Al Fayed plays up royal links

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 August, 1998, 12:00am

Monday will see a very unusual display in the window of London's top department store.

Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods, will unveil a memorial to his son Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales, that he hopes will act as a permanent reminder of his links to the royal family.

'It will be a bronze statue, surrounded by everlasting candles and flowers, and a picture of the couple. It's really something very special,' Mr Al Fayed's spokesman Laurie Mayer said.

'People will be able to come and pay their respects and Mr Al Fayed will spend part of the day at Harrods, during which he will go down and speak to people,' he said.

Mr Al Fayed is not known for his light touch and the memorial sitting in the window of the Brompton Road store is unlikely to endear him to the British establishment.

While maintaining a very public profile with wild and contradictory accusations as to who was responsible for the death of his son, he keeps much of his life very private behind the high walls of his mansion in Oxted, Surrey.

He surrounds himself with a team of bodyguards and his wife, a former Scandinavian beauty queen, is never seen with him in public. An expensive public relations team has been hired to speak on his behalf but all too often over the past year Mr Al Fayed has ignored them and spoken out in a way that has done little to improve his image.

Earlier this summer he launched a torrent of abuse at Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, when they were both summoned to give evidence to the official inquiry into the accident in Paris.

She snubbed Mr Al Fayed by refusing to speak to him as they left Judge Herve Stephan's court and the press waiting outside were told exactly what he thought.

'She lost a daughter and I lost my son. She's a snob. She's not a good mother either. If you leave your child when she is six years old, how can you call yourself a mother? 'She thinks she's related to the queen mother, and this is a kind of snobbery. I don't give a damn about her,' he said.

Any chance he had of patching things up with the Spencer family vanished with that outburst on the steps of the Paris court.

Royal family members have done their best to distance themselves from the 66-year-old Egyptian millionaire.

He has been informed that Harrods is to lose its royal warrants, which signify royal patronage, and the store's 12-year sponsorship of the Windsor Horse Show, attended by the queen, has also been cancelled.

Mr Al Fayed's supporters have accused the royal family of planting stories in the press to discredit him and claim the Government's refusal to grant him British citizenship is a result of racism.

The stories have included claims that he tried to buy the friendship of the Princes William and Harry by sending them expensive presents from the store, which the boys returned unopened. In the weeks immediately after the deaths in Paris he claimed his son and Diana had been engaged, but later he withdrew this and said they were 'about' to become engaged.

These contradictory claims, and the personal nature of some of his outbursts, have done little to inspire belief in his repeated charges that the accident was the result of a conspiracy.

But there can be little doubt that, amid all the publicity on Monday, he will be feeling a father's grief for his lost son.