[Ed. Note: To gain a full appreciation of this thread, I suggest you read all the threads on Mother Teresa, Christopher Hitchens, Diana and The Media, in addition to this thread. Some subjects are overlapping due to impossibility of separating them[by topic] any more than has already been done.]
From Antoinette Burton email@example.com 10 Sept 1997
...I continue to be horrified, though not surprised, at the American media's depoliticization of the funeral. Imagine having Lord Jeffrey Archer, a Tory partisan if there ever was one, interpreting the crowd's clapping after Elton John's performance and Earl Spencer's speech as some kind of democratic expression without identifying his political investments and past. Occasionally oneof the the networks columnists from the London Times would argue over interpretation with columnists from the Guardian, but never were the political leanings of those papers made visible and, indeed, no concept of the long history of the relationship between the monarchy, the government and the press in Britain was ever hinted at either. Like everything else, the funeral was shrink-wrapped for our consumption, its historical roots and possible contradictions occluded from view. I am intrigued by one H-Women contributor's comment that 30 million in a country of 60 million watched the TV coverage of the funeral. If true, that's significant--what was the other half doing? I know there were football matches cancelled in some places, causing football fans (a different kind of British "crowd" altogether) to complain that there ought to be a "goo-free" zone somewhere (I read this in a newspaper). I admired Diana as much as the next person and am grappling with my reactions as well, but there were plenty of people who vilified her in life and why aren't they on camera? Have they all done an about-face? Surely hearing their views would be as instructive as seeing the outpouring of genuine grief?
To me Diana's life and death seems an indictment of the unreflected romance (is there any other kind?!) of heterosexuality...can we have conversation about this? Increasingly, I also feel the "Diana used the press as well" argument--which one hears by all manner of commentators, however ruefully--to be deeply misogynist, akin to the idea that if she has truly been good and pure she would have remained aloof (as if she could have, given the way they tracked her) and "unadulterated." rather than the manipulative female they end up implying she was. It's as if they are trying to insinuate that the use of the press made her a whore, I guess is what I want to say. Despite her considerable privilege, which I try hard to remember, it must have been absolutely exhausting to be her, trying to work all this out in life, every damn day, that we are only figuring out after her death. Salman Rushdie has a moving piece on her in this week's New Yorker, which is not a little chilling as well, given the fatwa on his head; he points out that as she slipped toward death all she possibly heard was the clicking of cameras that had chased her in life. That moved me like nothing else, frankly. I am a British historian but I've wished I wasn't this past week, because the complexity of interpretation we all need has not been forthcoming, and I doubt it will be unless we demand it--and even then, who knows.
From Darlene Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org 10 Sept 1997
Thanks to all the respondents to my remarks re: Queen Elizabeth and Diana's death. I am especially grateful for all the 'gentle' corrections to my erroneous statement that the Queen had never appeared on TV to address the British public--that's what happens when you take as 'truth' something a television commentator says/said!! Mea culpa--I should have known better and checked it out myself first.
From my gleanings, it appears that the Queen uses television as a means to communicate at Christmas but, in terms of "serious" news, she has been reluctant to make speeches directly to the people (after Churchill's death and the Persian Gulf conflict and then again last week, is that all?) I am still surprised by that but perhaps mine is the typical 'American' reaction given that our national political scene is so media-driven.
Laura Coodley's question is now haunting me; e.g.:>what does the >Diana-mania say about people's longing for women heroes, even if she was >not one? their longing for goddesses, even if they only fantasize about her >good deeds?
Although she was criticized for accepting donations for her ministries from 'rogues' and 'dictators', Mother Teresa qualified for hero-status and certainly her life was filled with "good deeds." Yet the out-pouring of adoration for Diana is/was different and centered, at least in part (okay, in large part!) on her physical beauty and 'style'. As I recall, Diana tried to "say" something about that phenomenon with her bulimia and revelations thereto.
The visual memory that will last the longest with me is the one that became more significant during the funeral service itself--I'm referring to the procession-walk to Westminster Abbey. Immediately behind her coffin, her two sons were accompanied by their uncle, Diana's brother, her ex-husband and her ex-father-in-l;aaw. After hearing her brother's eulogy, I could not help but wonder how he felt, what he was thinking, as they proceeded down the street. And, as for Prince Philip--was he there as his wife's stand-in or what? The symbolism there was lost to me but I was indeed struck by the absence of any female among that 'family' escort.
