C’est l’amour? Diana and the dedication that launched a thousand speculations

Author: By Genevieve Roberts in Paris

Is this wishful thinking by the president-cum-author or a sensational
revelation that he was a confidant, if not a lover, of Diana, Princess of
Wales? “Fiction or reality?” asked the French daily Le Figaro. “Only
the former president has the key to this troubling story.”

La Princesse et le Président is due to be published next week. On the basis of
leaked extracts, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are
unlikely to be joining the stampede to Parisian bookshops to secure a copy.

The novel tells the tale of Princess Patricia of Cardiff and President
Jacques-Henri Lambertye, who meet at Buckingham Palace during a dinner to
mark the end of a G7 summit.

The young princess reveals the stresses of dealing with the media spotlight
while her husband carries on behind the scenes with his old lover: “Ten
days before my wedding, my future husband came to tell me that he had a
mistress and that he had decided to continue his relationship with her even
after our marriage.”

A passionate liaison between the Welsh royal and the French leader ensues in
country houses across France. The narrator recounts: “I kissed her hand
and she gave me a questioning look, her slate-grey eyes widening as she
tilted her head gently forward.”

Later, they take a train after the 1984 D-Day landing commemorations in
Normandy and President Lambertye, taking advantage of the cover offered by a
table, clasps the princess’s hand.

Princess Diana and Mr Giscard d’Estaing have not been romantically linked
before but they did meet at banquets and receptions. When the princess died
in Paris in 1997, Mr Giscard d’Estaing and his wife were reportedly the
first to send flowers to the hospital where she had been treated.

Mr Giscard d’Estaing, who ruled France for seven years and crafted the Lisbon
Treaty, had a reputation for affairs. In the 1970s, he reportedly crashed
his car while returning from a clandestine rendez-vous.

The novel is peppered with references to his meetings with Diana. And in
another echo, Patricia spends her time doing charitable work for HIV victims
and landmine charities.

There is one glaring discrepancy. While the fictional President Lambertye wins
a second term with a comfortable 56 per cent, Mr Giscard d’Estaing was
dumped after a single term. He lost the vote in May 1981, two months before
Diana married Charles, and thus the pair were never “the Princess and
the President” at the same time.

That hasn’t stopped people marvelling or recoiling at the possibility which
the novel raises. Etienne de Montety, a literary critic for Le Figaro which
published extracts yesterday, wrote: “Discovering this incredible
modern story, one can never for a moment forget who is the narrator. One
muses, amazed, about his stature in international public life.”

The magazine Marianne found the book distasteful: “How does he want
posterity to remember him? As the person who legalised abortion? Who gave
18-year-olds the vote? Who brought female ministers into government? By
talking about Diana, Giscard is remaking himself as the great inventor of
the celebrity presidency. A low-brow gossip president.”

*La Princesse et le Président is published on 1 October by Fallois-Xo

Extracts from La Princesse et le Président

* “I stood up and pulled back my chair to allow the Princess of Cardiff
to sit down. She thanked me with one of those oblique looks that impressed
upon me all her charm.”

* “I returned to the Elysée Palace, and went up the steps, my head on
fire, and my heart radiating with happiness.”

* “I didn’t have what one would call an appetite for power, rather an
interest in power.”

* “I can still hear her saying it in English…. ‘I wish that you love me'”

* “I’m going to tell you what’s happened to me … Ten days before my
wedding, my future husband came to tell me that he had a mistress and that
he had decided to continue his relationship with her even after our marriage.”

* “The Morning Telegraph had a front-page headline that I
translated: “The Cardiff princess spent the night at the French
President’s castle.”

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