UPDATE: I found the book I referenced in the paragraph A Fashionable Choice, and added the picture too!
This past weekend, on July 1, the late Princess of Wales, the former Diana Spencer would have turned 62.
I was also born in 1961, and felt a natural affinity toward Diana, perhaps because we were the same age. When she became engaged, I was so excited! After all, there hadn’t been a Princess of Wales in decades. I had not been following the British Royal Family much at all until Diana came on the scene. But she represented all the youthful energy and ambition of my generation, which was probably why she was and still is so loved by so many of her peers, even now. She’d surely bring color to the gray world of royalty.
Influenced by my older siblings, I had always been an Anglophile. I had cut my teeth on The Beatles, Monty Python, and catching the latest BBC historical melodrama via Masterpiece Theater. The music, movies and assorted Brit celebrities made a romantic impression on me at the time, and I imagined how wonderful a place it was and how I would love to see the real thing. Having this striking young princess enter into that world was the cherry on top of my Anglo-fantasies.
Unlike the other royals, Diana had a natural likeability and a genuine kindness to her that we in the real world could relate to. She hugged children and laughed with ease with her fans. I eagerly followed every word and latest fashion, becoming a mimic fashionista of sorts (ruffled collars and white tights anyone?). I would have loved to have been her friend; a sentiment I’m sure thousands of other young women had as well. Every new fashion was a power statement, since she rarely spoke in public. (I still have scrapbooks)
Yet there was always an undercurrent of friction between Diana and her new husband. I was thrilled to see any pictures of them stealing a kiss at a polo match, or occasional loving glance. How wonderful to see their love evolve into a beautiful family of two little boys. But after the birth of Harry, a clear chill was seeping into their castle windows. Charles was becoming more distant, spending more time with his older country friends, Diana on the town with her her own set, shopping and lunches, yet happiest with her beloved boys.
By the time their separation became public, I found myself agreeing with the commentator who pointed out that “a lot of dreams will die here” (for those who believed the illusion). I was always on Team Diana, of course, although I know she wasn’t perfect. In real life she may not have been the brightest or deepest of them all. But with her initial naivete, anxiety, depressions and occasional paranoia that were all but ignored by The Firm, I identified with that, and I felt for her. In my mind the British Royal family really took advantage of a very impressionable young woman barely out of teens. She fell as hard for the fantasy as we all did, and she tragically paid for it.
When she was free of the family, yet cruelly, unceremoniously stripped of her title, I had hoped that she would find solace in a relatively peaceful post-royal life. Rumor had it that she was going to move to America, and possibly becoming an ambassador the the United Nations, which would have been perfect for her. Yet we all know how her story ended much too soon, just as her life was starting to become more emotionally and psychologically satisfying. Alas.
People still speculate about her tragic death. Conspiracies still pop our from time to time. To me it was just a terribly awful accident. My only questions was this: Was her safety belt in working condition? Diana was known to always use her safety belt, and her death could have been prevented it only she wore hers that night. Too much water under the bridge to consider it now. If only, though.
It has been said that one of the last things Diana confided to a friend was a promise never to be fulfilled. “You won’t believe what’s coming next!” she cheekily hinted. Over a quarter of century since her passing we still haven’t a clue what she had in mind. My three speculations:
1) A Choice for Love: Would she have announced that she was to re-marry? Not Dodi-Al-Fayed, her fateful fling, but Dr. Haznat Khan, the heart surgeon who was the true love of her life? This has been a theory visited since her death. Some have claimed that she wanted to marry a Muslim, which would have surely made The Firm very uncomfortable. I honestly don’t think this would have happened so soon after her divorce.
2) A Fashionable Choice: Many Charity related books about Diana’s style came out after her death. One was Diana: The Secrets of her Style by Diane Clehane. It featured a sketch of a very daring gown for her next evening event, an AIDS Benefit, designed by Giorgio Armani. Diana was to have her final fitting for it the week she passed. The gown appears to be an icy blue halter gown with V-neck down to the waist and a twisted back. As you can see, it was very daring, and would have been stunning on her. Was this the coming surprise she hinted at? Since Diana let a lot of her clothes do the talking, this might have been likely, and probably quite startling. This would have been the biggest ‘Get Lost’ dress to the Royal Family she would have worn to date. And she would have been not only breath-taking, but ahead of her time, as usual.
3) A Choice to Leave: Or was she indeed going to dump the Royal Family and move to the States? We may never know. I’d like to think she’d have moved. Perfectly understandable after the hell that all the tabloids put her through. And that now she’d be a happy grandma and best friends to her daughters-in-law.
It’s funny, I’ve always had some sort of fandom through my life. In the 60’s it was The Beatles, the 70’s Star Trek, the 80’s, Princess Diana. Yet since the 1990 on, my life has revolved around my own reality in my creative and family life. How I wish Diana could have been as happy with her family as I have been blessed with my own husband and two sons these past 30 years.
I watched the Coronation the other month. It was grand and colorful, everything one has come to expect from the British Royal Family. My feelings toward “The Firm” has changed drastically over the years. I think that if the Family wants to continue to carry on for the future, they should run themselves like many other Royal families, that is, stay figureheads, but SUPPORT THEMSELVES. (and for heaven’s sake, pay back the British taxpayers the millions of pounds they paid for the Coronation). Yet the current adventures of the family of Charles III will never enthrall me the way Diana did. I wish Diana’s sons well. Diana’s long gone, but never forgotten. As Captain Kirk said in That Which Survives: