Reassessing princess diana?

I’ve often thought Diana exhibited some genuine courage and caring during her life.** I was less than keen on the thorough drubbing she received at the hands of many in British learned society. So I was interested in a revision by a former editor of the Tatler.

Tina Brown, now editor-in-chief of Newsweek, has some interesting new things to say about Diana here.

Her overall assessment is that Diana managed to take an incredibly painful experience caused by others and to do some good with it. She has a number of reasons for this assessment, including the contrast betweeen how great effort has been made to bring Kate Middleton into the monarchy, while Diana was largely hung out to dry.

In addition, while Diana was labeled paranoid for extended sense she was spied on, we now can see she probably was a victim of the Murdoch Empire phone hacking.

What do you think?

**Added: She was one of the first – perhaps the very first – public figure to challenge by her behavior the idea that AIDS could be transferred through touch. Her campaign against land mines was very important and hardly typical royal stuff.

15 thoughts on “Reassessing princess diana?

  1. Give me a break. This was a woman who had everything: tall, blonde, fabulously wealthy and in line to become the Queen of England. And yet she whined. No sympathy.

  2. Having “everything” doesn’t mean you have what you truly want and need. She married into a horrible situation.

  3. I am sorry to say that I’ve already removed one comment. Our “be nice” rule for this post is going to cover not using sexist or sexually crude images/terms.

  4. A horrible situation?

    There are lots of points in-between having everything (which only Spinoza’s God has) and a horrible situation.

    Lots of people marry people they don’t love, who have a lot less money and who are a lot more brutal than Charles.

    Besides, Diana chose to marry Charles, This was not an arranged marriage.
    If she chose badly, that’s her fault.

    And if she was so blinded by the glamour of royalty at the moment she married Charles, once again it’s her fault for not opening her eyes.

    No sympathy, inspite of the moving Elton John song.

    (Hello Harriet)

  5. SW, you say, “If she chose badly, that’s her fault.” I don’t see why it’s her faulty when, apparently, he was disguising the fact that he was in love with another woman, with whom he was having some sort of pretty intimate relations.

  6. Hello Anne,

    If she actually thought that royal marriages are something out of 19th century story books, then she was very innocent. I suspect that within that very narrow circle of people from which royal matrimonial candidates were selected, the history of Charles’ love-life was no secret. People gossip, especially about princes.

    I move in a social circle, which is probably broader than that of Charles and Diana, and it is not difficult to find out what is happening in anyone’s love-life.

    A woman in the early 1980’s in London, with sufficient freedom and money to educate herself, London being a center of feminist and radical activities, should have understood that marrying Charles was not exactly going to be a union like that with
    someone with whom she found an affinity of souls.

    My guess is that Diana thought that marrying Charles would be glamorous, a way of ascending socially, to become even richer, more famous and more powerful and that she found that being rich and famous isn’t everything. That is, she played her cards very well, only to realize that winning the game is not what matters.

  7. But she was only 19, and possibly very naive. And certainly not well educated. Probably her set was made up of the Sloan Rangers, who were pretty untouched by feminism and radical thought. I remember reading somewhere that Charles’ friends thought she was so cute and all that she would keep him more cheery. She may well have had some sense she was becoming this pet poodle, which is close to how they seemed to view her. Still, that doesn’t mean she was supposed to be happy about finding an alpha dog already well in place. Dogs sometimes can not recover from that, and humans find comparable situations far, far worse.

  8. Human beings are not dogs and one who lets herself be put in the place of one, having other options (she chose to be one of set of people without interest in feminism, in a society where feminism is certainly an option), is, ok, worthy of sympathy (I yield you that point), but not much more than sympathy.

    I myself have gone into relationships, knowing yet refusing to see that x is in love with y, not with me and choses me because I am the “safe” one and I am fully responsible for not seeing what I knew and what was before my eyes.

