The Princess and Her Pea-Sized Legacy





"She was the people's princess. And that's how she will … remain." I marked the 10th anniversary of the death of the princess of Wales by watching Tony Blair's sob-choked 1997 tribute to Lady Diana on YouTube. Like some 89 percent of Britons, I can, of course, remember where I was when the BBC announced her death in a car crash in Paris, where I was when I saw Blair's tribute the first time around, and where I was when Elton John sang"Goodbye England's Rose" at her funeral in Westminster Abbey. Though outside the country for the first two events, I flew back to London (where I then lived) in time for the third and arrived in a country where everyone had apparently gone insane.

Famously, there were mountains of flowers everywhere, not only in front of Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace but in front of the various gyms and restaurants Diana was so often photographed entering and leaving. Something like hysteria reigned in newsrooms too. An editor of my acquaintance told me afterward that she had felt like a parody of an editor in a movie:"I kept shouting, 'Gush! Gush! Gush!'" So weird were the mob emotions, in particular the crowds baying for the queen, that Hollywood inexplicably made an excellent film about the whole affair.

Yet there was also a good deal of quiet grumbling."Wasn't it ghastly," someone said to me a few days later: He meant the funeral, not the accident. Someone else calculated that the 1 million people who lined the route of the funeral procession represented at most 2 percent of the population: As many as 98 percent of Britons could thus have been utterly indifferent, and this week a few of them said so."Diana just another dead glamorous celebrity," read the headline of a Daily Telegraph article that compared the 10th anniversary events to the annual rituals at Graceland and called the late princess the"patron saint" of the" completely self-obsessed."...


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