Remember Diana?

Remember Diana? by • September 8, 2007 • Printer-friendly

Srdja TrifkovicI was in London on a brief visit last weekend, which happened to be the tenth anniversary of the accidental death, at the age of 36, of Princess Diana, the divorced wife of the heir-apparent to the British throne. In marked contrast to the outpouring of collective grief back in 1997, the event’s anniversary passed almost unnoticed. The fact that current celebrities’ drug use and fleeting “relationships” attract infinitely more attention of hoi polloi than the memory of the “People’s Princess” proves what we’ve known all along: that “Diana” was a transient popular-culture phenomenon, only as enduring—and therefore as commercially lucrative—as the ongoing spectacle that the living person was capable of providing.

To start with, last weekend Britain did not “come together” to remember and pay tribute to the unfortunate young woman on the tenth anniversary of her untimely death. Those Britons who care about her, one way or another, remain as deeply divided between Diana loyalists and her detractors as they were a decade ago. As the Guardian noted, what should have been a somber occasion for “quiet national recollection” turned into an unseemly public display of personal rivalries with the usual suspects in the Diana “camp” continuing their tirade against anyone not seen to be a fully-paid member of her fan club. The “Dianistas” claimed that the program of remembrances was organized not according to what the Princess would have wanted, but according to what her ex-husband wants. Of course the heir’s current wife, Camilla, eventually decided not to attend the memorial service in the Guards Chapel, even though both her sons, Princes William and Harry, were supposedly in favor of her attending—the latter presumably indifferent to the event’s religious significance in view of his apparent open atheism.

As passions continued to rage, a poll in the Daily Telegraph showed that “respect” for the royal family had fallen to below 50 percent for the first time—a result, the newspaper claimed, of the family’s treatment of Diana. And 43 per cent of Britons still believed that her death was suspicious and not an accident.

The sudden and gruesome death of a woman in her prime, especially mother of adolescent children—William was 15 and Harry 13 at the time—is an inherently sad event. With Princess Diana it had the makings of a real tragedy, in view of her personal unhappiness. Back in 1981 a very young Diana Spencer was nudged into an ultra-visible marriage with an unloving, aloof and eccentric man, 14 years her senior. To make things worse, her husband was infatuated—and adulterously involved—with another woman throughout the marriage. That woman is now his wife.

Condemned to an unsettled private life of loneliness and emotional turmoil, Diana lacked the stamina of her sturdier predecessors who were mistreated by adulterous husbands (notably Alexandra, Princess of Wales, and later Queen of England), or that inner strength which is woven from a strong moral and spiritual fiber.

A decade after her untimely death it is not for us to judge Princess Diana’s private life. But by refraining from comment on her flaws and instances of sometimes very poor judgment one should not condone the decade of automatic sanctification of Diana by the frenzied media pack. Back in 1997, a mythical unity of the global village was conjured through ersatz grief for “the People’s Princess.” Diana’s hurried promotion to pseudo-sainthood was embarrassingly kitschy, and the presence of all the usual suspects on the bandwagon—from Nelson Mandela to Elton John to Michael Jackson—made the banality of the spectacle well-nigh terminal.

Even the blossoming jihadist community in Britain—a state within a state if there ever was one—claimed Diana as one of its own, presumably well primed in her temporal life for Allah’s sensual pastures:

Her loss is only this temporary world’s loss because it is definitely Heaven’s gain. While the world is grieving over her loss, those who know true Islam know that Princess Diana has made it to Heaven at the right time that was destined for her.

Diana’s AIDS related work and anti-land-mine crusade were commendable, of course, but those immune to the collective psychosis knew the truth: had she not been a princess, she would have been nothing; and she became a princess by doing what she must have bitterly regretted doing. Without that fateful “yes” at Westminster Abbey 26 years ago she would have remained a privileged, pampered, unknown nobody. But instead, in the words of a British contemporary, “like over-emotional teen-agers who mourn the break-up of their favorite pop group, we are encouraged to suspend disbelief and join in the false community that weeps and hugs itself in the worship of an icon victimhood.”

The false community of post-modern Britain has moved on, however—to a little girl in Algarve probably murdered by her own eminently middle-class parents, to an 11-year old boy with a Welsh name shot to death, ghetto-style, in Liverpool—with all the horrible teddy bears, plushy hearts, Hallmark cards, and other paraphernalia of a society way past its detox date.

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