Jan 30, 2007

Diana is Still Missing

The Philadelphia Inquirer is still gushing about the city's visit from Prince Charles and Camilla over the weekend. I must say it did seem a bit incongruous for them to be wandering around among the life-size statues of signers of the Declaration of Independence, not the least bit on their guard. We certainly have managed to get over our little spat with the British, as Philadelphians waited in line to spot the royals, take pictures, and shake hands.

I wasn't one of them. Now if Princess Di were still alive, I would have. If Princess Di were still married to Charles, that is. Or, better yet, Princess Di without Charles would have been fine. I confess, I still have my copy of Royal Wedding, by Kathryn Spink. It's one of those coffee table books full of glossy but poor-quality papparazzi shots, along with professional portraits by Lord Snowdon, archive photos, whatever. It's filled with fulsome praise that no one reads. A thrown-together opportunistic souvenir book that made lots of money. The lovely couple prancing in the woods at Balmoral. The dashing bachelor prince looking at the breasts of an African dancer. (Yes, really.) The virginal "Shy Di" before she had an inkling of her destiny as princess, live or dead; mother of two princes; wife, or bitter divorcee. And Diana, Prince Charles at her side as an accessory, wearing The Gown.

At the age of 22, I followed Diana and Charles' courtship with great interest. I watched their wedding live, along with my roommate, on our 13-inch black and white TV. Such a beautiful fairy tale, indeed. And how fleeting. The bulimia, the affairs, the divorce, the recriminations. When she was killed, I was stricken. I had been watching her become her own person, and was looking forward with a great deal of curiosity to see what she would make of herself, what her legacy would turn out to be. And--I'll say it--what fabulous clothes she would wear.

But that was it. There was to be no more. I watched her funeral, live, for hours, with lots of tissues on hand. I can't entirely explain what Diana represents to me, but after watching her wedding with such dedication, it seemed only right to watch her funeral.

At the funeral, a choir sang the hymn that borrows the melody from Holst's "Jupiter" (from The Planets). It had also been sung at the royal wedding. I had always found the melody achingly beautiful, so much so that John and I had a harpist and violinist play it at our wedding, two months before Diana's death. ("The harpist asked us, "Why don't you want Pachelbel's Canon like everyone else?") Strangely, John and the rest of the choir sang that same hymn on Sunday at our church, the day that Charles and his new wife left Philadelphia.


Amy said...

I remember watching the wedding in the middle of the night while on vacation with my family--I was 10, I think.

Like you, Lauren, I followed Diana with curiousity and admiration. What appeals to me about her story is the metamorphasis from princess to modern woman. She gave me hope that I didn't have to fit into certain gender roles, even before I had the intellectual framework, or vocabulary to describe it.

jo(e) said...

I too followed the Diana story. She and I were the same age, and just a month after her wedding, I went to London to live as a college student.

I remember thinking that my life was opening up in all kinds of ways, living abroad for the first time, while her life was shutting down inside this royal marriage.

Before her death, she was poised to do so much -- she had attained power and influence -- and it seemed a real tragedy to me. I watched the entire funeral.

Lilian said...

I feel so stupid by not following the local news -- I had no idea they were here!! Besides, we had two "royal" visitors ourselves.

Anyway... I was ALWAYS fascinated by Diana. I watched her wedding live (Andrew and Fergie's too) as well in our Black and White TV, deep in the Brazilian countryside. I must have been 11 at the time. I collected photos from her wedding from news magazines and always followed her story with interest.

(on a side note, I'm wondering if the photo of Charles and the African woman you're referring to doesn't refer to his visit to Brazil and his encounter with an Afro Brazilian samba school dancer [she was well known, I've since forgotten her name -- the "school" was Beija-Flor, though], I clearly remember the photo, and I'd be curious to know)

Anyway, I was very sad when she died, I always thought she was really beautiful and felt disappointed at Charles for not loving her.

It's fascinating to see other people's connection to her story, like Jo(e)'s too, isn't it?

Anjali said...

I remember seeing clips of Diana's wedding on the news, and watching her funeral a few days after my honeymoon. I otherwise paid very little attention to her life -- however, when she died, I felt such remorse. It was as if fairytales died the same day.

BOSSY said...

Bossy watched the Royal Wedding as well. It was glitzy alright, although slightly less glamorous than Luke and Laura's wedding.

Buffy said...

I've never understood the Diana fascination. It seems to have held on tighter in the States than here.

Charles doesn't bother me one way or the other. THat said, he's clearly a wimp for marrying the poor girl (Di) in the first place when he clearly always had a thing for CPB.

If he loved her so much, he should have just married her to begin with. And forgot about becoming King.

His great uncle did it for Simpson. Now THAT was a love story.