June 17, 2007 / 9:10 AM / 13 years ago

Diana's brother relives funeral oration agony

ALTHORP (Reuters) - Giving the funeral oration for Princess Diana, her brother Charles said he was so drained that he had to punch the last few words out of his diaphragm as he struggled to keep control.

A file photo of Earl Charles Spencer, brother of Princess Diana, addressing journalists gathered outside his Cape Town home, August 31, 1997. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

“It was just the exhaustion and tension of speaking very emotional words across your sister’s coffin towards her sons,” Charles Spencer told Reuters in an interview in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of Diana’s death in a Paris car crash.

Sitting in the study of his family’s ancestral home where he compiled what was recently picked by a newspaper as one of the great speeches of the 20th century, he said: “I wrote it in an hour and a half. It poured out from the heart, not the head.”

He delivered an electrifying tirade against the media who he accused of turning Diana into “the most hunted person of the modern age”.

In a rapier thrust at the royal family after Diana’s bitter divorce from Prince Charles, the aristocrat said that she “needed no royal title to continue to generate her personal brand of magic”.

Spencer is the first to admit his self-control was crumbling as the speech neared its emotional conclusion in Westminster Abbey with the world watching.

“I was having to punch each word out of my diaphragm towards the end. I really don’t think I could have done another paragraph,” the 43-year-old earl conceded.

“After it, I didn’t hear a thing. People said there was applause. I never heard it ... I just managed to get to my seat and collapse.”


Since then, he has never watched or listened to a recording of the speech that he acknowledges will forever define his life.

Spencer fears that “Di-Mania” will never fade.

“In her life, Diana was a cash crop for a lot of people in terms of writing books and selling stories and I suppose that will go on and on.”

“I think there is a similarity with JFK (President Kennedy) and Marilyn Monroe in that somebody died tragically young. Diana died very young with her life only half completed.” She was 36.

Spencer, speaking at a literary festival he is hosting this weekend at the family’s Althorp estate where Diana is buried, he said he never reads books or watches documentaries about Diana.

“They usually make me very angry because they are inaccurate,” he said. “To be honest, I put my head in the sand over these things,” said the earl.

For Spencer, there will always be lingering regrets about promise unfulfilled. “When you end a movie halfway through or finish with a book halfway through, you are always left wondering what the ending would be.”

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