The jury at the high court inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed was treated to one of the most unexpected spectacles in British public life yesterday: a fleeting glimpse of the Duke of Edinburgh in letters he wrote to the princess, not in his usual guise as a crusty old buffer but as a concerned father-in-law doing his best as "Pa" to advise her during the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles.
The letters written in the summer of 1992, shortly before she and Charles separated, were disclosed in heavily edited form to demonstrate the untruth of long-circulating rumours that the duke had lambasted her as a harlot and, incidentally, to highlight the unlikelihood of the conspiracy theory, favoured by Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi's father, that Prince Philip had orchestrated the crash in the Alma tunnel in Paris that killed her in August 1997.
The letters show a rather stilted and anguished correspondence with the duke at one stage noting gruffly, complete with triple exclamation marks: "I am quite ready to concede that I have no talent as a marriage counsellor!!!" and Diana signing her lengthy and hand-written replies: "With my fondest love."
The exercise may have had an even more pointed purpose since the only source for the nastiness and vituperation about the duke's attitude towards Diana appears to have been her faith healer, Simone Simmons. (Above) She claims to have seen handwritten letters by the duke (who typed his own letters) on notepaper of a size and colour he does not use. Simmons has yet to give evidence.
- From Stephen Bates, writing for The Guardian [Underlined emphasis mine]