Today we have a guest poster for the royalty reading challenge, my aunt Elaine. She is reviewing Diana, by Sarah Bradford.
I chose to read and review “Diana” by Sarah Bradford for a very practical reason. I wanted to find a book on royalty without leaving the senior housing building in which I live, because at the beginning of March, it was still snowy and slick outside and I didn’t want to walk on that ice and snow. When I went down to the library, this was one of two books about royalty on the shelves. The other was about a queen about whom I knew nothing and in whom I had no interest. So, “Diana” it was.
I don’t recall when I first became interested in Diana as a person. Since I was in a very remote part of Africa at the time of her wedding, I know it was some time after that. I returned to the U.S. near the end of 1988, but I’m sure that Diana was far from a priority to me then because of the stressful situation in which I lived at the time.
Since my niece had such interest in royalty, particularly British royalty, I rather imagine that she introduced me to Diana and the other major players in the ongoing saga of life among the members of the British royalty. But I don’t recall exactly when that came about.
I must say, I found this book a bit difficult to read for several reasons. First of all, the author is British and as such used vocabulary with which I was unfamiliar. Secondly, either she alone, or all British authors used a different system for quotation marks than we use in the U.S. For a direct quote, she uses a single quotation mark. For a quote within a quote, she uses double quotation marks – just the reverse of us Americans. Maybe this is typical of all British authors. But as a proofreader, I found myself mentally correcting this each time I read it, which, as you can imagine, was often. She also went to great lengths to prove the heritage of the main characters in the book. Perhaps this would have been interesting to those in the United Kingdom, but I found it very uninteresting.
How can I possibly summarize a book of 443 pages (although admittedly the last 75 or so were reference pages) on one short page? I can’t do it justice, so I will simply hit the highpoints.
* I found myself thinking repeatedly that Diana was set up for failure, perhaps not deliberately, by the royal family. Why couldn’t they understand the need to give her guidance or an orientation of some kind to life in the royal family? Particularly because she was only a teenager when she entered life as “a royal.”
* I feel sorrowful when I think of the pain with which Diana lived throughout her life, first through the rejection of her mother when she moved away from the family at the time Diana was a child, and later by Prince Charles’s rejection. It seems to me that Princess Di never really knew true happiness.
* While I soon came to understand the adultery involved in this marriage, at first primarily by Prince Charles, and later by Diana, I had no idea how pervasive it was until reading this book.
* Of all the put-downs Charles managed to effectively hand Diana, other than his ongoing relationship with Camilla throughout the time he and Diana were married, I would think the ultimate putdown was his unwillingness to allow her to care for him after his accident while playing polo, and his departure into the care of Camilla. What a slap in the face that must have been!
* One of my favorite quotes: The Queen loved what she [Diana] provided for the royal family – all the prestige, but Charles became increasingly jealous of her. “Their storybook marriage had become a night-time soap opera, Palace Dallas.”
* I was surprised to learn that both Charles and Diana were lacking in emotional maturity. For much of her life following the storybook marriage, it seems to me that the media wanted us to believe that the problems were all Diana’s, other than the ongoing adulterous relationship Charles pursued with Camilla. But I learned that he had many of his own insecurities.
* I ache for the pain inflicted on their sons by Charles and Diana’s infidelity and lack of harmony. One of the most poignant passages in the book, other than the chapter on her death and the events following it, was one telling of the effect the lack of harmony had on Prince William and Prince Harry. Reading that Diana sat sobbing in the bathroom with Prince William pushing tissues under the door to her, wrings my heart. And to read that Prince Harry pounded on his dad’s legs, saying, “I hate you. I hate you. You make Mummy cry.” How heart wrenching is that? It’s hard to understand how these young men could be anything like “normal,” whatever that may be, and yet William at least seems to have a very good grasp of life, and a very positive relationship with his wife, Catherine.
* Apparently Diana searched for peace in all the wrong places. She tried several religions, without success, but there is no indication that she ever sought peace in Jesus Christ.
I well remember the evening of the fatal accident. I was folding clothes in my condo when the news of Diana’s accident scrolled across the bottom of the television screen. Knowing my niece, Susan, was such a great fan of Diana’s, I called her, getting her out of bed to tell her. How sad those events were!
I watched in amazement as the world, and particularly those living in the United Kingdom, mourned the death of “the People’s Princess.” And I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing as I watched Diana’s young sons, accompanied by their father; their grandfather, Prince Philip; and their uncle, Charles Spencer, walk behind the flower- and flag-covered casket. Among the bouquets on the casket, the most poignant one was the arrangement that had a card attached with one word written in childish scrawl, “Mummy.”
Having lived in a third-world country previously, I could only think of how much good could have been done with all the money that was spent on flowers. I had forgotten, but was reminded in the book, that as the hearse carried Diana’s body out of the city of London so many flowers were thrown that the driver was forced to use his “windscreen” wipers to clear his line of vision.
Unhappy and miserable in life, is she also unhappy and miserable in death? We have no indication that Diana ever turned to the Prince of Peace who could have provided that which she sought throughout her lifetime.
Thanks, Elaine, for an insightful look at one of my favorite royals.