Charles' Image Better Since Diana Death

Aug. 31, 2002 -- When Lady Diana Spencer married into the Windsor clan, it was a PR bonanza for the royal family. Ten years later, they were wishing they had never heard of her.

But if Diana in life rocked the royal boat, that was nothing compared to the effect her death had on the royal family. Amid the public outpouring of grief, anger over the royal family's treatment of Diana all but boiled over.

Five years later, the monarchy no longer seems to be under threat, and the royal family seems determined to sweep any remnants of Diana under the carpet.

Here's a look at how some of the major players have fared:

Prince Charles — During the Wars of the Windsors, Charles did not come out smelling like a rose. He was largely seen as cold, out-of-touch and even a bit batty.

When, in his authorized biography, he complained that his mother was cold and distant and his father had pushed him into marrying Diana, he was dubbed "the Prince of Wails."

But on his ex-wife's death, Charles showed himself at his best. Obviously very much affected, he traveled to Paris to escort the princess's body home. While the queen reportedly thought Diana deserved no special treatment, Charles warned that the people wouldn't stand for it. He insisted that his former-wife be honored, and he devoted a lot of energy to his grief-stricken sons.

Now, five years after the tragedy, polls show fewer people think Charles should be passed over in the succession in favor of his elder son.

"He's certainly been rehabilitated," said Rob Turnock, author of Interpreting Diana and a research fellow at Bournemouth University in England.

Now Charles is emerging as the Windsor family spokesman. On the deaths of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, he gave moving eulogies to the press. And he seems to have patched things up with his mother too; at the queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations, Charles was among those lauding Queen Elizabeth II's 50-year reign.

Prince William and Prince Henry — Princess Diana's death hit her sons the hardest. The press agreed to keep a distance from the young princes, but as they grow older, they are likely to become paparazzi prey, just as their mother was.

William, now 20 and a student at St. Andrews' University in Scotland, has been cast as a teen heartthrob. Tall and blond, with a startling resemblance to his mother, William has the double burden of being the new idol of his mother's fan club and being the future of the monarchy.

As a schoolboy at Eton, the red-haired Harry has been relatively protected from the media glare. But Harry, who turns 18 on Sept. 15, made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that the prince had been indulging in pot smoking and underage drinking. A concerned Prince Charles made his younger son spend a day at a rehabilitation center so he would see the error of his ways.

Queen Elizabeth II — In the naughty '90s, when her children and their spouses were entertaining tabloid readers worldwide with their antics, the queen won public admiration for doing her dignified duty through what was dubbed annus horribilis.

All that changed when Diana died. The queen was suddenly seen as a cold-hearted woman who had ignored her daughter-in-law's troubles in life and was now trying to slight her in death. The queen's decision to remain at her Balmoral home in Scotland in the days following the accident brought her a lot of criticism.

Realizing she had misjudged the public's mood, the queen scrambled to rectify the situation. She addressed her nation, praising Diana, and ordered the flag displayed at half-staff over Buckingham Palace. (Normally, that's only done when the sovereign dies.)

It worked. "Contrary to popular belief, the monarchy didn't collapse," said Turnock.

Over the past year, the public has sympathized with the queen over the deaths of her mother and sister. And although there were fears that her Golden Jubilee celebration would be a bust, plenty of people tuned in to watch the likes of Ozzy Osbourne serenade Her Majesty.

Camilla Parker Bowles — What a difference a few years can make. Princess Diana openly blamed Parker Bowles for breaking up her marriage, and the public loathed the Other Woman. (Once, when she tried to shop in her local supermarket, angry women pelted her with bread.) Tabloids printed unflattering photos of Parker Bowles, causing people to wonder if Charles was crazy to neglect his beautiful wife for the "Rottweiler" (as Diana dubbed her).

When news of the princess's death broke, Camilla was reportedly the first person Charles called. Parker Bowles sensibly decided it would be better if she kept a low profile during the mourning period.

In recent years, however, Parker Bowles has become increasingly accepted as Charles' companion. Both William and Harry have met her, and Diana's sons reportedly like their mother's archrival (although whether they would accept her as a stepmom might be another matter).

While her mother was alive, the queen steadfastly refused to receive her son's mistress. But since the Queen Mother's death in March at the age of 101, the queen has eased up a bit.

"There are signs that the queen is becoming much more accepting of Charles' partner, Camilla Parker Bowles," said Michael Graham, associate professor of history at the University of Akron in Ohio.

In addition, the Church of England has moved to loosen its restrictions on divorced people remarrying, which could remove another obstacle from Parker Bowles' path to the altar. And a recent newspaper poll showed 51 percent of Britons favor Charles becoming king and marrying his longtime love.

Queen Camilla? It could happen.

Earl Spencer — When they were small children bewildered by their parents' divorce, Diana did her best to comfort her little brother. After her death, it was his turn to be the protective one. In his eulogy, Spencer was touching in his praise for his sister, but didn't hesitate to show his scorn for her former in-laws.

"She needed no royal title to continue her particular brand of magic," he said, a swipe at the Windsors for stripping Diana of the title "Her Royal Highness" on her divorce.

He also vowed to his nephews that the Spencers would not let them be consumed by royal duties and stodginess: "We, your blood family, would forestall such a fate."

The earl's defiant words were met with roars of approval from the crowd listening to the funeral broadcast outside Westminster Abbey.

Despite his bold pledge, Spencer seems to have relatively little contact with the young princes. Although he has opened a museum honoring his sister at the family estate, Althorp, the earl himself lives in South Africa.

Mohamed Al Fayed — The billionaire owner of famed London department store Harrods has always been a controversial figure, and since the death of Diana he has won no favor with either the royal family or the Spencers. Although his son, Dodi, was killed along with Diana and driver Henri Paul, public sympathy for Al Fayed is weak.

Al Fayed has pushed a theory that the fatal car crash was no accident, and that the princess was murdered to prevent her from marrying his son, an Egyptian-born Muslim. He has also done nothing to squash unsubstantiated rumors that the princess was pregnant when she was killed.

Diana's friends have denied she was pregnant and said there was no indication she planned to marry Dodi, whom she had only known for a few weeks.

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