Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Shall I use the magic word "Diana" in the title of this post and get lots of hits? - No, I don't think I will.
Almost a year ago, when an Italian magazine published photos of the dying Diana, I wrote this post and received more hits than I had ever had before, though only one comment. [I’d been blogging since April 2006.] In my naivety, I didn’t realise that what a lot of these visitors were looking for was a copy of the magazine. I was amazed when I found out that copies were being sold on ebay.

Now British Channel 4 TV is planning to show a documentary containing video footage of the Princess’s last moments and I gather there is a public outcry. As one commenter wrote to the Telegraph, how long will it be before the Mercedes is sold on ebay?

Here the film The Queen has been available for a couple of months on DVD and friends who have borrowed my copy ask if the situation was really as portrayed in the film. I tell them that it’s an interpretation . They also express, as they expressed in 1997, their amazement at the way the British people “let themselves go” emotionally at that time. I was convinced then , and am convinced now, that this behaviour can be partly explained by the fact that, for the first time, it had become possible to reach middle age without having known bereavement. So for many, the “loss” of this person they had never met was their only experience of it. There were other factors, of course: our collective guilt; our fascination with celebrity, even in death; and if many had not known bereavement, who had not been betrayed in love? We identified with Diana in this, at least.

My opinion is that no one deserves to have their dying moments paraded as entertainment – unless you were Allen Ginsberg and wanted it that way – and , whatever you think of the woman, she has sons, a brother and sisters still living. Please, channel 4, spare a thought for them.

Here is something I wrote in the early days of September 1997. I have not edited it:


Like most people in the country, I switched the radio on last Sunday morning and began to go about my routine. Then I realised that these were not normal programmes. At first, I could not work out who they were talking about. When I did, I thought for a moment that they were going to say that she had topped herself. However, the manner of Diana’s death was so arbitrary as to have been absurd had it not been so tragic. As I listened, I hoped that she had not, at any stage, been conscious.

Then I sat, mesmerised, in front of the television for the rest of the day - something I never do. A week before, we were laughing at her over her denial of what she was supposed to have said to “Le Monde”. Now her funeral was being planned and no one mentioned “Le Monde”.

Of course it is sad. Yet thousands all over the kingdom will have suffered their own tragic losses this week, and they, unlike royalty, do have to worry about how to pay for their little funerals or whether the floral tributes received for their loved ones will be sufficient.

I have never been able to comprehend the mass purchasing of flowers on these royal occasions. If you wish to pay a tribute, why not take flowers to the old, the lonely or the sick? Perhaps, as one newspaper suggested, these improvised shrines are taking the place of religion in the land.

And how does a republican feel about the woman in question?

Let’s face it - we all coveted her looks, her figure and her style. Charitable she certainly was and she showed a genuine warmth towards those she met. But there is a dichotomy in attending a ball to raise money for charity and spending thousands on the dress you wear to it; in campaigning for funds for the underprivileged when what you spend on tights in a week would keep a third world family for thrice as long. But she did her best in the circumstances in which she found herself and the world in which she moved.

As to the rest of the royal family, I think that the judgement of history will be “too late”: Too late, the flag at Buckingham Palace; too late, the viewing of the tributes by the royals; too late came the realisation that they had to be seen to be responding to the situation by the people.

And how did they look at Balmoral, Charles and the Duke? - Like relics of a bygone age, in their silly, and, to our eyes, inappropriate, kilts. And there was the Queen, outside the Palace yesterday. Whoever goes just outside their own home with their hat on and a handbag? Diana, hatless, tightless in summer, gloveless, blew all that away.

For all the respect that the Establishment claims to feel, and although the coffin has been draped, since last Sunday, in the royal standard, the HRH has not been posthumously restored to the Princess. That says it all.

Going back to the lady herself, I truly hope that she did find some happiness with Dodi. However, had she lived, would this hypocritical and deeply racist nation have allowed her to marry a Muslim without comment? I doubt it.

For hypocrites we all are. It is inevitable that someone, somewhere will one day publish a photograph of the dying Princess. When they do, we will all go out and buy the papers. Ghouls to a man, we are too fascinated by her not to do so.

I watched the solemn procession to Kensington Palace last night and honestly felt that anyone with a camera should have been arrested. Hypocrisy, again. After all, I was watching.

I watched again today, in between bouts of working. As the touching cortège passes, you want the young Princes not to hurt so much. You want Diana to know that she was appreciated in a way that she could never have imagined. Most of all, you want it to be last Saturday night and you want to say to her, “Don’t get in the car”. But the reality is all too clear now.

Whatever the Queen says, I do not believe that the royal family will learn from these few days. I think that without Diana they will revert to being the stuffed shirts that they always were. You cannot tell me that, with the exception of William and Harry, they have not collectively breathed a guilty and secretive sigh of relief, now that the force for change has gone.

If the monarchy is to survive at all, perhaps they should declare a regency under Anne until William comes of age. Then Charles can marry the detested Camilla instead of conducting the affair, as we all know he will, behind the drawbridges of his dreary castles.

The royals have come through this week, but only just. It was the closest call they have had. Now, as shock and grief subside, the anger may well resurge.

