Sunday, August 30, 2015

18 Years Ago Today..The Death of Diana

Hard to believe that it has been 18 years since Diana's death. I will never forget where I was when I heard she had been in an accident.

Flipping through the channels late at night, the image of a car crashed in a tunnel appeared on my screen. The channel was MSNBC News with Brian Williams. Diana's name peaked my interest and I continued watching the awful scene with the crumpled car surrounded by police vehicles. As the details slowly emerged, Dodi and the driver were dead but Diana was miraculously still alive. There were few details about her exact condition but she was alive. Listening to updates about paparazzi involvement did not surprise me in the slightest.

On-lookers were being interviewed near the tunnel, some stating they had even taken photographs and I found myself disgusted by that. Note that this was before Facebook or Twitter or even Instagram, where nowadays, anything seems to go no matter how grossly inappropriate it may be. However, back then it was surprising.

It was hard to process what was happening but I found myself reaching for my books about Diana, looking at pictures of her and wondering if anything would ever be the same again. Would she live? If she did, what condition would she be in? I admit there was a part of me that thought, if she is too badly injured, maybe it would be better if she did not survive. Her life will be far more difficult and she would become an even bigger curiosity. This time for all of the wrong reasons.

Finally, the awful news. Brian Williams announcing that Diana was dead. This beautiful woman was gone from the world. Even worse, William and Harry no longer had their mother. Watching the boys walking behind their mother's coffin was heartbreaking.

The next morning I immediately went out and bought every newspaper I could find. Bells toiled on the radio and I broke down when I heard them. Throughout the week leading up to the funeral I bought every magazine in tribute to her. At the time I worked in a hospital which Diana had served as a patron. There was even a portrait of her there. The hospital had set out a condolence book and there was one very upset woman, who spent a lot of time writing in it. It really felt as though the world had stopped. I had the same feeling on September 11th, 2001.

Many years later, in 2003, I got the chance to go on 'my pilgrimage,' to Althorp. After viewing the exhibit on her life in the stables, I walked towards the oval island where she is buried. My thoughts were somewhat macabre. Was she really buried on that island? It didn't look nearly deep enough. A part of me still believes that she is buried in the small temple nearby. Say what you will about her brother, he created a beautiful, moving exhibit and everything about the estate is tastefully done.

From time to time I still look at my books about Diana. Marveling at her beauty and charisma and natural report with the public. The public reaction to Diana's death may have been over the top at times but it is not surprising. It is still hard to believe that she is gone.

RIP Diana.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Who creates the market for paparazzi photos of Prince George? We do!

Here we go again. Prince William and Catherine appealing to our better nature in the interests of protecting the privacy of their children. This morning Kensington Palace sent out a three-page press release to that effect . However, this time it provided more background on what goes into photos of Prince George between official appearances.

Sad to say, this will change nothing. We will decry the pursuit of Prince George on twitter and royal message boards. Royal correspondents will play devils advocate regarding whether the royals are entitled to privacy when in a public setting. And while this is a very complex problem which will continue to come up, one part of the press release is the most telling:

"...many people who read and enjoy the publications that fuel the market for unauthorised photos of children do not know about the unacceptable circumstances behind what are often lovely images.  The use of these photos is usually dressed up with fun, positive language about the 'cute', 'adorable' photos and happy write ups about the family.  We feel readers deserve to understand the tactics deployed to obtain these pictures."

Until now it was easier to turn a blind eye to that fact. After all, the pictures are adorable, no? When Prince William complained about press intrusion, it came across as petulance and wanting to have it both ways. Go on twitter and you will find complaints about censorship and how controlling the royals are when it comes to their coverage. It is very easy to say that when the royals are in public they are 'fair-game' and that it is entirely legal to photograph them. However, just reading paparazzi tactics and the potential threat they pose, makes it more difficult to justify it that way.