FYI--the H-ALBION list had several 'threads' going regarding different aspects of recent events in Paris and London but several historians complained about the 'drivel' taking up precious byte-space, so now they are fairly close to squabbling about whether social and cultural history (especially that which is fairly recent) is to be considered 'proper' for that LIST's members to consider. The squabble could prove as enlightening as any of the threads. Thanks again.
From Ann Wentworth email@example.com 11 Sept 1997
I too was struck by the fact that all the mourners behind Diana's coffin were male. Then I remembered in James Galsworthy's Forsythe novels about a 19th century upper middle-class English family that only the men attended the burial services for family members (even when the deceased was a woman.) I wondered whether anyone knows if this was indeed a British custom (outside of novels) and whether the male escourt behind the Princess's coffin was another example of the persistence of traditional protocol. Has anyone done research on this aspect of 19th century English funerals?
From Beverly Miller firstname.lastname@example.org 11 Sept 1997
I too was struck by the gendered nature of the television coverage, but I do not see Diana as a figure of power. It seems to me that her current appeal lies in her "femininity": she is celebrated as a beauty queen, clothes horse, devoted mother, doer of good deeds, generous lover of unworthy men, and most of all, as victim. Like all good women, she is dead. The Queen, on American TV at least, seems to have become a witch figure represented as old, eccentric, out of touch, forced to concede power to younger, wiser men (Prince Charles, Tony Blair, Charles Spencer, depending on which version you see who represents the "true" will of the people). The people, OTOH, seem to be searching for scapegoats--the paparazzi, the royal family, Mohammed al Fayed and his men--anyone who can be blamed for killing the person they themselves only too eagerly consumed via tabloids, t.v.,etc. The real Diana, who was a whole human being, complex, contradictory, controversial and infuriating to many--in many ways a real trickster--gets overlooked in all this.
From Sara Gelser email@example.com 10 Sept 1997
It is interesting to me that despite her widespread popularity, I never once heard Diana's voice before her death. She was a silent beauty, and that seemed enough for everyone. I agree with the person who said the outpouring of grief and affection might be indicative of a deep desire for female heroes...how sad that even this very famous woman who was a role model for many, quite literally had no voice.
From Debra A. Combs firstname.lastname@example.org 10 Sept 1997
I agree that her voice was not often broadcast, but that may have been a function of the way she was categorized. She was seen as a "human interest" or "celebrity" story, not as also an activist, either for charities, or, with the land mines, for political change.
Yet she was not silent. When living in London, and then years later when I went to Leeds, I heard her voice broadcast. It seemed that the BBC felt obligated to occasionally carry sound bites of her speeches. (Very occasionally, but I heard a few.)
I would say that she seemed most "silent" because, with one obvious exception, there were few dialogues with her. To speak *at* an audience, like in sound bites, is little better than to be completely silenced, as she was by the media in the States. Just a thought.
From Clare Ansdell email@example.com 10 Sept 1997
It is wrong to say that the voice of the Princess of Wales was always silent. Diana's voice was often heard, she made speeches frequently, which she often used as a conduit to the general public to indicate her mood and what was happening in her life, even if it was an oblique reference. There were speeches on the loss of privacy which came through ...where she withdrew from many of the charities that she supported prior to the divorce from her husband. There were speeches that indicated her personal association with eating disorders. There was the notorious Panorama programme where she famously expressed her wish to be the "Queen of people's hearts" and did a magnificent demolition job on the Prince of Wales, claiming that he would never be fit to be King, and some would say was one of the biggest mistakes of her royal career. In an attempt to score points off the Royal Family she only undermined herself and came across badly. Her voice was also heard through a multitude of other channels which she often manipulated, lest we forget in our rush to condemn the media, of which the press and tv are primary instruments. There was also Andrew Morton's book which blew the lid off everything and holed the Royal family well below the waterline, and though not the direct voice of Diana, it could not have been published without her sanctioning it, something she freely admitted to at a later date. Diana was not above manipulating the press as and when it suited her. The last few years bear testimony to that. Had you been living in the UK over the last few days you would have heard Diana's voice repeatedly and mostly from numerous speeches that we are already familiar with.