The kings and queens of Britain live lives of enormous privilege and owe their continued existence to the will of the people. The House of Windsor would do well to remember it.



Janejill said...

A very powerful piece and you have highlighted so clearly and, I think accurately the situation as it was; isn't it amazing that one woman could have had such an effect on so many people.

pommygranate said...


I am a republican, didn't particularly like Diana, but when she died, cried like a baby and laid flowers at Kensington Palace.

A remarkable woman.

Maria said...

What a wonderful piece. When the news of Diana hit the states like you I was mesmerized by it all. Having myself been enthralled with all things Diana my heart broke and I weeped.

So close to the death of my own Mother and in the same way an automobile accident.. I fell breathless for the boys.

All politics aside... it's just so very sad. What a void in the lives of the Princes and the World who was in rapture with Diana.

I watched the movie the Queen and felt such bitterness towards the royals because I could not understand how with her sons underfoot they did nothing or what appeared to be nothing to honor their Mother.

Death is such a punch in the gut I had to remember what it was like for me and all of us. I truly believe when it happens we are all so swept away by it that we don't act maybe as we should.

Let's just pray Diana and Dodi are in peace.

All the best,

Lee said...

The inhumanity and ignorance of "Man" never ceases to frustrate and anger me. Just when I think I've heard and read it all, up pops something else to raise my ire.

It is callous, thoughtless, ignorant,cruel, disgraceful and disgusting that British Channel 4 is planning to show that footage. Have they no respect for Diana's memory and her boys and her immediate family? And I'm not saying this because they are "royals"...it is respect that anyone should command!

If it's ever shown here, I definitely won't be watching it.

That's my tuppence-worth, Welsh.

Lord Nazh said...

Never watched any of the news on Diana.

I'm not into living someone else's life or their unfortunate death.

(I did watch the 9/11 attack live, but have only watched the planes hit since, not the rest)

jmb said...

A very interesting post WCLC.

Diana certainly fascinated us all somehow, even in the former "colonies".

However no one deserves to die so senselessly: the only one wearing a seatbelt survived; the driver was legally drunk; they were always chased by paparazzi so why speed that night.

Who would have believed that Charles would be allowed to marry Camilla? England should just pass right over him as King, that is if they don't become republicans first which is hardly likely.

I don't know about the UK but I am definitely a republican as far as Canada (and Australia) is concerned. I'm amazed the vote in Australia didn't pass.

Sally said...

You hit the nail on the head Welshcakes - I think what you wrote 10 years ago excatly mirrored the thoughts which so many British people must have had. I remember my incredible feeling of amazement and disbelief that the British could behave in such an undignified fashion, coupled with my own fascination as events unfurled. Not a good feeling.

Bill Haydon said...

WL - I had never thought of diana's death like that: that it was an outpouring of a generation who hadn't known death. It was certainly a strange, almost post-apocalyptic week, and, for me at least, the Queen's attitude as shown in the film seems more understandable now than it did then. We (I am sorry to say I was infected by a lot of this - I was young) almost held them responsible - the film actually lets Charles off lightly, because a lot of people thought he had "blood on his hands" at the time - and we thought the dignified silence outrageous.

I think there was some kind of other outpouring, the collective hysteria of a culture steeped in images but unwilling to recognise it: the semi-medieval devotions of that week are all the more striking for the ten years that separates them from us. There was also, and it could only have happened in 1997, a powerful sense of newness being essential and anything past or lingering being awful - that any length of existence or movement through change leaves a kind of death, so that things which have not changed are themselves dead. Diana was just the vessel for that.

But, how permanent was it? I don't see that open and fresh and new a country in 2007, I don't see a place at ease with its emotions, or any of the other claptrap spouted at the time: it was a moment: a powerul one, to be sure, but a moment all the same.

We haven't really digested it yet but in 50 years we might have a sensible discussion about it!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, janejill. Yes, love her or hate her - she had an effect. Pommy, we were all, I think, affected that week. Oh, M, it must have brought it all back to you. Yes, whoever you are and however privileged, death is a punch in the gut. Lee, I agree. Showing this is a cruel thing to do. How are her family ever going to get over it and live their lives when it keeps being raked up like this? LN, to each his own.. I think there is a kind of ghoulishness in watching these things over and over again but we also do it because we are shocked and don't quite believe it. Jmb, yes, "senseless" is the word. There are so many "if onlys" with regard to that night. No one would have thought then that Charles would marry his Camilla. Here in Italy people are astonished at that and think we are hypocrites who have "forgotten" Diana. What they don't realise is that we know more about her now and that she waws a very silly woman indeed, in many ways. She and Charles should never have married in the first place. My father used to think that the present Queen would be our last monarch. But every time we make some progress in the direction of common sense, everyone starts fawning all over the royals again. Thanks, Sally. Yes, I watched in disbelief, too. It was reported in a Cardiff paper that a local woman had said it had affected her more than deaths of her loved ones and that is one of the most stupid things I have ever known an adult say. Hi, td. I agree that, watching the film, you can understand the Queen's attitude a little better and also that the film lets Charles off the hook too much. You are right about images and "semi-medieval" sums up the outpourings of that week well. Yes, I feel sad when I look back to 1997 and the hopes we all had. I wonder if Britain will ever understand itself?


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