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.