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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Princess Diana has returned from the grave on the front cover of Newsweek in a picture that imagines her, and her life, as it might have been had she lived to mark her 50th birthday on Friday.
But the picture and story -- which speculates that Diana would have twice remarried, used Botox, and been slightly jealous of new daughter-in-law Kate Middleton -- provoked mostly howls of disgust as they arrived on U.S. newsstands the same week that Prince William and his new bride begin an official visit to North America.
"Shocking, brilliant or just plain cheap?" asked the Los Angeles Times. News blog Mediaite.com called it "disrespectful on so many levels", while The Atlantic Wire ran the headline "How Creepy is Princess Diana's Ghost?".
Newsweek editor-in-chief Tina Brown, a Briton who wrote a gossipy 2007 biography about the late princess, imagines that if Diana had not died in a 1997 Paris car crash, she would have moved to New York, remained "great-looking," been friends with her ex-husband Prince Charles and his new wife (and Diana's old nemesis) Camilla, and have 10 million followers on Twitter.
But it's the digitally-enhanced front page photo of Diana -- imagining her as still slim and chic, if a little wrinkled -- that has caused the biggest outrage. Diana is shown walking alongside a smiling, and admiring, Kate Middleton.
"This is beyond tacky", commented one writer on the New York Magazine website.
"Ugh this is SO tasteless...let the poor woman RIP...if i were any of her family members i'd be so offended and upset by this," wrote a woman on the Newsweek comments page. Some others said they were canceling their subscriptions to the U.S. weekly news magazine.
The Newsweek feature also fantasizes about Diana's Facebook page, imagining her "liking" the movie "The King's Speech" and TV series "The Real Housewives of New York", hanging out with David and Victoria Beckham, and sending supportive messages to spiritual physician Deepak Chopra and Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
But it is her supposed relationship with the new bride of her eldest son, Prince William, where Brown is perhaps most controversial.
"The rising public adoration of Kate would have afforded Diana some tricky moments. Pleased, yes. But....Diana would have had to adjust to a broadening of the limelight," Brown writes.
She also speculates that Diana would have been a defender against royal snobbery of Middleton's non-aristocratic upbringing "and ostentatiously made Carole Middleton, Kate's dynamic mother, her new BFF."
Prince William and Kate Middleton, now formally known as the Duchess of Cambridge, arrive in Canada on Thursday for their first official visit overseas as a married couple.
They will also visit southern California from July 8-10.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte