Childhood Memories Friday: Princess Diana Dies

Diana dancing with John Travolta at the White House (public domain)

Do you remember the day Princess Diana died? I remember it quite well. I was in the living room of our house with my oldest daughter, who was just a couple of months old. The phone rang. It was my aunt (frequent commenter Elaine, for those who enjoy making connections), telling me to turn on the TV. Princess Diana had been in a car accident.

Wow. That was shocking! I turned on the TV, where the event was being covered in detail. First there were reports that she had possibly broken her arm. The commentators kept hemming and hawing, the way anchors often do during 24/7 new situations. But eventually, one announced that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in Paris.

I was shocked. If you’ve read here for any amount of time, you know that Princess Diana was a huge part of my life. No, I’d never met her. But she was one of those figures who for whatever reason captured my imagination as a teen. I’d followed her as she got married, had kids, charmed the world, and then watched much of her life fall apart. She could almost always be found on a magazine cover or on a TV show. And now, suddenly she was dead? It didn’t seem possible.

A Week of Grief

The next week passed in a sort of daze. We went to church the next day and the pastor, who rarely mentions current events, made reference to Diana dying. Throughout the week, news coverage was nonstop showing the miles-long line in London to sign the condolence book, shots of sobbing crowds, images of the ocean of flowers in front of Kensington Palace. When would the royal family return from their Scotland summer vacation to London? Would they lower the flag at Buckingham Palace to half-mast?

One day that next week, I took my 3-month-old daughter to a garage sale and I remember the woman having the sale had a TV playing the coverage in her garage. All of us there were discussing the event. It was very surreal.

Diana’s Funeral

A week after Diana’s death, I tuned in for the entire funeral. I taped it with the VCR — although even as I was doing this, I wondered why. I have never watched it again. It was so depressing; who would want to? The shots of somber Prince Charles, both their sons, Prince Philip, and Charles Spencer walking the route to Westminster Abbey. The lovely music, the lovely scenes, but the overwhelming reality of the reason for all this. Two boys without a mother. That heartbreaking little white bouquet on the casket, with the card bearing the hand-lettered “Mummy” on it.

I was struck with sadness too because I didn’t feel any assurance that Diana was a Christian. At Christian funerals, there is the consolation of seeing the person again in heaven. Here, there was none of that feeling. Diana may well have been a Christian, yet I never heard her make any reference to that (and in her private moments — most of which have somehow become public by now — she was pretty forthcoming about almost everything). She’d made references before about a belief in reincarnation, and was often seen in churches in her role as a royal, but that was about it. This funeral was just a really sad, hopeless affair.

Do you have any specific memories of Princess Diana’s death and funeral?

 

5 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: Princess Diana Dies

  1. I was folding laundry in the living room of my Seymour condo, watching the TV, when the news about Diana first came on. She’d been in an accident. I called your mother to tell her. She encouraged me to call you, to make you aware of it. And, of course, in a brief period of time, we were informed that she had died.

    As long as I’m lucid, I expect to be able to remember those grim pictures of her sons walking behind her casket. And the sadness of wondering where Diana was spending eternity!!! The plaintive sounds of the hymns being sung at her funeral. The gut-wrenching picture of the flowers covering the casket with the note on them saying, “Mummy.” I remember it well, with great grief and don’t expect to be able to forget it as long as my memory stays intact.

  2. While, by then, I wasn’t a fan. But I was shocked. I really thought it was like a CIA thing or a Henry VIII wife bump-off. But I was truly saddened. I don’t doubt she loved her kids (I do doubt she was that great of a Mom though…). But what stunned me was the ridiculous grief of the public. I still think that was insane. Yes, she was inspiring–even I give her 1000% for helping with the stigma of AIDS (an act she copied 100% from the Queen visiting Lepers in the ’50s). I DO applaud her for giving the kids a normal UPPER CLASS, privileged life. I thought William and Harry had it hard enough growing up without that. I generally think she had Border Line Personality Disorder. The lying, manipulation, self-aggrandizement. As for the Royals themselves, I think the Queen and Philip did the absolute right thing. I think Charles did the right thing going out to bring Diana’s body home. Earl Spencer–that’s what the tower was created for. What a position to put his nephews in! Three images stay with me forever–Harry reaching for his father’s hand when they went out to look at the flowers left at Balmoral, the flowers with the card to “Mummy” , and small Harry looked walking behind the casket. It was right to do that walk–Philip was right, they would regret it. They have said it was hard, and that no one should be made to do it, but it was the right thing. I think though that, if one of them had to die, it should have been Charles. William would have then been like Carl Gustav of Sweden–a true breath of fresh air after an elderly monarch. His father’s image would have been enhanced in memory. Diana dying left the Royals with the recurring Nightmare on Elm street every anniversary in the Press. She is the Saint when sainthood was not at all

  3. I do remember. It was so hard to believe – I almost wondered if it was staged to give her a way out of the limelight to go be happy in private, but she was so recognizable, I don’t think that would have been possible. Very, very sad.

  4. Seems like I was doing something in my kitchen when my sister Elaine called and told me of Diana’s accident. I, of course, turned on the television. It certainly did not impact me like it did you. I know quite a few people mentioned you and wondered how you were dealing with the sad sad news of her death. From what I’m hearing recently, her sons were immensely affected. It makes total sense they would have been!

  5. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that Diana had died. I don’t know why but my first thought was “what was she doing in a Paris hotel with her boyfriend instead of with her sons in England?” I had friends who felt that the accident was not a real accident, that it was planned. I didn’t want to believe that.

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