Thursday, August 31, 2017

20 Years Later - A Royal Watcher Remembers

Temple at Althorp
20 years ago, late at night, August 30th, I was flipping through the channels and came across pictures of the tunnel in Paris. Continued watching, I think it was Brian William’s on NBC and he mentioned Diana had been in the crash. After that there was no turning off the TV. I watched the coverage as it unfolded, so to speak. At one point, I think, Tom Cruise called in, denouncing the paparazzi and how it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. I’m paraphrasing but that is what I remember.

At one point Brian mentioned that people were in the tunnel taking pictures. He didn’t say paparazzi, it sounded like gawkers in the tunnel taking photos, which I thought was incredibly odd. This was before smart phones. When, if you took a picture, you had to wait until the film was developed a week later before you saw what you had captured. Why anyone would take photos of such a scene? If it had happened now I would understand. Everyone wants to be a citizen journalist but back then?

Alma Tunnel
Here is what was known at the time I tuned in. Dodi and the driver were dead. Miraculously, two people were still alive – a bodyguard and Diana. Of course Diana was the big story. The news made it out to sound as though it was, not minor, but not deadly. But as the broadcast continued her injuries sounded more serious. And I started thinking. What if she doesn’t die? What if she is badly injured? Paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair or in a vegetative state. What kind of a life would she lead? Given the interest in her, her life would become even worse. Paparazzi wanting to get the picture of Diana in that state. After all, later they were trying to get photos of her dead body. Imagine if she was no longer the beautiful princess everyone had come to know and love. And I found myself thinking, this is a terrible thought, but true. I would love for her to be alive, for William and Harry to have their mother back. But maybe, if she is a shadow of her former self,  she would become such a grotesque curiosity, If she dies, maybe it is better that way. Terrible, right?

I was riveted to the coverage and when Brian William’s announced she had died, it was just shocking. I grabbed one of my books about her and leafed through it. It wouldn’t bring her back but I could look at photos and pretend. I guess.

Alma Tunnel
I woke up that morning and went out and bought all of the newspapers. Throughout the week I bought every magazine I could get my hands on. I think I went in to the local convenience store so many times the owner knew me by name. I still have all of them. Waiting for my children to eventually throw them out when I’m not looking. Yes, I collected everything. Stamps, coins, plates. I wanted proof that I had experienced this moment. I recall listening to the radio and hearing bells tolling and starting to cry. I wasn’t the only one.

At the time I worked at a hospital that Diana used to be patron of. There was a remembrance book for people to sign and I remember one girl coming in and spending a lot of time signing the book. Crying as she wrote. I didn’t speak to her, given my interest in the coverage it was surprising, but I recall it to this day. I didn’t have a blog at the time so I couldn’t share my own feelings with anyone else.

Alma Tunnel
During the week I continued to collect what I could get my hands on. Then the funeral, wall to wall coverage. People crying as the cortege went by. The flowers on the coffin with the ‘Mummy’ card. Elton John singing Candle in the Wind. I even bought the CD of the song. You couldn’t escape the coverage, it was everywhere. And, to be honest, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to continue experiencing the moment. This was our JFK moment. We would always remember where we were when we heard the news. Just like 9/11. But when her coffin drove though the gates of Athorp, it was over. Or so we thought at the time.

I’ve been to Althorp, seen the Oval Island. Seen the temple with the cross. My macabre thinking is I don’t believe she is buried on that island but we will never know and it doesn’t make any difference does it. I bought plates and books, and visited the Diana exhibit. One part of the exhibit had rose petals on the floor and home movies were playing and watching her, so young and carefree, it made it sadder.

Oval Island where Diana is buried
I continued collecting books and memorabilia, until years after she died. As the 20th anniversary approached, book-a-zines came out, photo books. People, Hello, Time. And 20 years ago I would have collected all of it. Now, I have bought ONE. I guess I have become cynical or realize I have run out of room. They have the same pictures. The same anecdotes. The one thing we have now is films about her – from her sons, from her speech coach, etc. I’ve watched two so far, but I would like to watch more. The one from her sons is the only one I really wanted to see. Unfortunately the CBC cut it to pieces, making way for all of the commercials so I haven’t seen the entire thing. I will eventually.

What I have watched shows what a loss she was to the royal scene, to the royal world. Nothing can replace her. Hearing her voice makes it that much sadder. I know people are sick of the specials, it is Diana overload. People are skeptical of her side, but I ask, what harm do these really do? What harm does remembering her do? It was become incredibly commercialized and I think that is one of the reasons I haven’t collected. Not buying these magazines allows me to keep her separate from the commercialization. I’m guilty of it, but right now it bugs me.

