Twenty-five years have passed since Diana Spencer, the former Princess of Whales, died from injuries she sustained in a car accident in Paris, France. For many the media fascination with Diana was almost instantaneous the moment the young woman, barely 20, was married to then Prince Charles.
If you’ve been living under a rock on Mars with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears the last two weeks, you’ve heard that he’s now King Charles III following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II. The fact that her death comes just eight days after the Aug. 31, 1997 fatal accident that also claimed the lives of Diana’s companion, Dodi Fayed, and the car driver, Henri Paul, is publicity the makers of the HBO documentary The Princess couldn’t buy.
So much has been said and reported on Diana since 1981, that having a bunch of talking heads repeat what has already been said or wrote about her would be redundant. Director Ed Perkins assembles mainly news footage as well as candid footage of people all around the United Kingdom from the moment Diana came into the spotlight when her engagement to Charles was made public up to the 1981 Royal Wedding.
What was it about Diana that made her “The People’s Princess?” Her father, John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer was nobility. And according to tradition, Charles had to marry someone of nobility. Charles himself came in to the position after his uncle, former King Edward VII, abdicated the throne making his grandfather George VI the new king. It’s possible that Charles wanted to be king one day and felt the only way to do this was to marry Diana even though his true love was Camilla Parker Bowles, the now Queen Consort.
I said in a previous post that Queen Elizabeth II was the first pop star of royalty. And Diana exploded that during the 1980s when pop culture exploded. She was in the right place at the right time. Sadly, I don’t think Diana ever wanted the spotlight. While visiting India, a commenter says, “When you put a modern person in an ancient institution, they will be destroyed.” I think that explains her years as a member of the Royal Family as well as problems the others had.
Remember it wasn’t just Charles and Diana have marital problems that would eventually end in a divorce. But Prince Andrew was also having martial problems with his wife, Sarah Ferguson, former Ducchess of York. In many ways, maybe it was a sign that the British Monarchy was on its last leg. Another commenter says the Monarchy was becoming more of a public Monarchy and that’s another problem. When you’re living in a fishbowl environment, you have no privacy.
As Princes William and Harry were born, the media was more interested in Diana, as she tried to do regular mother-son events with them. But it’s hard to take Prince Harry, as a young lad, to an amusement park when the camera lights are always flashing and the news cameras are always recording. Even taking the young boys to McDonald’s was ridiculed because there was a kitchen staff on duty to make hamburgers at any time.
When the documentary turns to the separation and eventual divorce between Charles and Diana, she appears at a news conference saying she’s going to seek a more private life. To this, one pundit comments that Diana is more or less reading her own press and she’ll eventually come back to the media once the attention dies down. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The media continued to hound her as she even would walk up to photographers and try to block their cameras as they tried to get pictures and news footage of her children.
Diana was even more hounded by the media once speculation went around of her relationship with Fayed. She was only 36 at the time of her death. What’s crazy is Perkins throws in some home video footage of a bunch of men playing cards as the news plays on the TV behind them as the reports come in. We watch as their card game goes from minor keen interest to the point where they’ve stopped and are glued to the set as news comes in she’s been pronounced dead.
Afterwards, we see the footage of the public’s reaction and most notable a person telling off writer Christopher Hutchins when he mocks the public’s reaction. It’s well noted that Diana wasn’t afraid to touch and hug AIDS patients even when people still felt it could be spread by casual contact. Diana became more famous in the years following her separation from Charles than during her marriage. I think it was a sign of the times in the 1990s that women didn’t really need a husband, even if he was a prince.
I once heard someone say that it’s pointless to spend so much money on weddings as women will realize they won’t turn into princesses right after the ceremony. Well, Diana did turn into a princess. And it wasn’t the fairy tale ending. What we see happening between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shows that in 2022, some people are still stuck in that ancient instituion, and it’s good that Markle got out when she did.
The somberness of the documentary is that Diana isn’t here to see Prince William and Prince Harry grow up, get married and start families of their own. Like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, James Dean and other celebrities who did so much in their short lives and left us still too young, we’re always left with the “What Ifs” of what would’ve happened. What if the media really had done what the pundit falsely predicted and forgotten about Diana by the summer of 1997?
Diana would have turned 61 this year and probably would’ve been spending a lot of time with her grandchildren. But that never happened.
What do you think? Please comment.