We are in great danger of turning her into a plaster saint and perhaps a plaster feminist of which she was neither and which her brother, the Earl Spencer so valiantly spoke out against in his funeral oration. The incredible speed with which a totally false mythology is building up around her threatens to do more
harm and hide us from the true Diana, who was so many things to so any people. It is worth pondering the public reaction. Had you asked "the grief-stricken nation" as the media termed us during the last traumatic few days, a few weeks ago about Diana, you would have heard a very different story. Although always popular and often sympathised with, there was also mixed in with exasperation and irritation at some of her more manipulative ways. She was a caring person with an amazing ability to relate to people of all walks of life, but she was not above turning violently on friends and employees, discarding them without looking back.
IMHO, the shock of Diana's going in such a violent and public manner, just as seemed to be finding some peace and purpose in her life, added to a high degree of guilt that we were in some part culpable for the actions that led to her death, for ultimately we were the paparazzi's paymasters, were contributory factors which led to a large degree to the explosion of grief. I think it would have been a very different story had we been prepared by either old age or illness. There would have been an enormous sadness but not the frenzy. I am not altogether convinced about the outpouring of grief, along with many of my friends, colleagues and family. We are shocked and saddened, we expressed our sorrow, we watched the moving and highly charged funeral and we mourned for the two boys so tragically bereft of their mother but we did not wish to join the march towards Diana's sanctification.
From Kolleen M. Guy firstname.lastname@example.org 10 Sept 1997
I agree with Gelser that it is interesting to look at the response of women to the death of Princess Di. Here in the city of San Antonio response her death has broken down along gender lines. Today's city newspaper, The Express-News, reports that women callers to the Express Yourself Line (a pseudo-opinion pill phone line) have expressed admiration for Di and great sorrow over her death. Men have overwhelmingly criticized her for adultery, marrying money in a loveless marriage, and being a vacuous blonde. These responses are more interesting as a commentary on gender relations in this country than indications of public feelings about the British royal family.
From Evelyn Kerslake E.O.Kerslake@lboror.ac.uk 10 Sept 1997
I disagree. There was a very prominent and widely discussed interview with Martin Bashir which was broadcast by the BBC in which she spoke about a number of issues; there were also news items which showed her giving speeches; a least one documentary-re:landmines in Angola, I think, was made. Maybe the silence is how she was perceived out of the UK, but here I think
she had a voice-certainly a much louder voice than other royals, I think, although that might not be saying a great deal.
On a different angle. It is *extremely* interesting to compare the Sunday papers (of the day after Diana died) with their pre-death coverage of her. One-the Sunday Express-had a story along the line's of she's a bad mother, having too many holidays, gadding about with this playboy. By Monday, it was a rather different Diana they were writing about which completely erased criticism. The essentialist 'she's either a saint or a whore' dichotomy remains the only one tabloids can work with, it seems, curtailing effectively discussion.
From Eve Rosenhaft email@example.com
The perception of Diana as silent must be a result of the style of the US/International media coverage. In Britain she was known at least as much by what she said, and by a growing confidence and authority in her voice (literal and figurative), as by how she looked and what she was seen to do (touching, holding, cuddling...). It was, after all, her public speaking out about her personal and marital problems that blew open relations within the royal household.
The voice was always a notably 'feminine' one, however, and it was interesting to observe how she herself struggled to maintain the notion that her landmines campaign was 'just' humanitarian and not 'political.' Apropos: It's worth noting that although many UK commentators have referred to the public grieving as a sign of the yearning for a 'more caring society'(comparing the funeral events to the Labour victory), what she actually embodied was the personalised charity of the leisured class: in some senses the fulfillment of Thatcherite neo-Victorianism--and at least one conservative commentator has celebrated that.
From Lesley Hall Lesley_Hall@classic.msn.com 10 Sept 1997
>how sad that even this very famous woman who was a role model for many >quite literally had no voice.
Mightn't this be one of the ground-rules? A woman who is silent can be imagined saying all sorts of things, which actual speech might contradict. If a 'soft and low' voice is an 'excellent thing in woman' (King Lear on Cordelia) is silence even better?