So on the 20th anniversary of her death. I hope to remember her the way she was. Reading tweets I see I’m not the only one taking note. People are leaving flowers at Kensington Palace but I’ve never believed it would be the same amount. Charles is getting a bad rap, as always. For today, let’s remember her for the special person she was, not the polarizing figure we have made her out to be.

RIP Diana.

© Marilyn Braun 2017

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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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

It's a good time to be a Diana critic

2017 is more than just a year to cash in on the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales. It's also an opportunity to diminish someone who is no longer around to defend herself. Diana still commands interest, which seems to bring out the critics who don't like her and never did. Both in life and death, Diana is a divisive figure and the views of critics, just like fans, can run the gamut from moderate to extreme. Reading the coverage and comments in general I notice some patterns from the critics.

I notice that being a Diana fan is seen as a negative. Diana fans hang on to the past, unable to be objective about 'St. Diana.'  It seems to be unfashionable admit you were upset when she died and unabashedly watched the funeral. There is a level of cynicism towards any positive coverage. Anyone who speaks positively is biased, including her sons. It's definitely important to be discerning regarding the over-the-top coverage, but there's a middle ground for the media and the people who consume it.

I notice that Diana is an easy target. In fact, too easy. On the 20th anniversary of her death it is open season to blame her for everything that went wrong before, during and after the marriage when all sides share blame. Easier to make vicious and misogynistic comments and remind everyone of her mental health issues. If William and Kate want to fight the stigma surrounding mental health, they have their work cut out for them.

I notice people don't like women who don't behave. Women who break the rules and own their sexuality. Women who harness their power. Women who use their voice. Women who express their anger and fight back. When asked what Diana should have done differently, the consensus seems to be she should have done the lady-like thing and kept her mouth shut. After all, look at how successful keeping quiet worked for Camilla!

I notice compliments are grudgingly given. "Diana was beautiful BUT..." Thereby follows a list of Diana's worst qualities. Charles and Camilla are made to sound reasonable by comparison (Charles only slept with ONE woman during the marriage). According to critics, it is Diana fans that need to move on, not them. But while we are on the topic, why waste the opportunity to burnish Charles and Camilla by denigrating Diana?

Regardless of what polls say, I don't believe that celebrating Diana will do lasting damage to Charles, Camilla or the monarchy. She is part of their history and always will be. By the end of 2017, the commemorative issues will be filed away and most people will have moved on. The Diana critics who see things in black and white won't.

© Marilyn Braun 2017

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.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Prince Philip leaves behind a legacy that speaks for itself

August 2nd marks the day Prince Philip is retiring from public duties. As #PrincePhilip trends on Twitter, he is carrying out his last official duty attending the Royal Marine Parade at Buckingham Palace. He has a long association with the Royal Marines Association. He has been honorary president since 1948. His first official engagement with them took place on July 15th, 1953 when he attended a dinner in the officers' mess at Eastney Barracks.

Embed from Getty Images

It is unusual for a senior member of the royal family to retire. The royal family prides itself on carrying out duties regardless of age, health or even weather conditions. At the age of 96, Prince Philip has more than earned the right to step back and enjoy life.

His royal duties started in 1947. As Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, he accompanied his fiancée to Clydebank, Scotland in October 1947. The Princess was there to launch the Cunard Liner Caronia, at the time it was the largest liner in the world. During this visit the couple received a sewing machine as a wedding gift from the Clydebank townsfolk.

One of his earliest charity roles he took on was as President of the National Playing Fields Association. He remained president from 1947 until he stepped down in 2013.  The organization, founded in 1925 by King George V, has a long history of royal patronages. Its first royal president was the Duke of York (later King George VI). Now known as Fields in Trust, the current president is the Duke of Cambridge, who took over the role in 2013 when his grandfather stepped down.  Prince Philip appeared in a short film about the organization in 1951.

The Duke is patron or president of 800 charities, reflecting his interest in conservation, sport, the military and engineering. However, he is best known for The Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Created by the Duke in 1956, the organization it is the world's leading youth achievement award and since its inception has expanded to 141 countries and territories worldwide.

Through his initiatives and involvement, Prince Philip leaves behind a legacy to be proud of.  His royal stats speak for themselves.

Although he is officially retiring, I don't think we have seen the last of him just yet!

© Marilyn Braun 2017

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.