Memories of Summer

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The last of the summer foliage in Carl Schurz Park. 5:00 PM. Photo: JH.

By the time you’re reading this, over in London, the memorial service at the Guards Chapel in St. James’s Park marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales may be over. Prince Charles will have returned to Highgrove to spend the weekend with his wife the Duchess of CornwallThe Queen and Prince Philip will have returned to Balmoral for the rest of their summer holiday, and Diana will remain, isolated now as a memory, her energy still able to stir up the emotional life of Britain as if she’d only been away for the summer.

Diana sitting for a portrait when she was the Colonel-in-Chief for the 13/18th Royal Hussars, August 1997. Photo: Allan Mallinson

The Royal Family, through the auspices of Diana’s two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, managed to control some of the public interest in this by holding the service in a venue less accessible to the crowd, thereby preventing exposing more of the awkwardness of the Royal persona. They carefully selected a public space while still keeping the public away. More than just a bid for “privacy” keeping the public away was a political maneuver to move, or at least obscure some of the focus of the tragic princess’ end and let the Windsors return ultimately unscathed to their antediluvian isolation from the rest of us.

Ideally for the Royal Family, there wouldn’t have been any kind of service except maybe for her children, siblings, relatives, etc – the way it is in any “common” family. Let’s not forget Diana was not “royal” and after her divorce, the House of Windsor took back her HRH (and ended up giving it to her rival – the “third person” in her ill-fated marriage). That means nothing to you and me, but it means a wagonload or two to them and all the other HRH’s and HIH’s and HSH’s in the world.

By the time of her death, Diana was very much in the way, a serious liability to the monarchy. The Royals may be a form of amusement for the rest of the world but it is as serious an institution in the world as the Roman Catholic Church. It is, after all the mask of Establishment England. It is purely political.

Diana’s fame and popularity was so great as to influence the public perception of the monarchy. Her funeral proved that. Had she lived, her presence (and her talent for drawing attention to herself and her dramas) would have gummed up the works. Camilla may never have had the opportunity to become the duchess, and it very possibly would have continued to make Prince Charles look like a ninny, which he still manages to do at times, even without her.

More cumbersome was that her appeal had the elements that nurture mythology. Aside from her beauty and her photogenic charm, Diana lost at love. And in a big way, in terms of romantic fairytales. Her prince had deluded her, or worse, she had deluded herself about her prince. Until it was too late.

So, whatever it was for those around her in the goldfish bowl existence, we are left with the public image of the woman, and the illusion which provides endless space for our imagination. In London, in the Telegraph a few days ago, they re-published a piece on Diana, written by Lord Deedes, the distinguished former Cabinet minister/editor/journalist. W.F. Deedes himself passed away two weeks ago at 94.

His account (click here) of Diana is called “Princess Diana, injured angel.” It is arguably the best monograph ever written about the woman whose life energy touched hundreds of millions, and whose private personality evoked a gamut of emotions and perceptions.

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