From Val Marie Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org 10 Sept 1997
I recognize the tribulations that Diana Spencer experienced during her lifetime and what they may reveal to us about how women's lives across the class spectrum are still outrageously confined. I tip my hat to her 'good deeds' for charitable causes. I see and feel the sadness and perhaps even tragedy of her young death. Yet I find it even more outrageous and saddening that this *inconceivably privileged princess* is being held up as an epic heroine, as one of the great women of our time. If this genuinely reflects the values of the world that we have created and are creating for our children, these are indeed tragic times in which we live, and we build ourselves a tragic future.
p.s. I just read Sara's message about the sadness of a 'silent beauty' as a heroine. I'm glad I'm not alone.
From Dr. Raymond Cormier email@example.com 10 Sept 1997
Precisely why I will forever cherish the 6-hour videotape of her funeral--which includes flashbacks to her major speech to the American Red Cross in re: land mines!
[In response to Sara Gelser's post]
From Genevieve G McBride firstname.lastname@example.org 11 Sept 1997
On Wed. 10 Sept 1997, Antoinette Burton wrote: >Plenty of people...vilified her in life and why aren't they on camera? Have they all >done an about face?....<
I did hear several such commentators at first on American TV, but they were silenced--and rightly so, I think, so soon after the death. It was bad form. But the media/public mourning period will not be long--and then those who want a more balanced perspective will begin to see it. This is not unusual in history, for heaven's sake. I read many a Civil War-era newspaper which vilified Lincoln--but then turned around and enshrined him upon his assassination. And the majority of (American, anyway) media were editorially against JFK until his assassination,etc.
>I also feel the "Diana used the press as well" argument--which one hears by >all manner of commentators, however ruefully--to be deeply misogynist...>
I'm a media historian, not a British historian like you, so I may be overestimating the intelligence of the majority of the media consumers but I think most of us can see through the folly of this form of counter-attack by the media...especially when they show, often at the same time, her being hunted by the photohounds. There may be misogyny in it, which wouldn't be surprising, since sexism permeates the media in many ways (and it's often worse inside than outside, believe it or not!). There certainly is hypocrisy in it. But similar commentary on Eleanor Roosevelt, for one, didn't hurt her work; it only hurt her attackers, when even some of her opponents said they thought she way savvy to see that she could turn the tables on the media--and turn the media to her uses.
Darlene Wilson wrote:
>...erroneous statement that the Queen had never appeared on TV to address >the British public--that's what happens when you take as 'truth' something a >television commentator says/said!!...<
I saw several commentators get this right and saw none get this wrong. It was interesting on other counts to see which networks did the best work--
>The visual memory that will last longest with me...I'm referring to the >procession walk to Westminster Abbey...<
The British historians on the list will know better, but several I saw or heard said that it is tradition that only the men in the family march--and added that her brother was given prime placement in the center, with her sons on each side, adding also that early in the planning, the three were going to be in the entirety of the procession, until it was felt that adults (their father and grandfather who, BTW, the boys knew much better than their uncle, who apparently has been out of the country for some years) on the perimeter would be better, safer, etc. What was not tradition, so I gather, was the Queen and others in the royal family [coming] out to witness the passing of the coffin--and especially that the Queen bowed her head to a commoner, causing others with her to swiftly do so.
Finally, on a media point which has not been mentioned here or elsewhere that I have seen, the timing of the tragedy may explain much of the media attention. Not just the timing in Diana Spencer's life, as has been noted, as "untimely" deaths are unusual by definition, and thus more likely to be news by its definition. Instead, though, it was the timing of the death in the midst of a U.S. holiday weekend, which is the bane of any newsroom's existence because the traditional (read: easiest) means of gathering the news--courts, stock exchange,etc.--are closed. It will be a while before this will be timelined (but it will, believe me; I can see many a scholarly study from this case), but I would bet that what we witnessed was a media momentum which built as it bounced back and forth from England to the U.S., in the holiday doldrums, back to England and back again and again. I.e., it was the "small world" theory of modern media communication writ larger than her life! Would the interest have been so sustained on this side of the Atlantic, had most of us had to go to work the next day (Sunday here) after the late-night announcement of her death? Would it have continued to build through that Sunday and into the night had most of us not had the next day (Monday/Labor Day) off? As I watched it unfold, it seemed it was not until Monday night or maybe Tuesday morning, after at least 48 hours of American media swarming into London and being broadcast on the air there, that the vigils and flowers and other forms of (British) public response became phenomenal.
