Princess Diana: Did She Know She Was Going to Die?

By way of damage control, Charles would be taking along only one senior member of his staff: his deputy private secretary and media Svengali, Mark Bolland. A former director of Britain's Press Complaints Commission who maintained warm relations with most of Fleet Street's most powerful editors, Bolland had been hired the year before to boost Charles's standing in the public eye. An equally important part of Bolland's job was to remake Camilla's image. "The press has been terribly cruel to her," Charles told his new spin doctor at a meeting in August 1996. 'I want you to make people see Mrs. Parker Bowles through my eyes, let them see the marvelous woman I see. Once they do, I know they will love her the way I love her." To accomplish his daunting assignment, Bolland hatched a top-secret plan that would be known behind the walls of St. James's Palace as "Operation PB" (Operation Parker Bowles).

Behind the scenes, Camilla had played a key role in implementing Operation Parker Bowles. Just three months earlier, in late May 1997, she had asked Bolland to arrange a secret lunch at Highgrove with Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief image consultant, Peter Mandelson. With Camilla, Charles, and Bolland in attendance, Mandelson mapped out a strategy for the Prince of Wales to win back the hearts and minds of his people—and for Camilla to make herself acceptable to them as Diana's replacement. Within an hour of Diana's death, Charles was on the phone with Bolland again -- this time seeking advice on how to steer public opinion his way in the wake of the tragedy. Although Diana rightly viewed St. James's as "the enemy camp" where Charles's minions actively plotted against her, Bolland was now among those urging the Prince to make a public display of respect for the dead Princess. "Diana was right about one thing," said a former junior staff member at St. James's Palace, "everyone around Prince Charles hated her. The rest of the world may have seen her as a saint, but at St. James's the Princess was thought of as scheming, selfish -- a borderline psychotic. It was considered disloyal to say anything remotely nice about her."

Now, as the royal jet took off across the English Channel, Charles phoned Camilla for the words of comfort and support he would never get from his mother. His voice broke on several occasions during the conversation, and at one point he pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket to wipe his eyes. Once he finished the conversation by telling Camilla how much he loved her, Charles huddled with Bolland in the rear of the aircraft to hammer out a public relations strategy for the day. It was, without doubt, going to be an emotionally taxing journey for the Prince of Wales. But the two men agreed it was also going to be a pivotal time in the monarchy's history—a defining moment in which Charles might win the hearts of his countrymen and, in the process, their blessing to marry Camilla.

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