The economics of Diana mania

Princess Diana © Getty Images

Sad as Princess Diana’s death was, the orgy of mourning that followed seemed to me to be a trifle overdone. Not everyone agrees, however – hence the rush of people trying to cash in on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.

The most extravagant example is the “diamond-encrusted version of Princess Diana’s favourite handbag” that is due to be auctioned for charity later this month. The bag is based on one commissioned by Diana from Lana Marks, a South African designer. Diana liked the result so much that she went on to buy 15 of the bags in various colours, says the Daily Mail’s Imogen Blake. This one-off special – an “emerald green crocodile-skin tote bag” featuring a heart-shaped clasp with 225 3.22k diamonds set into 18k gold – is expected to fetch up to $38,490 (£30,000) when it goes under the hammer in aid of the American Red Cross. The lucky bidder will just have to hope that it stands the test of time better than some other Diana-related items.

For example, her death coincided with “the Beanie Baby craze, which briefly persuaded millions of adults worldwide that the stuffed bears… would become worthy investments”, says Kase Wickman in Vanity Fair. This convinced many collectors to buy “the royal purple Princess Ty Beanie Baby bears, sold in tribute to the late princess”. The Princess bear originally sold for $5-$7 in 1997, with the proceeds benefiting Diana’s memorial fund. “By the time production halted on the toy in April 1999, Ty says it had donated $21,880,000 to the charity.”

But while some eBay sellers “still list their bears at upwards of $65,000… there’s little evidence that any have sold”. Indeed, collectables shops complain they regularly have to turn away customers who think the Princess Diana doll is “worth a quarter of a million dollars” because “no one’s ever trying to buy them, only sell them”. Websites that buy second-hand Beanies offer as little as $2. As one expert puts it, “supply far exceeds demand”.

Still, there are other way to make money from Diana mania. There are the books, the TV shows and even the 20th-anniversary T-shirt. And anyone with the slightest connection to the princess is busy trying to sell their story, says Ed Jefferson in The New Statesman – a group that also includes those who claim they’ve had “the occasional post-mortem word with Di about… the possibility of a revolt against the crown”.

Even as a stalwart supporter of the abolition of the monarchy, I “occasionally catch myself feeling a bit of sympathy for William and Harry”. Two decades on from their mother’s death, they still have to put up with the “entire world nosing at it for no particularly good reason”. Perhaps the answer is to expand the excessive media coverage more widely. “Upon the 20th anniversary of my own death, I want as many questionable press stories, commemorative coins and alternate history novels about my life as possible.” The more “tawdry, tacky” dross “in memory of me”, the better.

Tabloid money… Felicity’s designer disaster

 Many women have a special role model we secretly want to be like, says Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail. “Mine has always been Felicity Kendal”. She seemed to have it all: husbands, occasional affairs, an enduring career on stage and TV with numerous awards, children and then grandchildren. “So how astonishing it was to see photos of her this week wearing ripped designer jeans and more bling jewellery than Sacha Baron Cohen ever did as satirical rapper Ali G.”
In the past she has basked in the glory of winning “Rear Of The Year” and it’s true that she may be 70, but looks 30 from behind. “Yet isn’t there something a bit sad about a woman in her golden years wearing Ralph Lauren’s punk Patch Detail Boyfriend jeans (£199 a pair)?’

“Grammar schools such as St Olave’s kicking out less academic pupils in a bid to bolster their position in the league tables is only the tip of the iceberg,” says Camilla Tominey in the Daily Express. It happens in the private sector too. Several fee-paying schools in Hertfordshire refuse to take primary pupils on to secondary education if they fail to make the grade. “Such rejection is bad enough, but imagine having paid thousands of pounds for the privilege?”

“Relaxing the public sector pay cap for front-line staff is the right thing to do,” says The Sun. With the cost of living rising, loosening the purse strings will bring relief to nurses, teachers and the emergency services. “But that doesn’t mean austerity is over, if it ever really started. We’re still spending more than we can afford.” The national debt is £1.7trn and growing. The government “must re-energise its efforts to crack down on wasteful spending, get rid of the ludicrous pension pots enjoyed by top mandarins, and reform costly behemoths like the NHS”. David Cameron used to warn of “Broken Britain”. “Unless we bring spending under control, we’ll just be broke Britain.”