The very people who decry the pursuit of Prince George are the ones who contribute to the demand for them. Complain about how distasteful the pursuit is today, coo over how cute George looks in his crocs tomorrow. While you're at it, don't forget to pay lip-service to Diana's tragic death and you have covered your bases until the next time it happens.

When it does, just repeat and don't act surprised.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: Diana Fashion Books - Part One

Within my collection, I have many books covering Diana's fashions throughout her royal life. Some of these books are short on text and follow a similar style so I have decided to divide the posts into parts, each post featuring a few books at a time. Just like her future daughter-in-law, Diana's fashions were covered just as avidly. Had the internet existed back then, Diana would definitely have had multiple blogs devoted to her style. There is no question that in the early years of her marriage, Diana was at her loveliest and most radiant. Her style choices may look dated today, but none of them take away from how dazzling she was in her early twenties.

From the Royal Heritage Series, the text for this book was written by Jane Owen. Published in 1983, it covers Diana's fashions primarily for the tour of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Her style evolution to date is discussed in detail and estimates for the cost of her tour wardrobe are not surprising (£1,500 a week!). Little did anyone know that Kate would spend far more than that on a single outfit.

Covering Diana's 'sensational' fashions during her April 1985 tour of Italy, the 'inaccurate' estimates for the cost the (17 day) tour wardrobe have increased  to £100,000. Each tour stop outfit is discussed in detail, along with appropriateness of it and whether or not she had worn it before. The date for one tour stop, May 2, 1985 is particularly poignant given that her granddaughter Princess Charlotte would be born on that day 30 years later. At the very end of the book there are some charming photographs of the prince and princess with William and baby Harry aboard the Britannia.

Diana Princess of Wales: The Book of Fashion

Out of the three books, this one has the most photographs and the most details. At the very end you will find an detailed list of each outfit Diana wore from the day her engagement was announced to October 1983. Interspersed amongst the photographs are charming bits of information. For instance, Diana had 'springs' sewn into the brims of her hats to keep them on. During one event on the Canadian tour, Diana's plain-clothed police woman detective, kept her gun down the front of her dress. Photographs of Diana with clenched fists are not 'a sign of frustrated anger,' but to cover her fingernail biting habit. Also, Diana celebrated her 22nd birthday in Canada and amongst her gifts was a 30lb piece of iceberg, which the princess was said to be 'delighted with.' 

© Marilyn Braun 2015

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Royal Review: Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

When I found out about this exhibit, I immediately put in on my list of must see things to do while I am in London. Having now visited it I can say that I am thoroughly disappointed. 

Covering royal fashion from the 1950s to the 1980s, the dresses featured in the exhibit were worn by The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales. I think the thing that most disappointed me about the exhibit is the amount of dresses featured, which I think amounted to 20. Having reached the end, I asked whether there were any other dresses and I was told that was it! 

I would think that few people would consider the present Queen to be a style icon. At least not in comparison to her sister, Princess Margaret. The Queen has her style moments but for the most part has played it safe throughout her life. Looking at her hairstyle, it has barely changed; short with petalled curls. The Queen has favoured the same designers, Hardy Amies, Norman Hartnell, whose work is on display here. Her dresses are made from the best fabrics, with ornate embroidery and beading and the workmanship is truly something to behold. 

Princess Margaret could afford to be more bold in her clothing choices, but other than one dress with a kaftan and turban, I did not see that reflected in the exhibit. Whether through lack of availability or permission to display them, I think this is a shame. It would have been nice to get a better sense of Princess Margaret's style choices.

Diana's dresses are at the end and mainly cover the mid-eighties to early nineties. Unlike the Queen, Diana did not play it safe with one designer and the dresses displayed include work by Zandra Rhodes, Jacques Azagury and Catherine Walker, whose work she favoured towards the end of her life. The dresses featured are from Diana's 1997 dress auction, which have changed hands since that point. I'm not certain if the Royal collection actually owns these dresses or not but if so, it is at least nice to have her reflected in the exhibit. Here are some photographs I took during my visit.