From Maria Elena Raymond M_Raymond@compuserve.com 11 Sept 1997
Re: Diana's silence...let us not forget that just days before her death Diana publicly applauded the recent elections and what she perceived would be a more cooperative political stance in Britain re: land mines. She was figuratively blown to bits by the British press for daring to make such a statement. Did they think she had no right to malign (by comparison) the former officials? Were they stunned that Diana might have an independent, intelligent thought on world affairs, and even more stunned that she articulated it well? Did they think she was espousing this support for Blair's administration because they felt the alFayed family might have planted the idea in her head--since they are known for their hate/tolerate relationship with the royal family?
And now we know Diana's dying words were of protestation...whether at the emergency lights set up by the police so the medical crew could work on her in the car (which would have looked like the glare of flashbulbs to her) or the actual flashbulbs going off in her face as she was lying there bleeding to death...she was literally and figuratively trapped..but not without a final voice.
I would hope, as someone has mentioned, that historians do not make of Diana some kind of saint. I doubt strongly that will happen in the long term and I firmly believe it is up to historians on this list to make sure this doesn't happen. Was she a feminist (someone suggested she wasn't)? I'm not sure we are in a position to answer that question today. Perhaps, over the years, primary documents such as letters, or journals or other personal papers will surface that give us a better insight into Diana and her beliefs. I would not want to say, at this point, that she was *Not* a feminist. FWIW.
I think the comment by Antoinette re: Diana and so many references to her manipulation of the media seen as the "pure vs. whore" personality is right on target.
At least here in the states, I have not seen any comment about Prince Charles' "manipulation" of the press during the years of their marriage, separation and divorce; and recently in his bringing Camilla into the public eye (through his quite public birthday bash for her). Perhaps that phrase has been used in the UK press, but I doubt it. I feel very confidant in saying that rarely, if ever, is a man called manipulative *by* the media when it comes to his dealings *with* the media. A man is involved in "media relations," "press relations," 'press conferences," "press statements," "press luncheons" (add breakfasts dinners, any kind of free food offering), and "press bulletins," et al. A man might, in dealing with the press, "clear the air," "offer an obvious 'media' misunderstanding of a previous statement," :set the record straight," but he is never "manipulative."
Generally speaking, the media always know they are being manipulated (whether my male or female), often joke openly about it and enjoy the manipulation game. They allow manipulation because they know they will be returning the favor twice-fold. The media manipulate every event, person, natural disaster,etc., to fit their newscasts, their personal biases (and oh, yes, every reporter has personal biases...what supposedly makes them professional is being able to keep their biases in check), their time slot on the nightly news, to meet a print deadline, to fill up line space allocated to the article, and bottom line...to make money for their publishing/broadcast company, who will then, hopefully, keep them on the payroll.
Re: Mother Teresa and the media...while her death was more of an "expected" occurance, and she no longer had the physical beauty of Diana, please let's not fool ourselves into thinking that Mother Teresa was any less manipulated by or manipulative of the press. Until the BBC did a documentary about Sister Teresa's work in Calcutta many years ago (and I must add, before the time of the film, she was a stunningly beautiful young woman, as seen in facial shots), she and the order of nuns of which she was part, had never been heard of before. There's always the argument that eventually someone would have stumbled upon her...but we don't know that, as witness so many other fine people who do work world-wide who remain unheralded.
Anyway, after the BBC airing, there was an outpouring of money to the nuns' order. At some point Sister Teresa was chosen (?) or chose herself(?) to be in charge of the incoming funds. She became Mother Teresa and spent the rest of her years working the media like a pro. I am not in any way attempting to denigrate anything she did, the people she cared for, the missions she started around the world. But it was her tireless campaign to bring media attention to those works so that more money would roll in.
In her later years she very often spent as much time traveling the world, soliciting money and media attention as she did in actual work at the missions. She stayed at world-class hotels, ate well, had the best medical care at her beck and call, rode in limos, and worked the "wealthy" for cash. I think we have to realize that soliciting money through the press for her missions was certainly not any different than Diana's use of the press to sell her used ballgowns for charity. Yet, no one on this list has suggested Mother Teresa's life/death was ever held to the "pure or whore" standard by the press. I don't think, as historians, that we can apply that label when we feel it's convenient. I think we have to consider the possibility of that label when it is the truth.
