The other day I went to the Kenilworth Festival to hear Penny Junor, royal biographer, speak about her new biography of Prince William. Inevitably she was showered with questions about royal scandals of the last three decades, and a good proportion of it related to Princess Diana and all the issues that flowed from her story. Penny Junor handled every question with the patience of long experience. Having then purchased the book, I came away reflecting once again on that dramatic story, the stuff of a truly exciting plot.
So many millions of words have been written about Diana, and yet I still feel free to add my words here.
To my eyes, as a writer, Diana was the perfect main protagonist. Everything she did had high emotional stakes. During the last six weeks of her life she demonstrated prescience. She could not have done better if she had consciously known she had only six weeks to live. She courted publicity on every level, defying royal and government protocol; she threw in her lot with a charity fighting a losing battle on a major humanitarian issues; she risked her life in a high publicity way; she sat at the bed of a dying child who asked if she was an angel; she reacted to the end of a love affair by going on the rebound with a man who would have been mustard gas to both British monarchy and government if she’d married him.
She could have sat at home in Kensington Palace as a recluse, eating chocolate, getting fat and watching daytime TV and sinking into depression. And maybe the public would not have reacted to her death in the way they did.
So my thoughts about Diana led on to reflections on where the monarchy is in this Diamond Jubilee year. I believe Diana’s immense popularity was due to the fact that she reflected the human condition.
Her story was about:
* mental health problems/vulnerability and naivety;
* the media-induced fever of the public about fairy princess-ography
* the edifice of the monarchy needing to reinvent itself to survive
* Diana’s personal inability to accept a void
* the fact that in the last 6 weeks of her life she chose to fulfil her greatest gift – compassion for the vulnerable and suffering
Prince Charles’s greatest problems were that he took the advice of those he respected and admired instead of searching and trusting his own heart; and he was terrified of promising something he’d regret all his life.
William and Harry’s salvation to a sane balanced grounded life was ironically through the very monarch to whom Diana – and the public at one stage – attributed several of her personal problems.
The Queen’s sense of duty received its greatest challenge, and she met that through her choice to acknowledge and adjust and reinvent herself – to her great credit. And ultimately it has brought her through to her Diamond Jublilee year as loved as Diana was, with a Prince of Wales who eventually managed to win the public’s support to marry the woman he really loved; and with a second & third in line to the throne who are themselves greatly loved and admired and who give every indication of being safe hands in which to leave the monarchy’s future hopes.
What are your views and reflections upon the dramatic few decades in the life of the monarchy since Diana’s entry onto the stage? But perhaps you’re an anti-monarchist? I’d love to receive your comments!