England would never be the same. Neither would the monarchy. Diana Spencer came
along and changed everything forever.
Just ask the Duchess of Cornwall who’s about to go off on a holiday, pushed out
of Sunday’s memorial service and the commemoration of the tenth year since Diana
was killed. William and Harry invited her, but on advice from the Queen, the Duchess will not attend.
I wouldn’t be writing this post if I hadn’t read Tina Brown’s remarkable account,
The Diana Chronicles (excerpt). Brown’s been around, from The New Yorker
to Vanity Fair, to her own show on CNBC, to her own mag, then off in
a cloud of negative press over its failure. But this book is something else.
It’s not about the dirt, though Brown sprinkles that throughout.
It’s about Diana Spencer, a young woman who entered the fold of The Firm, aka the Windsors, with everyone quickly learning that no one in the castle knew what to do with their new princess. This girl who
embraced the fairytale from the start, but then wanted to make the experience
her own. A modern princess? No one was prepared, not even Diana, but she took it on with much grace and courage, and the Windsors didn’t know what hit them. Then there
was the it factor, the stuff that makes mere mortals movie stars. Diana
had it, a lot of it, with all the weaknesses that often go with it, especially in the 80s. Now add the monarchy.
Like the heroine of a fairy tale, she became a princess. Bur her instinctive
refusal to play her assigned role in the expected way, her insistence on living
(as opposed to just living happily ever after), and her unplanned, unfinished
search for happiness on her own terms enabled her to break free to become
a citizen of the world, finding her place far from the moist-lipped charmers
and grim periwigged operators of the Spencers’ ancestral past or the encrusted
traditions of the Windsors’ stagnating present. The political power of the
monarchy has been hemorrhaging for nearly 400 years, and by a century ago
it was effectively gone. Diana stumbled on a new kind of royal power. She
showed what could be done with the old concept of royal bounty when the drama
of humanitarian concern is connected with the new electronic nervous system
of worldwide media.
You can see the Diana Effect today on the Queen herself. During the London
terror bombings of July 7, 2005, the Sovereign did something spontaneous for
the first time in her own reign but reminiscent of the Queen Mother in the
Blitz. She did not wait, as she would have done in the past, for her diary
to open up for a planned visit to the injured. The very next day, she traveled
by helicopter from Windsor Castle to tour the wards of The Royal London Hospital
in Whitechapel in London’s East End. … .. …
The understanding of the power of the inclusive gesture was Diana’s gift
to the monarchy and so much more. .. …
The Diana Chronicles, by Tina Brown (pgs. 480-481)
But it wasn’t like this was intended. Diana first bought into the romance through the novels she devoured, all by Barbara Cartland who is the author of 723 romantic
fantasies (at Brown’s count). It was the life of Diana’s dreams.
“In these stories was everything I dreamed of, everything I hoped
for.” – Diana Spencer, The Diana Chronicles
When women buy into romance novels they become part of an emotional porn ride
that feeds their fantasies but offers no room for reality. Romance novels tend
to seduce women into conjuring up an image of some man and life that doesn’t
exist and couldn’t possibly live up to the romance mush between the margins.
and romance don’t mix any more than the monarchy and modernity. Somewhere amidst
all of this Diana got herself caught in a dangerous drama, which she chose,
fed and encouraged that eventually became a competition between herself, the future King of England and The Firm, and a woman named Camilla Parker Bowles. This story could never have ended well.
However, Diana was not a victim. She crafted her life amidst the dream she
chose, which brought about a clash when reality impeded the fantasy. Then she did what many women do who feel wronged. She set out to get even.
Newly separated from her husband, the Princess of Wales set about administering
her celebrity like a global brand. Her life was now devoted to tending, promoting,
and conserving the Diana franchise.
(snip & skip)
Diana was living in a world of secrets again. Perhaps they were the necessary
corollary to her life in a strobe light show. Her disregard for her own security
appalled Ken Wharfe. On a March 1993 ski holiday with her boys at the Arlberg
Hotel, in Lech, she evaded the night’s bodyguard by jumping into a snowbank
from her twenty-foot-high balcony. … .. It was scary stuff. Diana was becoming
… .. To take such risks when she knew she was under intense scrutiny amounted
to a game of truth or dare with the media. … .. On the one hand, she was
a master at providing striking images to dramatize the success of her philanthropic
missions or to make a point to (and frequently against) Charles. … .. Diana
wanted to dictate boundaries to photographers who recognized none.
The Diana Chronicles, by Tina Brown (Chapter: “Saint and
Why should we care after all of these years? Some don’t, but considering the
impact this young woman had on the monarchy it matters in terms of culture and
Frankly, Diana’s story hasn’t been told very well so far. Tina Brown is the
first to get at something different and more revealing, succeeding brilliantly
in crafting a full woman, demons, confidence, the marketing of her life and work, as well as the tenacity of a woman who would not be dismissed. When you add the largeness of her role as mother to the future King of England, and how she molded the boys’ lives outside of The Firm’s grip, her single mindedness in standing up to their power is stunning.
The night she died Diana was not wearing her seat belt. She had also long ago
walked away from any real security for herself choosing freedom and fame, but
ignoring the dangers that come with both, especially when you’re the most famous
and sought after woman in the world. The press were made the villains, but the truth isn’t that simple at all. It is a tragic tale of a real live princess who married for romance, but then found a purpose,
putting AIDS and landmines on her radar and on the map, while shaking the monarchy to the foundation. Diana wasn’t murdered, though it’s fitting that Lifetime, a channel that professes to be for women, is stoking that sorry plot, as are others, likely because it fits the tragic telling of a fairytale gone bad. Tina Brown doesn’t miss this possible plot either, nor the “Sex, Lies, and Audiotapes” that turned this story into tabloid trash. But at least she offers closure.
It’s a remarkable story about a young woman who tried to merge fantasy life
and human reality with great success on the surface, but not any satisfaction deeper down. But Diana Princess of Wales did change England forever. Tina
Brown reveals how she did it, what it took and what it cost. If you’ve ever
been curious about the Princess of Wales this is the book to read. It reveals it all.
There is not a happy ending. How could there be? Life isn’t a romance novel. Diana
found that out the hard way. But it’s the path she chose from the start.