date is Saturday 6 September 1997. Britain has been in mourning since the news
of Diana's death in a car accident in Paris on the last day of August. She was
only 36. Her childhood had been privileged. She was born a Spencer and mixed
with the Royal Family on their Sandringham estate.
Diana married the heir to the throne at the age of only 20. She was naive, shy and lacking in confidence. She remained so throughout her short life. Her beauty was that of the "English Rose". The whole country followed the fairytale wedding, as Diana became the Princess of Wales.
This was not a marriage made in heaven. Although every Englishman took her to his heart, were we not even then full of foreboding? Her silk wedding dress looked creased, and soon, so soon her heart was to be damaged also.
|There was a disparity of age, but that could be overcome. She was a starry eyed Princess, and Charles a man in love with another. How strong was the pressure to select a mate acceptable to "The Firm" (as Diana was later to call the Royal Family in more bitter times), and how much they needed an heir to the throne we can only surmise. But from this moment on, the tragedy was set.|
|The rest of the story is well known. The joy of the birth of two splendid sons was not enough to heal the rift. They tried. He tried, as well as he could, but how was the son of the Duke of Edinburgh to give and receive love? This was the only commodity Diana could not live without, and the reassurance which went with it. The boys grew up, protected from the spotlight of the media, perhaps overly smothered in love by their mother, but seemingly none the worse for that. The bitter battle which led to the separation and divorce was fought in the full glare of press and television. Books were written. Interviews given. Meanwhile Diana had become the most famous and sought after young woman in the world. No Hollywood star, then or now could touch her for pulling power. All along, she remained vulnerable, hounded by the press, pursued and never allowed to find her true place in life. It was impossible, and her eating disorders were evident to all who saw her from the early years of her marriage and for many years to come.|
|This is not the place to ask why the tragedy of her life had to happen. Millions of words have and will be written about her life and death. Perhaps Diana had found her place in life at last, regaining her confidence in her work with 6 favourite charities. She was also in love again, with rich international playboy Dodi Fayed. His father Mohammed, owner of Harrods and the Ritz had been engaged for many years in his own battles with the press, the establishment and the British government which refuses to grant him his sought after citizenship of the United Kingdom. Had Diana lived and married, the parallel with Jackie Onassis would be inescapable. The criticism of her lifestyle would have followed. But this was not to be, and she was killed in a senseless crash in Paris. The driver was alleged to be drunk. She wore no seat belt. The speed may have been as high as 120mph, and the paparazzi were in pursuit, as they had hounded her from her engagement on. Tragedy followed her in life and death alike. Perhaps it was her sheer vulnerability and opposition to the establishment which endeared her to the British people.|
|Who could have foreseen the massive outpouring of grief which enfolded us? Two streets away from where I live is Kensington Palace, now engulfed in floral tributes as far as the eye can see. Who could have predicted that the usually tight lipped British should stage a mass public mourning the like of which has not been seen even in Latin America ? The funeral was a combination of the state ceremonial only the British can offer coupled with a very personal outpouring of sadness by the Spencer family and the whole nation. Britain came to a halt. London was quiet. There were no cars. The shops remained closed until 2 pm. The crowds were uncannily silent. I can remember nothing like it before.|
|The funeral from Westminster Abbey was relayed to the world via television and radio, and to a mass of people watching on giant screens in Hyde Park. Diana's brother, the Earl Spencer gave a moving tribute, which combined a savage attack on the tabloid press (whose editors he had asked not to attend) with disbelief that one so innocent and good should have been treated in the way she was. Elton John sang a reworded version of Candle in the Wind, with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. Prime Minister Tony Blair read from Corinthians with evident feeling and understanding, and the music was superb. Having watched the gun carriage draped in the royal standard go by at a snail's pace (it took 1 hour 47 minutes to cover the ground from Kensington to Westminster) and returned home to watch the service, my most vivid memory is the tenor bell, which tolled mournfully every minute throughout the stately progress of the coffin. Perhaps in the fullness of time we will all awake to find we have overreacted, but meanwhile she was the Queen of Hearts, the "People's Princess", the vulnerable and easily damaged young girl who made the big mistake of taking Charles and everything that meant, and the tireless worker for AIDs, landmines, lepers, the sick, the underprivileged and the unwanted. We will not see her like again. We will miss her.|
© 1997 Photographs and text by Robert and Vicky Wright
Last updated: 23/11/05