LONDON, April 17 (Reuters) - Princess Diana was accused on Friday of unleashing a tide of sentimentality in uptight Britain and hurting the royal family with her obsessive personality. In the first real broadside at Diana since her death last August, a group of right-wing academics dismissed her in a new book as a self-indulgent woman whose childish outbursts and victim's mentality were a liability to both family and country. ``She was over-emotional and emotionally self-indulgent. What else do you say of somebody who throws herself downstairs and goes on hunger strike and who parades all her deepest personal problems on television in front of the whole nation?'' the book's co-editor Peter Mullen said in one of a series of interviews.
The princess, whose death in a car crash unleashed a ground swell of grieving, has been canonised in public opinion and few have dared speak out against her memory. But Mullen, an Anglican clergyman, attacked Diana's sentimentality as a pernicious national influence. Modern Britain, he said, was comparable to the Roman empire in its dying days ``when it lived on the sentimental recollection of past glories.''
The new book, ``Faking It - The Sentimentalisation of Modern Society,'' was published on Friday by a right-wing think tank, the Social Affairs Unit. Few pillars of the establishment escaped the essayists' wrath, be it a gesture-driven Labour government, a school system bereft of education or a touchy-feely, sing-song church. It said Britain, for so long a stuffy, stiff and ceremonial country, had become a mawkish land where feeling had usurped reason and self overtaken duty. ``Today's Britain is not modern, let alone cool. It is a fake society with fake institutions,'' said the editors. ``The society's defining moment was Princess Diana's funeral, in which sentimentality -- mob grief -- was personified and canonised.'' Diana, whose sons by Prince Charles are second and third in line to the throne, personified ``the elevation of feeling over reason, self-expression over discipline, self-esteem over objective duty,'' said Professor Anthony O'Hear, author of the book's Diana diatribe.
``These attitudes are ones which are fundamentally hostile to notions of tradition, hierarchy, formality,'' he said. ``The monarchy depends on notions of that sort and it's in that sense she could be said to be damaging.'' Supporters were quick to defend the self-appointed ``Queen of Hearts,'' who loved to champion the underdog and has raised tens of millions for charity.
``It seems to me a farrago of nonsense. The Princess of Wales is one of the great figures of our time,'' said Lord St John of Fawsley, a constitutional expert and former Conservative minister. The Red Cross, whose campaign to ban landmines was a favourite of Diana's, denied she was driven by ``emotional correctness.''
The Centrepoint charity said its young homeless residents ``certainly didn't think her concern was fake'' when Diana paid a visit and the National Aids Trust said the princess was anything but selfish in her pioneering and personal touch with AIDS carriers.