    So too it is hard for me to imagine that someone of normal intelligent (Diana) did not somehow refuse to see many things because she imagined that she was winning the prize (the prince).

    We have much more capacity than dogs to learn from our mistakes and to change our life and our worldview.

    If a woman of 19, with all the financial resources and freedom in the world (imagine the headlines and the immense backing she would have received: Diana leaves Charles to study feminist sociology), does not have the courage or whatever it takes to change her life, my sympathy, but I feel sympathy (at this moment at least) for all sentient beings.

  9. SW: I do think you are underestimating the mechanisms of social control that operated in England in the 1970s and 80s.

    I was vividly reminded of them when I was back at my beloved Oxford college this spring. Having been told that the College was not like it was when I was first there in the later 60s, with a huge stress on rules and proprieties, I recounted a bit of behavior recommended to me my first christmas season there. A friend had recommended that we sit in the back of the hall and leave before the toast to the queen. It caused quite an uproar, we were said to have disgraced the whole of the middle common room, and there were people who turned their backs to us for what seemed like months.

    What was the reaction nearly 50 years later? First, people couldn’t understand how I could have failed to see how wrong I was. I had already explained that I arrived from a protest torn Berkeley and regarded everyone over 30 as unreliable..

    And then a very nice don explained to me what would happen to a grad student who did that today to ensure she never did it again.

    The point of the anecdotes? I think Diana was probably caught up in an often internalised system of controls that kept her on a fairly tight proper system of behavior. And in that society, there simply wasn’t anything like taking some courses in feminist theory, the thought of which might have earned her terrible criticism. For my partner, whether you could go to unversity at all was determine by a test you took at age 11. It’s true that the Open University was started to create some openness, but that was very little in a very rigid (at the time) system.

  10. I don’t doubt your portrayal of the mechanisms of social control in the 80’s in the U.K.

    The thread is about assessing Diana and my assessment of her is not especially positive, since I admire people who see through and who help others to see through mechanisms of social control, not those who, in a situation where seeing through them is a possibility, do not do so and in fact, through their behavior reinforce and reproduce those very mechanisms.

    Maybe Diana could not have left Charles to study feminism. How about studying Art History or Classical Literature? That would have been a positive step for her.

    For example, a woman whom I greatly admire is Simone de Beauvoir. In her autobiography she depicts her upbringing in a situation where the mechanisms of social control were certainly more repressive and less questioned than the situation of Diana in 1980, yet Simone wrote The Second Sex and did so many other wonderful things with her life.

    Yes, none of us are Simone de Beauvoir, but I just don’t find anything very admirable in the life of Diana.

    Did she struggle to make this world a juster, more decent or more rational place, even on the smallest level? Not as far I can see.

  11. From the Wikipedia entry on Diana:

    “Although in 1983 she confided in the then-Premier of Newfoundland, Brian Peckford,
    ‘I am finding it very difficult to cope with the pressures of being Princess of Wales, but I am learning to cope,’ from the mid-1980s, the Princess of Wales became increasingly associated with numerous charities. As Princess of Wales she was expected to regularly make public appearances to hospitals, schools and other facilities, in the 20th century model of royal patronage. The Princess developed an intense interest in serious illnesses and health-related matters outside the purview of traditional royal involvement, including AIDS and leprosy. In addition, she was the patroness of charities and organisations working with the homeless, youth, drug addicts and the elderly. From 1989, she was President of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. The day after her divorce, she announced her resignation from over 100 charities to spend more time with the remaining six. Also following her divorce she remained patron of Centrepoint (homeless charity), English National Ballet, Leprosy Mission and National Aids Trust.

    During her final year Diana lent highly visible support to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a campaign which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, only a few months after her death.”

    So, “Did she struggle to make this world a juster, more decent or more rational place, even on the smallest level?” — we can argue that she could have or should have done more, but let’s at least acknoweldge what she did do.

  12. ‘And then a very nice don explained to me what would happen to a grad student who did that today to ensure she never did it again.’

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