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Just back from a short visit to Mexico and
Just back from a short visit to Mexico andExpos in Chicago, Austin and Dublin.
At Austin airport I picked up a copy of the 'Princess of Wales's astrologer' Penny Thornton's 'With love from Diana'. In fact this book was written and published some two years before Diana's death, but it many ways it has become more significant now that Diana has had her legendary status firmly established.
This was a book I was wary of reading. I even turned down an offer of a copy from an astrologer who attended the New York launch in 1995. And we never displayed it in our shop - strictly under-the-counter sales to astrologers who ask for it with profits going to the Red Cross.
However having studied Diana's chart in some detail in recent months and the prospect of a two hour flight down to Mexico made the paperback much more attractive.
An Astrologer's Memoirs or Servant's Gossip
Why I never wanted to read this book was because I felt I wouldn't be interested in 'servant's gossip' and I didn't want to contribute to what I saw as the ultimate betrayal of client confidence. I still believe that Penny broke the astrologer's first professional rule by revealing details of client consultancy and that the Faculty of Astrological Studies' was right to withdraw her diploma.
However I now feel that there's another side to the story and I believe that the Penny experience has a lesson for any astrologer who deals with the press. The fact is that most experienced full-time consultant astrologers have at least one if not several, high profile clients or a story they could sell to the press for a four-figure sum. Penny had a story that was worth seven figures and to give her some credit she kept it well under wraps for nearly ten years.
Make no mistake Penny is a good writer and an excellent astrologer. There is no doubt that the Princess of Wales was getting excellent astrological advice on handling her impossible situation. Though Penny makes no claim for this in her book it is clear that she can take some credit for encouraging Diana to redirect the pain she felt of not being loved into heart-felt and compassionate charity work. This sound philosophical advice is one of the many parallels withJoan Quigley's 'What does Joan say?'and her work with Nancy and Ronald Reagan.
It is equally comforting to feel that astrology was instrumental in the creation of what has become the most inspiring and well-publicised role model for compassionate work. The difference between Mother Theresa and Diana is that millions of people saw and still see Diana as not too far removed from themselves and their lives and want to emulate her best qualities. That way Diana's impact on our consciousness and her actions were perhaps a million times greater than that of Mother Theresa.
United Kingdom to become the Disunited Republic
Another reason why the 'Diana Story' is so very important is that astrology may have played a key role in Diana's effect of undermining the status of the British Monarchy. Penny predicts that the United Kingdom will become the United Republic around the year 2009. [In fact, if the present process of devolution continues, the British Isles might also become known as the Disunited Republics.]
Will Charles make III?
Penny's long-standing theory that Charles will never make it to the top of the 'family firm' looks increasingly likely. From the start she did have the 'inside-track' and she wasn't the first astrologer to say this. Charles Carter ascribed it to Charles's weak Jupiter. Penny also points to Neptune at the IC. Personally, I think he will be a very good King, despite being an unfortunate Prince of Wales.
How Penny's Big Secret became a Runaway Rocket.
Penny's mistake was to blab to the wrong people while being in the wrong job at the time.
The moment Penny opened the hangar gates to show her agent Charles McCutcheon her secret rocket; she had a missile crisis on her hands.
The book is divided into four stages.
Penny's Consultancy by appointment
This is the most contentious part. And though there are some fascinating insights into the life of the Princess and a few intimate anecdotes, you don't feel that Penny is exposing anything that Diana would not have wanted revealed. At one point she alludes to Diana's sex life, but only in theory rather than based on what was said. Any astrological consultant will immediately know that there is bound to be a stronger basis to this 'theory' than Penny suggests.
Penny's fall from grace & how the Press were eager to give her a shove
Though most people will find this section harder work, I found it especially interesting as I was in frequent contact with Penny throughout this tortuous time. Through Penny, I also met many of the key characters, namely Charles McCutcheon and Lady Colin Campbell. Without ever being told, I had instinctively known that Penny was Diana's astrologer. Whenever the press telephoned me about Diana, I would automatically redirect them to Penny. I suppose I was inadvertently putting temptation her way.
