Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the Queen, is in the royals’ bad books as he has written his memoirs, which are being serialised all this week by the Daily Mail.
Today, Arbiter writes about the death of Princess Diana and the debacle that ensued when the palace initially refused to fly a flag at half mast over Buckingham Palace.
The failure to fly a flag at half mast was widely interpreted as an expression of disrespect.
Arbiter writes: “With Her Majesty at Balmoral, there was no flag flying over the Palace. As tradition dictates, the Royal Standard flies there only when the sovereign is in residence.
"Should we fly a flag at half-mast when, traditionally, no flag should be flown at all? Fly a Union flag when custom dictates it should be the Royal Standard? Or leave the pole glaringly bare? These were questions which, in the dawn hours of August 31, 1997, no one seemed capable of answering”.
In the end it took a very long five days for the establishment to agree to a union flag being raised to half mast above the palace, a delay which stoked public anger.
Arbiter also describes two fairly bizarre, grief-stricken ‘conversations’ he had with the dead Princess as she lay in state in the Chapel Royal.
He also discloses that he had to repeatedly urge Prince Edward to sign the book of condolence, and that the prince initially tried to put off doing so because he was frightened of the crowd's reaction.
I rather preferred yesterday’s excerpt where Arbiter told Diana, on the day that Andrew Morton’s tell-all book came out, and she rang him for advice, “You’ve let the cat out of the bag…why don’t you just go and get drunk?”