LONDON, Aug. 30 -- Poor Mohammed Fayed -- though also rich Mohammed Fayed -- has got it wrong again. He has been in Washington, via satellite, demanding evidence from the CIA to confirm his theory that his son Dodi and Princess Diana were killed by British intelligence, or even by Prince Philip himself.
From his boyhood in Egypt, Mohammed Fayed wanted to be accepted by the English. And to this day he has never understood why he isn't. Instead of acceptance, he has earned hatred, obloquy and mockery.
All he has managed to to do in return is to cause a good deal of damage to the establishment he once yearned to enter --and to become still more loathed in conseqeunce.
His first great foe in Britain was "Tiny" Rowland, a businessman who had won control first of the famous mining company Lonrho, and then the Observer, the London liberal newspaper. The two men might easily have become colleagues -- they had a good deal in common -- but they fell out over control of Harrods, the famous department store in London.
When he lost out to Fayed, Rowland persauded the British government, bizzarely enough, to treat the ownership of Harrods as a matter of national importance, as of it were a "heritage site" rather than a shop. At the same time Rowland pursued his vendetta to fantastic lengths.
Two pamphlets about Fayed were distributed to politicians and opinion-formers, The Phony Pharoah and A Hero From Zero. Apparently written by Rowland himself, they showed considerable polemical gifts, and they severely damaged Fayed's reputation, for personal veracity if not for financial probity.
He had apparently invented an imaginative resume to dress up his origins. He was born poor, not a pasha's son, driven from Egypt by the radical regime of Colonel Nasser, and the "al" he adopted in "Mohammed al Fayed" was a pretense of aristocratic descent.
As for the wealth he had used in buying Harrods, it wasn't his own, but borrowed from the fabulously rich Sultan of Brunei. Even at the time, it wasn't quite clear why this was a grave offense -- other businessmen borrow money. But then they aren't pretentious, pushy and insecure "Levantines."
For Fayed, the greatest bitterness has been his failure to acquire British citizenship. He wanted that more than anything as a token of his acceptance by the establishment. Thwarted in this, he began an assiduous -- but double-edged -- courtship of politicians and journalists.
This demonstrated his complete failure to understand the English. The upper classes and their hangers-on have always been happy enough to take hospitality, presents, and sometimes straightforward bribes, but within certain conventions.
It wasn't Fayed's venality as such that breached those conventions, it was his blatancy, and his grossness. He managed to find Tory MPs just as venal as he, who were ready to accept his sweeteners. One MP, Neil Hamilton, stayed at the Ritz in Paris, owned by Fayed, and ran up large bills, and may -- though this was never conclusively established -- have pocketed cash in brown envelopes. But he finally rejected Fayed's embrace, and Fayed lashed out and brought down Hamilton, who lost his seat in parliament.
Then Fayed claimed a still more illustrious scalp when he caught the Tory cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken in his tangled web. Aitken was accused of corruption by a television company and the Guardian newspaper. Some of the charges were never substantiated, but Aitken made a disastrous error by lying about a stay at the Paris Ritz.
In order to expose him, the Guardian colluded with Fayed, who helped provide incriminating evidence. Aitken was utterly ruined, ending in prison, and was cold-shouldered by at least some of his own social circle. But Fayed once again couldn't understand why he himself incurred the even greater hatred and contempt of that circle.
Three years ago came the farcical and very public romance between Princess Diana, ex-wife of the Prince of Wales and mother of the future king of England, and Fayed's son Dodi. Farce became tragedy when the lovers were killed in a car smash in Paris.
At this point, Fayed might have been expected to enjoy sympathy. Instead of which, yet again he managed to make himself hated by the English. He circulated fanciful rumours that Diana had been pregnant, or that she and Dodi had been killed by British intelligence -- or even by Prince Philip.
This was a man who once thought that he would ingratiate himself with the English establishment, and maybe even the Royal Family, by buying and renovating the villa outside Paris formerly lived in by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He was oblivious of the hatred between them and the royals in England.
Some of the contempt for Fayed in England is plain snobbery, or even racism. The best-known investigative book about him speaks of "Egyptians, who are not commonly associated with bravery." But Fayed cannot blame everything on prejudice.
If nothing else had ever been said against him, there was the affair of the ginger cat. He took a dislike to a cat in his house, and asked one of his heavies, a former soldier with the elite SAS regiment called John Evans, to dispose of it.
But Evans managed to kill the wrong cat, before getting the intended victim as well. The story would have damned Fayed in English eyes forever if he had otherwise been guiltless. And his reported reaction to Evans -- "Nothing is fuggin ever done fuggin right" -- describes succinctly his relationship with his adopted country.