From E.K. Lacey email@example.com 11 Sept 1997
Re: Antoinette- I said [in earlier post] that 30 milion watched the funeral- the lst figure saw was 32 milion! Believe it or not. not everyone in England has a television-either by choice or through poverty. I couldn't watch as I was
travelling from Norfolk to Wiltshire-but I saw excerpts on the TV news in the evening. Don't forget also that thousands of people lined the funeral route and gathered outside of Westminster Abbey. Thousands more watched the service on wide screens in Hyde Park - others who lined the funeral route listened on loudspeakers--
As to the British newspapers--the Guardian is a liberal newspaper, the Times is right wing one..The Mirror is the only left wing tabloid- all the remaining tabloids are conservative in focus.
At least one person who vilified her in life was on camera...but it is not considered proper to speak ill of the dead, therefore such openess in interviews
in interviews is rare.. People are still bringing flowers to Althorp-site of her burial are still visiting Kensington Palace-her London home.
Don't forget also that Diana was raised on Barbara Courtland (a relative), and so was exposed to the fairy tale romance, but later in life discovered both Christian spirituality (when in England she visited [daily]the shrine of St. Theresa of Liseux in Lexington), read books such as the Tibetan Book on Dying, and visited England's best known feminist therapist Susie Orbach. Diana had travelled a long way from her past..I am sure that she herself was no longer a victim of heterosexual fairy tale romance! Perhaps now more information about the Princess is being revealed, a more accurate biography, encompassing her many facets, will be forthcoming. Having watched the Bashir interview I can say the Princess' delivery of information was a subperb piece of controlled agency and considered opinion.
As to further developments-an historian from Magdalen College Cambridge has said that Diana's face has been see replacing the face on a portrait (paintingO of a medieval British king-and I have been informed by another friend that other appaaritions of her have been seen! Obviously such reports can be linked with the process of "sainthood".
Re: Darlene - the Queen's appearances-didn't she also speak after the Falklands?
From Annette Timm firstname.lastname@example.org 11 Sept 1997
Finally, someone else has made a point that I have been making rather loudly (admittedly only to one person in hearing range) since I began watching the coverage on Diana's death:
>From Antoinette Burton...
>increasingly I also feel the "Diana used by the press as well" argument... >rather than the manipulative female they end up implying she was. >...insinuate that her use of the press made her a whore...<
I absolutely agree with this statement. I was increasingly annoyed by the "official royal historian" whose face kept appearing on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) coverage of the funeral making such points. The (female)CBS correspondent in London also echoed the claim that Diana was somehow herself to blame for the hounding she received since she had "manipulated" the media. Even if I suppress every trace of romantic idealization of Diana, her princess life, her beauty, etc, etc., it seems perfectly obvious to me that to live her life was to walk a very careful line between using the media and being overwhelmed by it. After all, people forget, that a very young age (and it seems she was unusually naive for her age) Diana *chose* a very challenging career. She didn't just walk down the aisle of a fairy-tale wedding--she made a contract with the royal family to project a public image.
(And since no one before her received the same kind of attention, she could be forgiven for incorrectly predicting what she was getting into.) For anyone to suggest that she should have remained aloof from media attention is ludicrous, and, as Antoinette Burton very rightly points out, misogynist. While admittedly not an intellectual genius, Diana deserves credit for knowing what kind of job she was taking on--the job of a media spectacle. And it was not in the least schizophrenic or otherwise mentally unbalances for her to have attempted to create a small island of a private sphere--to have occasionally rebuked the press. Other "celebrities" do this all the time. They, however, have the advantage of usually being able to find a country where they are less well-known. When, on occasion, Diana smiled, joked or otherwise encouraged the press, she was not being a fickle woman--she was doing her job by serving what she recognized was her *public* function.
>To me Diana's life and death seems an indictment...of heterosexuality..can
> we have a conversation about this?<
I had a similar, though slightly different thought along these lines. Might the royal family now revise its rather outdated idea that the virginity of the royal bride is her most important attribute? Diana's innocence, after all, was a quality that the royal family actively sought out in what was, for all intents and purposes, an arranged marriage. What about the symbolism of female sexual purity vs. male sexual experience that this spectacle presented to the world?
