Susan Maxwell Skinner was a member
of the Buckingham Palace press corps--a group of journalists
accredited by the palace and allowed to follow the royal family
wherever it goes--and covered Princess Diana and the royal
family for eight years. Skinner has recently written a book,
Diana, Memory of a Rose, and she spoke about her experiences
at the Campbell Library on Feb. 5.
Her presentation was a blend of photos, lecture and music,
as she said, "Diana regarded herself as a mother first
and the Princess of Wales second." Skinner, a New Zealander
who married an American and has lived in Sacramento for 12
years, says, "I wrote the book with the American culture
in mind. I wanted to portray Diana's humanitarian work and
her relationship with her boys, who were the center of her
Skinner says today she can speak more openly about covering
Diana's early years as a princess, but when she first left
the palace press corps she was more guarded about her experiences.
In her presentation Skinner told the audience how, only weeks
before Diana's death, Prince William asked his mother to tell
their convoy of drivers, speeding at 100 miles per hour, to
slow down, fearing someone would be killed. "Unfortunately
no one paid attention to his remark," Skinner says. "Imagine
if Diana had."
Skinner also says that as time goes by, she realizes her
experiences as part of the press and covering Diana are historically
important. "Only now do I realize how astonishing that
seems to some people," Skinner says.
Skinner told more than 30 Campbell residents in the audience
that Diana was the first member of the royal family to whom
people could relate and not think of as a distant figure.
She was the most hands-on of any royal mother and wasn't shy
about telling people her parenting experiences. It was a form
of candor that was unheard of before Diana married Prince
Charles, Skinner says.
Skinner also talked about touching moments between Diana
and Prince William, and how, even at the age of 6, Prince
William felt he had to protect his mother from scrutiny and
criticism. At the prince's sixth birthday, when Skinner asked
him what he would like to be when he grew up--if he wasn't
in line to be the king--the prince turned to Skinner and said,
"I'd like to be a policeman and look after Mummy."
"Diana struck a chord with ordinary people," Skinner
says. "I don't think it was engineered by her. She just
did what she could in the very best way she knew how, and
somehow she got it right."
Although Skinner says Diana was in no way a saint, through
her years of contact with Diana, Skinner believes she was
To illustrate her point, Skinner told the audience about
the time the press traveled to Calcutta, where Diana met Mother
Teresa. "I overheard Mother Teresa say to Diana, 'We
are both working for God. In your role you bring people light.'
I don't think Mother Teresa would have said that if she thought
Diana was a phony."
In a separate interview Skinner told The Campbell Reporter
that once the tabloids began following Diana and publishing
intrusive photos and stories, the "golden era of royal
The public's taste for all the dirty linen and the constant
invasion of Diana's privacy forced the rest of the media to
compete with that type of journalism, Skinner says.
"The public wanted to know non-newsworthy things, no
matter what," she says.