In every age, there are events
that shape the world.
The death of Princess Diana,
and the subsequent global outpouring of grief, punctuated hours before her funeral
by the death of Mother Teresa,
was such an event,
rather a cluster of events.

Before it was over, the Queen of England, who bows to no one, had bowed to the Queen of Hearts, the heir to her throne had publicly applauded a scathing attack on the Royal nurturing style, and both had wept, before witnesses, as a pop legend from the glam-rock era crooned a recycled goodbye in Westminster Abbey.

Before it was over,
the world saw the Union Jack fly
at half staff over the Sovereign's residence,
for the first time since King Egbert
unified those rag-tag bands
of post-Neanderthals in 835.

Days after the Princess was laid to rest
on a small island in the middle of a lake,
the throngs were still there, still coming,
and many began to realize
that it was not over yet,
and wonder if it ever would be.
Diana's death sparked global grieving
beyond the planet of that seen for JFK,
or Elvis, or Marilyn,
or John Lennon,
or Martin Luther King.
It created a flower shortage in the British Isles, as $25 million in floral tributes formed fragrant seas about the Palaces, and inspired a quarter billion dollars in charitable contributions within the first week.

As they mourned her loss,
people cast about for someone to blame.
The very media that made her name
a household word from Iceland to Zimbabwe
were a favorite culprit.
But without the media,
would there have been a Diana?
The world is full of Princesses,
more and less beautiful,
more and less charismatic,
but few would argue that any of their deaths, however tragic, would become the catalyst
for mass behavior on the scale the world saw,
and by their seeing, participated in,
(for such is the nature of media)
the first week of September, 1997.

Diana's story, though sad, is not unique.
The child of a broken home,
she was manipulated into a marriage of convenience before she turned twenty,
before she had a chance to love,
and thus acquire a "history" that would mar her suitability as brood mare
for a Royal House crying out
for new blood and more chin.

She was certainly
not the only young woman
to marry a man who loved someone else,
nor the first to get the hell out when she realized there was nothing she could do
to change it.
because the ever-present media
was there to cover her exit
from the Palace
as enthusiastically as it had heralded her entrance, she may have given others
in similar situations the courage
to save their own emotional lives.
Much has been made of her laudable efforts regarding charitable organizations,
but admirable as all that was,
the realm of philanthropy was not her exclusive property.
So what was it about her?
Although little, if any, of her life was kept secret
from us - we read avidly of her every romance,
her shopping trips, her eating disorders,
her divorce, even her bowel habits
were not left untouched by the press -
no reporter could explain, nor photographer illustrate, our need, our hunger,
to know all that;
no one could solve for us the enigma
of a life laid bare; no one could tell us why.

And in the end, like the true sequence of events of the last hours and moments of her life, we may never know.

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© December 1999 English on the Internet