed,” according to Barbara Walters, who spoke to Diana about the interview.

New perspective on Diana’s relationship with members of the royal family, and how one of Diana’s problems was, in the view of a close friend, that she was “raised without a mother and didn’t understand the idea of duty toward a husband’s family”; how her sense of the superiority of her own family made her more willful with the royals; how the royals’ position and upbringing made it difficult to understand her, or for Diana to understand them; how the Queen was “the least self-obsessed person you have ever met,” according to a former Buckingham Palace official. “She doesn’t think it’s interesting to talk about herself, and she is not interested in other people’s efforts to talk about themselves”; the first complete analysis of Diana’s turbulent friendship with Sarah Ferguson, including Fergie’s role in influencing some of Diana’s most self-destructive decisions, among them the Panorama broadcast.

Thorough analysis of Diana’s relationship with alternative therapists, how she moved from one to another in an effort to find what was missing in herself; new evidence that Diana’s most severe symptoms of mental distress–including her self mutilation and her bulimia–continued into her final years; how Diana’s colonic irrigation was another kind of bulimic purging; how her alternative therapists at best kept Diana occupied and distracted, listened sympathetically–Diana was so needy she routinely kept her “energy healer” on the phone for eight hours at a time–and staved off her fear of losing control but failed to ease her fundamental problems.

The real story behind Diana’s reconciliation with her stepmother Raine Spencer, including the role played by tycoon Monhamed Fayed, who helped bring them together, according to Andrew Neil, because “he wanted to build a new environment for Diana.”

New details about her friendship with Mohamed Fayed, how his “outrageousness” appealed to Diana, and how he cultivated the idea that both of them were outsiders and had the same enemies.

The real story behind her decision to drop all but six of her charities after her divorce in 1996: how she made her decision and what happened to the six remaining charities; how the big events of Diana’s last year–selling her dresses to raise money for charity and advocating the abolition of land mines–had more to do with her feelings and her friendships than anything else.

New insights into why psychotherapy failed Diana and why more help was not given her, including the role of the press, the view of Britons toward mental illness, and Diana’s own ambivalence about psychiatric treatment.

“By far the most sober and evenhanded look at the most mercurial personality of our time….Even followers versed in Di-nutiae can expect new details.”
Vanity Fair

“Sally Bedell Smith’s balanced and exhaustive biography….[is] a frank and complicated analysis…In Smith’s retelling, the ‘facts’ are contextualized in such a way as to make the readers question what they thought they knew….The princess that emerges here is not entirely unsympathetic. And Smith does have sympathy for her….Smith’s hand in the therapizing is mercifully light, and she acknowledges throughout that this ‘fractured’ personality ‘did her bit for society.'”

“Unusual and mournful…calmly persuasive”
Entertainment Weekly