The Death of Diana

DIANA, PRINCESS OF Wales died tragically in a car crash on 31st August 1997 in Paris, France. In the October 1997 edition of Forward View magazine that I was a part of, we paid tribute to the late Princess. I also contributed the following cover story.

Forward View magazine, October 1997

Forward View magazine, October 1997

The Princess and I

There is no denying that Diana, Princess of Wales, had touched the lives of millions of people all over the world, more than she’d ever know and more than we had even imagined. For me she was “my source of inspiration” that got me through my Masters of Arts dissertation (on Media and the Monarchy) in the United Kingdom in 1996.

I admit that I, like many other teenage girls then, was firstly fascinated by her fairy tale wedding to Prince Charles, future King of England, on July 29, 1981. How could I forget the carriage procession that led her to the steps of St.   Paul’s Cathedral; her ivory silk taffeta wedding dress with its 7.7m long train as she walked down the aisle was quite a sight. And what was dubbed the “famous kiss” on the balcony of BuckinghamPalace, was as good as a seal of happy ending to any fairy tale. Some 750 million viewers had watched live the royal wedding, dubbed the “Wedding of the Century”.

My fascination with her led me to cultivate the hobby of starting a scrapbook on her. Every little picture of Diana in colour or black and white found in the papers and magazines ended up in my scrapbook. And it is through the years of “looking” at her that inspired me to take an even greater look at the people who brought her to the public – namely the journalists, photographers and those in the media industry – when the opportunity arose. Thus, the birth of my academic work (made possible under the generosity of the British High Commissioner/Chevening Award) on the British media and the monarchy, which looked at the treatment of the press towards members of the royal family, with particular attention to the Princess of Wales.

Upon her death, people were quick to point accusing fingers as to who caused her death, directly and indirectly.

The paparazzi were the first to find the noose on their necks. Seven of them were reported to be hot on Diana’s trail when the Mercedes she and her companion Dodi al-Fayed were in, crashed on that fateful day.

The media proprietors will never wash their hands off the blame either. As Diana’s brother Charles, the 9th Earl of Spencer, said in an immediate statement following the death of his sister, “It would appear that every proprietor and editor, every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana’s image, has blood in his hands today.”

Nor was the public at large spared. An Anglican archbishop was quoted in Canberra as saying, “Who should bear the guilt – those who harass and photograph, those who print or those who read?”

Not too long ago, Diana herself was the subject of accusing fingers for the state of the royal family she married into. She was always in full glare of the cameras and at the mercy of the media. She certainly would not have made the announcement to withdraw from public life in 1993 for no reason.

Media presence and intrusion proved to be too much strain for her that Queen Elizabeth was forced to make a request to the media to allow her some space. Media coverage of the state of her marriage to Prince Charles in the late1980s was one the reasons that prompted the British government to set up a Committee on Privacy and Related Matters in 1990 to look into press self-regulation which the British media enjoys.

Although there were considerable restrain by the media over personal privacy, the intrusive lens obviously could not sit idle. In May 1992, six photographers turned “peeping tom” and took pictures of the Princess stripping off at the pool side at the British Ambassador’s residence in Cairo, which happens to be the most heavily guarded quarters in Egypt.

Despite strong threats of legislation, the media appeared unperturbed. This was obvious when the Daily Mirror published photographs taken of the Princess while she was working out in a fitness club in November 1993. One can only read in disbelief why the culprit Bruce Taylor, owner of the club, had taken the photos with a hidden camera – “all out of love for Diana”; and then sold them to the Mirror and took off with the money!

In early January 1996, four freelance photographers on high-powered motorbikes, hunted the Princess down a darkened lane in London and caused her to break down in tears. Again, the Daily Mirror bought the photos and proudly published them under the headline “Picture Exclusive: Diana Weeps” claiming the photos demonstrated that the Princess was upset over her impending divorce.

These are just a few of the many cases of intrusion, if not gross intrusion by any standard. However, in what appeared to be too many media chasing after too few news, the scramble for royalty news had reached the level of harassment.

But all those are now in the past. Again, quoting her brother Charles, “Finally the one consolation is that Diana is now in a place where no human being can ever touch her again. I pray that she rests in peace.”

(Forward View, October 1997)

Postscript:

Had Diana lived, she would have been a grandmother today! (link)

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3 thoughts on “The Death of Diana

  1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I have my reservations about a movie done when she’s no longer around. Her last few years of life were rather controversial (?), I don’t know if the movie will do her justice. I rather remember her during her happier days. I did watch the 1982 film on her royal romance, with Catherine Oxenberg playing Lady Diana. Digressing here, I got to meet Catherine’s mother Princess Elizabeth during my trip to Serbia in 2007!

  2. Yes, I know what you mean about the movie doing her justice. It’s much easier to take liberties with the storyline when the person has already passed on. I never saw the Catherine Oxenberg movie version……although I used to watch her reality show, “I Married a Princess”! So exciting that you got to meet Princess Elizabeth!

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