Diana: The Untold Story

Ten years after Princess Diana's death, people are still fascinated with the woman who came to be known as "The People's Princess."

And if you think you're up on everything about her, Tina Brown says there's still plenty that's gone unreported — until now.

The former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker followed Diana from the very beginning of her time in the spotlight, and Brown's new biography, "The Diana Chronicles," traces Diana's life from childhood through her tragic end in a car crash in a French tunnel. It includes many details previously unknown to the public.

All in all, Brown told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm on Wednesday, Diana lived "a terribly sad life."

"I think there's been a huge amount of coverage on Diana, but not a huge amount of understanding of who she was," Brown says. "The context of her life has been obscured by the craziness of her death. What about the woman before that? How did she become the woman we saw dying in the car crash? I wanted to show people the evolution of how this girl from a torn family with a sad background became an international icon."


Photos: The Death Of Diana
"I set out," she explained to Storm, "to go back over the whole of Diana's life. I talked to 250 new people, really, who had never talked before, some of them, and some who just wanted to say more 10 years after her death. …That's the anniversary coming up, and so people have loosened up, some of them who wouldn't have talked before. What I got, really, was a much fuller picture of the forces that shaped Diana and the forces that she pitted herself against.

"Her early life was so much more bleak and lonely than people have realized. They tend to think she grew up in a grand, stately home but, actually, Diana's early life was a really miserable affair. Not just that her mother left at the age of six, but that her grandmother testified against her mother in a custody battle that really was a terrible betrayal of her grandmother by her mother and just drove her family apart, so that her early life was all about feud and conflict and pain."

Brown writes that Diana was always searching for love and warmth in her life. And she did receive that from her father, who raised her.

Diana, Brown said, came to view the camera as a source of love.

"People have always wondered," Brown remarked to Storm, "why was Diana such a brilliant media natural? And it's really because her father, Earl Spencer, who was not an articulate man, like a lot of Englishmen, he didn't really know how to express warmth, and he did it by taking obsessive photographs of his family, particularly Diana, who became his favorite model. He was always taking pictures of Diana posing, and that was the way she gained her father's affection. And it meant that she associated the camera then with love.

"And, ever afterwards, (Diana) always knew how to pose. I mean, one photographer I spoke to said she was like Garbo: She always knew how the light was striking her. She even knew when the camera was on when her when she had her back to it. She just had this innate sense.

"And she loved tabloid newspapers! I mean, this is a girl who imbibed and sort of inhaled the tabloid papers in England. I call her 'the tabloid princess in a tiara.' It's like she understood what the tabloid journalist wanted. She understood about dreams and rags to riches and the princess in the tower. It's like she had this innate sense of how she could be perceived."

Brown asserts that Diana changed the way the media covered the royals, and even used the press to help her get Charles to propose.

"Diana, when she began dating Charles, realized she had three constituencies to win to get the prince," Brown told Storm. "And she really did want to get the prince, from the age of 14. She obviously had to win Charles, and she did get his attention by being such a charming and sweet and adorable young woman. But she also knew she had to win the royal family, of course. She wasn't going to get Charles without the queen and Prince Philip.

"But, more important, she realized, she had this other, huge power base, which was the press. She had to win the press, because the press had always destroyed Charles' girlfriends, and she set out to woo them.

"And she did. And, one by one, the press fell in love with her and gradually, Charles fell in love with her through the press. They pushed her towards Charles. One of them said to me, 'You know, we really pushed her to Charles and called her "the one," ' and Charles gradually fell in love with her through the media."

Of course, the world fell in love with Diana from the telecast of her wedding, Storm observed.

But, Brown pointed out: "This was the great irony, of course, almost the cancer in the marriage. There were two cancers in the marriage, one was Camilla, of course, who ate at Diana all the time.

"But what ate at Charles was the fact that she just totally outshone him, Diana. He realized … There's a great moment when Charles is watching the videos of the marriage, that great wedding, on the royal yacht during the honeymoon, with the staff of the royal household. And they're sitting there watching. And, gradually, one of the staff notices that Charles is getting more and more quiet and more and more glum and realizes that what Charles is looking at, is thinking, 'This girl totally — I mean, she's gonna outshine me forever. Beside her, I just look like a stiff. I look like a fogey. She's got this natural thing. Help!'

"And that's what happened throughout the marriage was that, when they showed up together, nobody had any eyes for him. He would go out and make his long, boring speeches about architecture or the environment, quite honestly, and nobody wanted to cover it. They just wanted to cover Diana's new haircut, and it drove him wild."

Could that marriage have been saved?

"I do think that if Camilla had backed off, they could have had a marriage that was a truce," Brown responded. "I don't think it would have ever been a great marriage. Their sex life never worked. The chemistry between them just didn't happen after marriage. And so, it was never going to be a great marriage. But it could have been a truce. It could have been a good, sort of polite English marriage. Unfortunately, though, Camilla just wouldn't back off, and always had Charles in her thrall. And Diana had no ability to fight Camilla, for some reason. Charming and as beautiful as she was, she didn't have Camilla's wiles. I mean, whatever it was that Camilla could do for Charles, Diana just didn't have it. And it just corroded the whole situation."

To read an excerpt of "The Diana Chronicles," click here.