Finally, might we, as historians, ponder this idea that this outpouring of public sentiment has something to say about the symbolic value of monarchy in a modern Western nation? It seems the public still has a need to feel deeply about such symbols (both in Britain, the Commonwealth, and in a more conflicted way elsewhere). Diana's story is not just a personal tragedy (or a celebrity tragedy), but a royal family tragedy. Does this attention to the royal family belie the oft-stated indifference and alienation of our time, or does it underline a growing disillusionment with real politics? I am trying to suggest (and possibly this is a perspective from the Commonwealth) that Diana was *not* just a celebrity, and that the fact that she was a princess had something to do with the reaction to her death. Maybe someone with more expertise in the history of royalty could comment.
From Maxine Rhodes email@example.com 11 Sept 1997
As a Brit, this debate is very interesting to me-in terms of how others see us. I am also astonished at all this guff about The People's Princess (as she has been dubbed here). Anyone wishing to explore Diana's voice should see the BBC TV Panorama interview she did. Less abused woman more media whore! May the last priest be hung in the entrails of the last king-or something like that.
From Max Dashu firstname.lastname@example.org 12 Sept 1997
Agreed that we should not make a "plaster saint" out of Diana. I will, however, give her credit for chessmasterly countering the royal family's attempt to deep-six her. As for manipulating the press, what's wrong with fighting fire with fire? The other option is to remain its victim.
From Pat Gannon-Leary email@example.com 12 Sept 1997
I cover quite a few of the topics raised in recent discussions in my PhD theses: Royalty Represented: A Contemporary History of Imagery of Royalty and National Identity in Media Discourse, Gannon-Leary, P., 1994, Ph.D., Sunderland.
The thesis examines media representations of regal practices, using the ideological themes of tradition, society and family. In examining media representations these three overarching themes emerged from forms and styles of coverage afforded the Monarchy and the Royal Family by press and television. In particular, the thesis focuses on the nature of British society and the relationship between monarchy and Britishness. Gramsci's concept of hegemony suggests an approach to the Monarchy and the Royal Family as part of the British history because it clarifies the political function of cultural symbols and is concerned with ruling groups and how they gain the consent of subordinate groups to the existing social order.
National identity is an expression of the idea of a common purpose, a construct of cultural unity underplaying the differences of subordinate groups. Monarchy is a vehicle of the sense of cultural distinctiveness. The media tell the monarchy what they (and by implication, the British people) want it to be and the Royal Family tell us (hopefully via media reports) what they perceive themselves to be. The result is a series of versions (sometimes conflicting) aiding national identity which relate to ways the Monarchy relates to conditions of British life. Discussion demonstrates the adaptation of regal practices over time but also changes in media coverage. The decline and/or privatisation of institutions is linked with national identity and with fears expressed about lowering of standards; the rise of the underclass and structural damage to the monarchy. Ideologies such as Victorian values, accountability, individual liberties are also raised in connection with both monarchy and media.
From Enrica Garzilli firstname.lastname@example.org 12 Sept 1997
>From Ann Wentworth...
>I too was struck by the fact that all the mourners behind Diana's coffin were > male.<
In most European countries this had/has nothing to do with feminism and machism. Simply, women are not supposed to walk for 2 or 3 miles, and to show their affliction to the people.
In Mediterranean countries, there [are] women following the coffin on foot: professional mourners who performed the lamentationes funebres (women whom I remember very well in my family village in Southern Italy). They expressed in public the sorrow of men and women, especially of women, by crying, shouting, praying, etc. Useless to say they used to belong to a low social status. There is a wonderful and famous book by Ernesto De Martino on the topic (I do not know whether it has been translated into English).
From Jeanette Keith email@example.com 12 Sept 1997
I believe that Diana was criticized for making political comments because she was a royal, not because she was a woman. Royals are not supposed to discuss politics; to do so violates the contract, so to speak, of a constitutional monarchy, and threatens the very existence of an institution that kept Diana in designer dresses. If she had given up the privileges and the income of royalty, she would have had the same standing as any private citizen, and like Mrs. Thatcher, could have said anything she pleased without violating protocol.
