Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marie turns down a $1.6M for the "Diana Diaries"

In 1996 Marie Sutton (left), an ex-nurse turned charity fundraiser conceived of an idea to raise funds for the Victor Chang Institute based at Sydney's inner city St Vincent's Hospital where Marie had once nursed patients.

Victor Chang was the brilliant Chinese born heart surgeon considered a world pioneer and had once saved the life of Kerry Packer, the late Australian media mogul. Highly respected around the world, Chang was brutally gunned down in a kidnap scheme gone wrong one sunny day in the leafy suburb of Mosman.

Princess Diana in Sydney with Olympic swimmer Sam Riley

One morning in 1991 as Chang set off for work his car was forced over to the curb by 2 men who attempted to kidnap the surgeon. They shot him dead instead.
In his honor The Victor Chang Institute was set up and Marie Sutton became a committee member trying to hash around ideas for a major fundraiser to get the charity off the ground.
As a friend of surgeon Hasnat Khan, long rumoured to be a lover of Diana, The Princess of Wales, Sutton contacted Khan who had also worked at St Vincents and requested that he ask the Princess if she would consider being the guest at the inaugural Victor Chang Institute dinner. Not only did Diana reply in a personal note to Marie, she confirmed that it would be the ideal charity event to announce her retirement from public life.

Marie had pulled off the almost impossible coup-the most famous woman in the world was coming to Sydney as the guest at the personal invitation from the former nurse from the country town of Mooree.
What followed was a year of negotiations as the complicated process of ensuring correct protocols were followed, government departments consulted , guest lists compiled -basically a bureaucratic nightmare ensured that was necessary in order to pave the way for a visit from Princess Diana and the expected 100's of members of the worldwide media that flocked wherever Diana went.
As negotiations wore on, Marie found herself beginning to be side-lined. People realised that this was the event of the decade and as Diana's last official event, everyone wanted a piece of the action. Politicians, society figures. British establishment figures, diplomats, Buckingham and Kensington Palaces and so on. Letters and faxes flew back and forth but throughout the year long negotiations Diana stood her ground and lent her support behind Marie Sutton.

It was Marie's idea and Diana-never having met her, remained loyal and built up a friendly relationship via letters, emails and regular phone calls.
For the Princess it was a normal run of the mill year. For Sutton it was whirlwind and she began to compile the correspondence in a book that became known as the Diana Files.

And so on October 31, 1996 Diana, The Princess of Wales, was the Guest-of-Honour at a Gala Fundraising Dinner for the Chang Institute at Sydney's Entertainment Centre. As she arrived looking sensational in a stunning blue silk gown a 1000 media representatives shouted questions and thousands of flashbulbs blinded everyone. The Shuttle was a guest at the dinner and then the following day at a lunch where Diana greeted children who were suffering from Aids.

Later that night, Diana under the cloak of darkness visited a hospice unannounced and spent over 4 hours chatting to patients.
Sutton became Diana's companion and confidante and relished the Princess's quirky sense of humour.

One insider says : "once as Diana driving through the city one day they passed St Mary's Cathedral as a bride ascended the stairs. Diana rolled down the window in her car and yelled out "don't do it !" to the startled wedding party "

10 months later Diana was dead in the infamous Paris car crash along with Dodi Fayed.

In 1998 as a guest of Diana's brother Viscount Althorp, Marie Sutton was invited to visit the island that was to become Diana's last resting place.Unusually she was allowed to take photographs of Diana's grave and the surroundings. Sutton's snaps show the beautiful black swans that glide around the small island like elegant guards for the Princess .

The beginnings of landscaped gardens are shown along with a monument in the shape of a tall plinth topped by an urn, both designed by Edward Bulmer and carved by Dick Reid, which was to stand among the greenery at the north end but had not yet been erected.
And finally there it is-a small mound of earth where the most famous woman in the world lies. Only one person outside the immediate family has ever been to that island. It is Marie Sutton and only 6 people have ever been shown the photos of the island Sutton took that day.

Earlier this year the infamous British blogger Madame Arcati revealed the story of Sutton's Diana Diaries. They read like a thriller as the letters start of as a friendly exchange between Diana, Sutton and Kensington Palace secretaries and Royal aides. And then various politicians enter the frame as they try to wrestle the project from Marie. Everyone wanted to claim the kudos for Diana's visit. But Diana stands firm and repeatedly re-assures Marie she will not abandon her as the originator of the project and sends letters to various officials stating that Sutton will be her official escort during her visit.
At times Diana discusses the most personal of family details with Sutton in letters. The problems she is having with the courtiers of the Royal Family, her former husband and touching and amusing tales of her sons antics.

There are intimate stories of her various lovers and even details of some the world had never known about. The identity of these alone would shock many.
As a document it would surely be a best seller as the story unfolds with dozens of private letters from Diana discussing the most private moments of her life.

In some ways Diana was very much like Jackie Kennedy and felt she would have to marry someone rich enough to shield her from the world but didn't think she would ever find the right person as she would only re-marry first for love . She was rumoured to have a deep affection for one man-an American politician who she had a brief affair with but he was married although soon to divorce.

The Madame Arcati blog conintiues : "Diana swas wary whether the British public would even accept her marrying an American. She often said that she would have to devote the rest of her life to ensuring she didn't embarrass her children, aware of Prince William's future role". At times Diana was treating freinds like a therapist, as though she needed to pour her heart out to someone. She seemed to be the happiest when talking about her children but could easily become quite depressed about the future. But then she would brighten up and begin to talk of how she could help so many others less fortunate than herself-that seemed to be the only role she could see as her future."

Diana was also denied a Royal title :"not because I'm grand" she would laugh." let's face it, my background is fairly grand" Diana would giggle. But it was the protection that came with a Royal title that she was now denied that hurt her. "I feel like they have abandoned me and don't give a damn what happens.
But Diana also always expressed how impressed she was with the ruling monarch Queen Elizabeth saying she was not just a rock for Great Britain but a kind and warm women which didn't always come across that way to the public.
 She described Her Majesty as a mother with a sharp intellect and an amazing down-to-earth realization about her role not just for the public at large but for her own family and how the Queen had to negotiate the trials and tribulations of daily family life which in the end, demonstrated not just her humanity but how the Royals really were like just any other family.

" I only ever received great kindness form her" said Diana.

In one note Diana says to a freind "I found myself in this role but the Palace courtiers did not prepare me for it. It would have been the same for any girl who had married Charles except if he had married the one who never left him alone" referring to Camilla."

Within days of the Madame Arcati story Sutton was fielding offers from publishers around the world. The final was just weeks ago-a staggering $1.6M advance from an American publisher. One British newspaper offered hundreds of thousands of pounds just for the grave site photos.
Sutton is adamant. "These diaries will never see the light of day while Princess Diana's sons are alive.'" she says. "They are an important historical document and Diana talks intimately of her past, present and her future hopes-dashed on the 31st August 2007. . Sutton says she has them now locked in a bank for safe-keeping.

# Marie Sutton is now the national ambassador for St John Ambulance.

## The Shuttle has been contacted by several readers to inform us that many pictures that are reputed to be the late Diana's grave appear on the internet. The photographs that can easily by googled do indeed show the plinth and urn as described above. These however are at the beginning of a small path that leads to the very centre of the island where Diana lies in a small grave completely shielded by the deliberately designed garden to shroud the actual grave from the visitors who flock to the estate and from the media. No photographs of the actual grave have ever been printed or are likely to be.

The island has the most secure electric security system that is monitored by guards. The garden is designed in such a way that trees overhang the actual spot to form an umbrella of foliage to completely shield the grave from overhead photographs taken from a helicopter.