It is extremely difficult dealing with the press if your astrological practice requires a high profile. On the one hand, the press offers you free advertising and publicity. And yet it is a dangerous game as I learnt to my cost early on. I had long felt that there should be no reason why astrologers should not reveal their clients. After all, most advertising agencies blatantly list their clients as you walk through the door. Why should consulting an astrologer have a stigma attached to it? It's not like going to a specialist for an unmentionable disease.
However if a famous client's name comes out, the press start probing.
Once I was asked by a journalist to make some general comments on the Duchess of York's chart. When I explained that I couldn't possibly comment, as she was a client, the newspaper managed to drum up a front-page feature of it. When it appeared, I was inundated with the British national tabloid press. I just reiterated "Sorry, no comment" until they got bored. (As Fergie is well known for consulting astrologers and psychics and my dealings with her were before her wedding, this story is 'old news' to any hacks who might want to make something of it.)
Another time a journalist who was doing a feature on a number of astrologers said unless I revealed names and details about my most important clients, she would exclude my contribution to the piece. More recently an article on financial astrology outrageously implied that astrologers would not reveal their big name clients, because they simply didn't exist! You can't win!
I write all this to let astrologers who don't deal with the national press know that it is a very tricky game before any of us point accusing fingers at Penny. It's a WYSINWYG situation - what you say is not what you get. But unless good astrologers deal with the press, astrology and astrologers will continue to be presented in a very stereotypical 'Mystic Meg-like' way.
How Penny went from a Princess among astrologers to an 'Untouchable'
What I do know was that Penny's arm was twisted by Today newspaper. "Unless you give us some juicy story on Diana, you're out of a job." And for a working mother like Penny with two children to feed and cloth sticking to your principals can be an expensive luxury. What is a little vague is how the story was 'leaked' in the first place. And what was the role of Lady Colin Campbell, known as a boy as George Zadie, who first 'outed' Penny's role in her expose on the Royals?
Once the 'fox was out of the hole', the journalists wanted blood. Perhaps to cool the hunt, Diana openly denied her connection with Penny, beyond a single meeting many years before. Of course, this action put Penny in the impossible situation of having to prove her links with Diana to the press or be condemned as a liar and pretender to the throne of 'Astrologer Royal'.
Penny's comments from the sidelines.
Once Penny was no longer 'persona grata' or 'Astrologer Royal', her insight and comments are more in line with what was published in newspapers.
Conspiracy Theory or Synchronicity
In the absence of first hand material, Penny stands back and takes at look at the past and the future of the monarchy. She uses references from Nostradamus, Lincoln, Lee and Baigent's Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and Nick Campion's Born to Reign. She speculates that higher powers are orchestrating the downfall of the monarchy. How was it that the Squidgy tape, the recording of Charles revealing his strange desires to Camilla and the topless photos of the Duchess of York with her 'financial adviser' all mysteriously appeared at the same time? Conspiracy theory or synchronicity?
Penny was no victim. No doubt if she could hop into a Tardis and have it all again she would have acted very differently. In retrospect she should never have opened the Pandora's box. Once she did, she was manipulated and misrepresented by the press, vilified by astrologers and rejected by her Royal clients. Nevertheless Penny has an important and instructive tale to tell. All professional astrologers should read and learn from her story, but perhaps this is one of Penny's books that they shouldn't reccommend to non-astrologers.
Diana's Other Astrologers: the unsung heroes.
Diana's involvement with astrology went well beyond Penny's role. There are other astrologers with tales to tell or to sell. Alex Lyle, a one-time lover of Penny, acted as counsellor immediately after Penny. In the 1990s Diana regularly met astrologer Debby Frank for lunch. Dominique Colthurst, wife of Diana's friend and middleman with Andrew Morton, Dr James Colthurst, no doubt has a potential headline or two. But to their credit they haven't gone public.