From Vera M. Britto firstname.lastname@example.org 12 Sept 1997
>From Annette Tim...Finally someone else has made a point that I have been >making...since I began watching coverage of Diana's death< >From Antoinette Burton...increasingly I also feel the "Diana uses the press as >well" argument...to be deeply misogynist...<
There was an excellent post on this issue on another list about the excuses of the media in their behavior. I have found something else also irritating that was repeated again and again by tabloids and other, more self-labeled "serious media" representatives, which is "the public made me do it" argument. And I have found interesting in the TV coverage how reductionist every entity in this event becomes. "The public" is everyone who is not media, and "the public" (supposedly all 5 billion of us) consumes tabloids avidly. Therefore, "the media" (this indiscriminate blob) has a right to do anything they want to because they are fulfilling "the public's" desire. As I watched the very privileged commentators and tabloid publishers put on this major damage control propaganda regarding the (il)legitimacy of what they do (in the name of journalism and entertainment), I could not stop visualizing the 7 tobacco industry CEOs before the senate committee swearing that they had no idea nicotine was addictive, etc.
I just bought the New Yorker to read the Rushdie article, which looks very good, regarding Diana fighting to become subject and not object. Speaking of which, if I understood another e-mail correctly, the US has refused to sign onto the ban the landmines treaty in Oslo. And while the media fanfare about the tons of flowers, and children, and Royals,etc., continues, basically about serious issues such as landmines, the coverage is almost nil. Nothing like a free press...
From Carolyn Brewer email@example.com 15 Sept 1997
Diana was stripped of her title, and Mrs. Thatcher is in fact a Dame.
From Maria Elena Raymond M_Raymond@compuserve.com 15 Sept 1997
I'd like to think, as Jeannette suggested, the only reason Diana was criticized about the landmine issue and her comments, was due to her being a "royal". However, at least one British TV commentator said, at the time of Diana's comments, that she had no more business meddling in politics than did Brigette Bardo (sp?), and the issue of landmines would put too much strain on her "bird-size brain." Sadly, I think we can rule out disdain for the royals in that comment, if not in others.
Vera Britto is correct about the US stand on the landmines ban. "We" have claimed that they are far too strategic in our military operations to be totally eliminated. (I believe that statement came from the Pentagon...I'd like to know what Madeline Albright's opinion is on this issue.)
From Barbara Winslow firstname.lastname@example.org 15 Sept 1997
I believe Thatcher was made a Baroness. This means that her son automatically becomes a Baronet upon her death.
From Don Weitzman eternal grad student division, Berkeley 16 Sept 1997
Barbara Winslow is right that Thatcher is a baroness, but wrong that her son will inherit her title. She is a life peer only.
From Margaret Atherton email@example.com 16 Sept 1997
Unless Thatcher was made a Life Peer, her son would be a Baron not a Baronet. If she is a Life Peer, then he gets nothing. (My mother brought me up to know these things.)
From Vera Britto firstname.lastname@example.org 16 Sept 1997
Regarding Maria Elena's (was it? I forget) question, this just in...
U.S., in Shift Says It May Sign Treaty To Ban Land Mines by David E. Sanger
Washington--In a major change in policy, the Clinton administration told its allies this weekend that it could sign a treaty banning anti-personnel land mines under a compromise that would allow it an additional nine years before it begins to remove mines on the Korean peninsula, senior administration officials said Sunday.
Until Sunday, the United States had said it could not sign any treaty that limited its ability to use anti-personnel mines to defend South Korea from an attack from the North...
The political pressure grew, officials acknowledged, after the death two weeks ago of Diana, Princess of wales, drew broader attention to the land-mine treaty, whose cause she had taken up. Photos of Diana with land-mine victims in Bosnia were regularly shown during the days of mourning for her.
...many of Clinton's political advisors, noting the symbolic importance of the treaty, particularly after Diana's death, advised him late last week to find a way for the United States to sign.
...Administration officials acknowledge that the pressure on the administration to take a more flexible position began to grow even before Diana's death. The photographs of her in Bosnia with children maimed by land mines led to a flurry of editorials across the country. Last week, Robert Bell, an expert on arms control at the National Security Council said, that "in death, as in life, Princess Diana had an extraordinary impact on the humanitarian cause" on halting the spread of land mines.
Copyright 1997 The New York Times