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On the Lady Diana Spencer

for a moment, I cared

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 10, 1997.

There are, without question, some things that the British do really well, and anyone who witnessed the funeral of the Princess of Wales last Saturday was left in no doubt of that. What essentially was an impromptu, thrown-together affair with no actual precedent was short, dignified, cathartic, and absolutely beautiful, and I say that as an atheist. With the sun actually out and illuminating Westminster Abbey, the whole thing went off like a movie, and anyone who could watch the casket being carried down the aisle by eight terrified members of the Welch Guards to a choral hymn with a dramatic build involving angels winging her away and not get a clump in the throat is obviously someone who throttles small birds in off moments. It was genuinely touching.

And while Diana’s brother the Earl Spencer stands temporarily as a sort of hero for his remarks, as someone who hates the press, you may have noted that the Spencers made sure that photographers were available to show the Earl heroically rowing flowers out to his sister’s grave and laying them about. This on a small island in a lake selected so that photographers and the press could not easily reach it. The grotesque hypocrisy of Mr. Spencer is only lightly highlighted by such grandstanding. You will recall his remarks about how Diana’s blood family will protect the future king and his brother from the stagnant attitudes of the Windsors? This will be of interest, since he himself lives in South Africa, his mother is a recluse, his father is dead, one sister is in deep therapy, and one sister is estranged, a summation of the Spencers he would have us believe will protect the souls of his nephews. Which of them is to pick up the torch of the dead mother? Well, nobody. Diana spent her life in deeper rebellion against her own dysfunctional family than her in-laws, but never mind.

In fact, the funeral and the life of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, will be recalled in years hence as a sort of overpowering unimportance with one exception: she highlighted in death a social service rendered by monarchy. For centuries, it was a standard joke that while kings despoiled their own country or their neighbors for personal wealth, the peasants - totally removed - silently believed that the tax-collectors, the rancid actions of the nobility, and all the suffering was simply unknown to the monarch, their protector. Whether France, China, or Russia, the equivalent cry of “If only the Czar knew” was a standard feature of folk tales and literature. If I might, I would suggest that the inordinate amount of affection showered upon Diana was due to a sub-liminal gratitude, melded with some astonishment, that here was a member of Royalty that not only cared for the traditional dregs of society, but was seen doing something about it. Not just appearing in the same room with selected suffering toadies, like the Pope does with symbolic washing of the poor’s feet once a year, but with the sick and dying and giving them sustained hugs of seeming affection and actual concern, followed by the influx of cash and media attention. After years of pottering about, the English monarchy finally produced someone, even if by marriage, who took the myths of royalty seriously and understood the image because she had viewed it from the other side and, be honest, fell for it. It was an early goal of Diana to be the Princess of Wales, according to myth, and that is not the dream of a rebel.

That said, we should watch the manipulation of her myth carefully, because even Elton John stated she was a legend, therefore it must be so. The most watched event in television history may shed light of the manufactured myths of Evita Peron, a fake Diana, and on Mother Theresa, a fake saint who probably caused as much suffering as she alleviated but who will, apparently, be fast-tracked into the Pantheon of Angels because it serves the political interests of the current Pope.