While I missed the actual anniversary of this event, I feel the need to still write about it. I was actually at the cinema yesterday waiting for friends to arrive when I saw a post from the tea room that I visit and follow on Facebook indicating that 31 August marked the 17th anniversary since the death of Princess Diana. I have to say seeing that floored me. I couldn’t believe that it’s been seventeen years.
I was not quite 10 years old and visiting family in North Carolina the summer Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. I don’t remember much about the day, other than I remember being awake before anyone else to watch the royal pageantry unfolding on the television as they became husband and wife.
Many years later, I remember learning about their divorce and wondering why Charles would put aside someone as lovely as Diana. Admittedly I was young and naive still. I realise now that there was probably far more going on that we never knew about and will never know.
In the summer of 1997, I was working at a big law firm here in New Orleans when Princess Diana was fatally injured in a car wreck in Paris. I was doing temp work in their billing department and I recall endless days of talking to co-workers about it. Such a tragic event. I know in the years after, Mohamed Al-Fayed, father of Diana’s companion, Dodi Al-Fayed, insisted that the British government to be behind the crash, up to and including the Duke of Edinburgh. I do not and never have believed that to be the case. I put the blame of the crash equally between the paparazzi who were chasing the car the couple rode in and the intoxicated driver of the car – Henri Paul. I do not and never have liked paparazzi. I think they are super invasive into celebrities’ lives. I understand that with fame comes a certain expectation for fans to want to know about the celebrities they love so much, but there must be a line drawn somewhere and paparazzi want to erase the line and access every part of these peoples’ lives. I also think Henri Paul was very wrong for getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Perhaps Mr Al-Fayed felt a measure of guilt considering Mr Paul worked for him and Mr Al-Fayed probably should’ve put someone else in his place to drive.
I know that many people were dissatisfied with the reaction from the Royal Family on the death of Princess Diana, but I’ve learned to cut them some slack. Considering Queen Elizabeth alone, she was groomed from a very young age to react in a certain way to everyday events that we might take for granted. Brits always have to maintain a stiff upper lip and facing the public in this manner would probably seem cold and heartless to the rest of the world. When you are trained to react or in this case not react publicly to tragedy, it’s hard to suddenly change and put on this huge show that everyone expects to see.
Even today, 17 years since Princess Diana walked the Earth, her presence is felt. All you have to do is look to her eldest son, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, to know this. Every part of William’s life with Catherine has been compared to that of his parents. When William and Catherine were married, I was fortunate enough to be off work and able to rise early in the morning (again) to watch their wedding and marveled at the many ways the media found to compare the wedding of these two young adults to that of his parents more than two decades earlier. Then, when Catherine gave birth to their first son, George, comparisons were made again. And still again when the small family made a trip to Australia, comparing Catherine’s choice of dresses, etc. to Diana’s.
I imagine Diana’s shadow will follow her son wherever he goes and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.