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Victim, Villain

Why write a book that defends Prince Charles?

By CNN Interactive Writer
Jamie Allen

ATLANTA (CNN) -- When it was recently revealed in Britain that Penny Junor's new biography on Prince Charles would paint an unflattering picture of Princess Diana, the ensuing outcry seemed to equal all the flowers thrown before the gates of Buckingham Palace after Diana's tragic death at the age of 36.

Among the more sensational revelations in Junor's book, "Charles: Victim or Villain?" (HarperCollins): an unstable Diana telephoned death threats to romantic rival Camilla Parker Bowles; and Diana was the first to be unfaithful in the royal marriage.

Claims like these are nearly sacrilegious in Great Britain, where Diana's life practically reached saint status the moment the Mercedes she was riding in crashed in a Paris tunnel on August 31, 1997, killing her, the driver and the princess' new love, Dodi Fayed.

Details of the book were released -- more than two weeks before a November 14 publication date, to coincide with Charles 50th birthday -- in the tabloid The Mail, which paid $850,000 for serialization rights. It wasn't long before every other tabloid reacted with juicy fervor, splashing headlines depicting Junor as a pro-Charles writer who just wanted to profit from the royal family's troubles and walk on the princess' grave.

After one newspaper printed Junor's home address, Junor says she received anonymous death threats, with one troubled soul describing how they would like to tear her guts out.

Even Prince Charles, enjoying a rebound in popularity, distanced himself from the book, releasing a statement saying it "was not authorized, solicited or approved by the Prince of Wales or Mrs. Parker Bowles" -- the first time Charles released a statement in tandem with Parker Bowles, who has not been granted official status with the royal family.


"I think that people, since (Diana) died, have not wanted to accept that she was human."

-- Penny Junor, author of 'Charles: Victim or Villain'


Junor, meantime, silently dealt with the controversy. (Due to her contract with The Mail, she could not talk about the book until it was published.)

Now she's trying to set the record straight.

"This is not an attack on the Princess of Wales," Junor said in a recent interview with CNN Interactive. "This is a look at a human being and I think that people, since she died, have not wanted to accept that she was human, so to hear me talk in human terms is unacceptable to them.

"The British press has been throwing everything at me, including the kitchen sink," she says.

According to Junor, the parts in the book that were sensationalized by the rabid British media are very small ripples in a much larger ocean of problems experienced by both Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

"Those things were taken out and given banner headline treatment," Junor says. "The death threats take one sentence in a book of over 100,000 words."

Junor instead bills "Charles" as a rebuttal to Diana's 1992 outpouring in the book "Diana: Her True Story" by Andrew Morton, and on the 1993 television program "Panorama." On both occasions, the princess claimed Charles was the cold-hearted reason the fairy tale marriage ended with its own permanent midnight.

"The book itself is not filled with sensational revelations," Junor says. "It's filled with a new explanation of what went wrong with that marriage."

Princess Diana

'This is no ordinary marriage'

This is not the first time Junor has written about the royal family. The reporter and former host of "The Travel Show" on BBC2 has written best-selling biographies on both the prince and princess, as well as the book "Queen Elizabeth II: A Pictorial Celebration of her Reign." Though she shies from the label, royal-watching has been her job for the last decade.

In this outing, Junor uses a stable of sources she has collected over the years, all of whom remain anonymous, which of course sets her up for more criticism from those who believe she is anti-Diana.

"My sources could not be better," says Junor, saying only that her information comes from friends, family and workers of the royal family. "I have got some contacts that trust me and respect what I do."

The book acts as a fly on the wall, or a camera in an Oliver Stone film, providing readers with a front-row seat to the downfall of Charles and Diana, as well as a "he said-she said" analysis of the man who will be king.

There's the descriptions of euphoria felt by Charles upon "finding" Diana; Charles relationship, or lack thereof, with his mother, the Queen; the paper-thin walls in Buckingham Palace, which gave away virtually all of the royal couple's disagreements and problems; the claims that Diana cheated first, with her police bodyguard, Sgt. Barry Mannakee; the media saturation of the couple that made their relationship impossible. No royal stone goes unturned.

Since Junor has such experiences with the royal family, she admits knowing that her book would cause an uproar. So, aside from a "there's no such thing as bad press" mentality of selling books, why write something that will earn you death threats?

"(The prince and princess) are not ordinary individuals," she says. "This (was) no ordinary marriage. This man will one day be King of England. So I think it's important that his subjects have the facts and are more informed."

'They were a bad match'

Despite assertions that a jealous Diana called Parker Bowles and attempted to scare her off with threats ("I've sent someone to kill you," the voice said. "They're outside in the garden."), Junor says her book balances the blame of a failed royal marriage on both Charles and Diana's shoulders.

"They were a bad match," Junor says. "She was a fragile personality; he was a damaged personality as well.

"She came into that marriage a damaged individual. She desperately needed love and security and needed to be the center of the prince's attention. He was a man who lacked confidence, who needed love, needed assurance. He didn't know where he was going in his life. Neither could provide what the other needed."

The reason that Diana came out of the relationship in good standing with the people, Junor says, was because she won the PR battle -- her photogenic looks blinded objectivity, and she spoke of the marriage's troubles in public before Charles, claiming in the Morton book and on "Panorama" that the royal family treated her horribly, that she battled depression and bulimia, that Charles tormented her and cheated on her with Parker Bowles.

"He never disputed (Diana's) charges," Junor says. "He never wanted anyone to defend him. With the result, her version of the events is the accepted version, accepted wisdom and I think it's extremely unfair to the Prince of Wales."

'It's history'

Some parts of the book might cause pro-Diana folks to snicker, or worse, get sick. One passage presents Charles in almost Shakespearean pose as he reacted to the car crash he would later learn killed Diana:

"And as the hours crept painfully past, he talked about the Princess, whom he still loved and prayed for every night, despite the failure of their marriage, despite the hurt that existed between them.

"'I always thought it would end like this,' he said, 'with me having to nurse Diana through some terrible injury or illness. I always thought she would come back to me and I would spend the rest of my time looking after her.'"

It's as if Charles knew the person he said this to, if he actually said it, would one day talk to the person who would write his biography.

The truth is that royal-watchers will most likely never know exactly what happened between Charles and Diana. If history serves, Charles will not reveal anything more than a programmed statement.

Diana's version of events, meanwhile, are set in print and on television screens; they will never be recanted or elaborated upon. Her well-worn version is being carried on by the will of her people.

And while the publishing industry continues to find new angles for new royal books, the media intrusion both feeds and offends the masses.

"What makes life most difficult is the media intrusion," Junor says. "I think the public has gotten more and more greedy for the intimate details of their lives. These people are exposed to scrutiny 24 hours a day. We feel we have a right to know. We feel it's in the public interest. Even pop stars get more privacy. We just want to know every last detail. They are living in a goldfish bowl. And it never goes away."

And, for the record, the reason Junor contributed to the intrusion?

"It's history," she says. "Diana had her say. I'm counterbalancing that."



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