Blair was 'a sucker' for Diana: memoirs

1st September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's ex-prime minister Tony Blair admitted he was a "sucker" for princess Diana in his memoirs published Wednesday, adding that Queen Elizabeth II had treated him with "hauteur" after her death.

Blair got to know the "extraordinarily captivating" Diana before she was killed in a Paris car crash in August 1997 and helped the royal family in the aftermath, as detailed in the 2006 film "The Queen".

He described Diana as "the people's princess" and encouraged the royals to shake off their initially stiff response to her death and acknowledge the depth of public grief.

But the book reveals this was a highly delicate process.

Blair, who had only taken office a few months previously, wrote he was "nervous" in his discussions with the queen and barely knew her in the days after the death of Diana, ex-wife of her eldest son Prince Charles.

"I worried afterwards she would think I was lecturing her or being presumptuous and at points during the conversation she assumed a certain hauteur," he said.

"But in the end she herself said lessons must be learned and I could see her own wisdom at work."

Recalling a visit to the royals' Scottish retreat, Balmoral, immediately after Diana's funeral, Blair said he only got through it with the help of "a stiff drink" which he said was like "rocket fuel".

"The blessing was the stiff drink you could get before dinner. Had it been a dry event, had the Queen been a teetotaller or a temperance fanatic, I don't believe I could have got through the weekend," Blair wrote.

He added elsewhere how he used alcohol as a "prop" to help him relax while in office though insists his drinking was never too excessive.

During another visit to Balmoral the following year, Blair said he and his family went to a barbecue with a difference -- where the queen donned rubber gloves to do the washing up.

"The royals cook and serve the guests. They do the washing up. You think I'm joking, but I'm not," Blair wrote.

"They put the gloves on and stick their hands in the sink. You sit there having eaten, the Queen asks if you've finished, she stacks the plates up and goes off to the sink."

Speaking of the Balmoral trips, Blair concluded: "The first two annual visits were trying at all levels".

Separately, Blair described Diana was a "strong-willed" woman who "was always going to get her own way".

"She knew the full range of the power of her presence and knew its ability to enthral and most often used it to do good; but there was also a wildness in her emotions that meant when anger or resentment were woven together with that power, it could spell danger," Blair wrote.

"I really liked her and, of course, was as big a sucker for a beautiful princess as the next man; but I was wary too."

He said that in his final meeting with her, he raised the issue of her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, the film producer son of former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed who also died in the car crash.

Blair described Fayed as "a problem" and said he felt "uneasy" about their relationship. Diana "didn't like it" when he raised this but Blair said they parted on good terms.

© 2010 AFP

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