There will be an empty seat at the royal wedding
Has all this royal wedding talk made you think about Princess Diana? I know she was much-derided when she was alive – what with the nutty psychics, playing the paparazzi and preying on other women’s partners. But, come April 29, there’s going to be an empty seat at Westminster Abbey and, sappy as it sounds, I know that will make me sad.
Diana would have been 50 this year – a fabulous age to watch your first-born son marry the woman he loves. You can speculate all you like on how she might have stolen the show, but she was nothing if not an instinctive and affectionate mother.
What was fascinating about Diana was that both her life and death provoked a visceral response – not an intellectual one. Occasionally her actions made us think (her charity work for AIDS/landmines) but, more often, she made us feel. Struggling with the same problems as the rest of us – men, parenting, body image – she was like Julia Roberts’ character in Notting Hill: “I’m also just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
I was 12 when Diana married her prince and I watched it on the telly with my mum. I loved the way she stuffed up Charles’ name, how the dress creased ridiculously and how she obviously adored her husband.
Later, working for a newspaper in London, I met her a few times and, like most, I was bedazzled. Her luminosity transcended modern celebrity, but her coquettishness could reduce hardened male hacks to giggling schoolgirls. Never mind the fancy palace, the title or the jewels, I’d always come away wishing I had her legs. They were solid-gold gorgeous.
Not much silences a newsroom, but the Sunday she died was eerily quiet as we typed words that felt inadequate, and deliberated over the single image that would form the front page and somehow capture her life. Later that week, I slipped out of the office to the palace where piles of flowers, with their garish bows and servo wrapping, illustrated far better than political spin-doctoring that she was indeed the People’s Princess.
At times like this, you wonder what she might have become. In my crystal ball, I see her living in America, not with Dodi Fayed, but someone improbable, perhaps a playwright à la Marilyn, or a gifted doctor such as her beloved Hasnat Khan.
She’d be godmother to Elton John’s bub and she’d have done away with that ghastly butler and replaced him with someone like Chris Colfer’s character in Glee. Of course, she’d have had Botox and she’d be a yoga nut, but there’s no way she’d do a Demi and upstage the younger generation by wearing a mini-dress to a fashion show.
Which brings us to Kate. I bet Diana would have adored her. Why? Because her son does. In these weeks before the wedding, it would be Diana, not Camilla, taking Kate to lunch and instructing her to eat. And keep it down.
As former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown points out in her definitive biography, The Diana Chronicles, “Diana grew up associating the camera with love” because taking photographs was the only way her father showed her affection.
Come the wedding, those lenses will be trained on her son and daughter-in-law. Not that Diana would have minded, because – even for a princess – there’s no pride greater than that which you feel for your child.
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