SEPT. 5, 1997
Can the Windsors Survive Princess Dianas Death?
Robert Seely, Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) Revolution may not yet be in the air, but people outside Princess Dianas Kensington Palace home were saying it with flowers. Diana "more royal than the royals," said a sign attached to one bouquet Sunday. "It was you who should have been queen," said another.

Its a bewildering time for the House of Windsor, beset with harsh criticism of how the royal family treated Diana, both in life and in death. Did Diana, by her warmth, her publicly demonstrated affection for her two sons and maybe even her frank admissions of failures, show up the monarchy as an irrelevant anachronism? Or was she proof that as the 21st century approaches, monarchy still wields a unique magic that thrives even in fiercely democratic ages?

"Politicians all know any modern system has to be republican," Stephen Heseler, chairman of Republic, a group advocating an end to monarchy, said on Sun- day. The Sunday Times took the opposite approach: "Reaction to Diana's death has shown ...that the spiritual dimension of royalty can survive in these hectic, cynical times."

Dianas legacy is a divided one for the monarchy. Joining the royal family made her a star and her fresh face and charm boosted the institution's popularity. But her later unhappiness, culminating in her divorce from Prince Charles last year, shook it.

The saga damaged Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. But her aura sur- rounds 15-year-old Prince William, the Windsor next in line behind Charles. Last week, the queen misjudged the nations mood when the palace made one, brief statement on the royal family's behalf in the first four days following Dianas death on Aug. 31.

Tabloid newspapers, under fire because photographers were pursuing Diana when she died and because her brother said editors had "blood on their hands," turned their fury on the queen and Prince Charles. The royals regained ground as Charles and his sons went out in London to meet some of the grieving public, and the queen made an unprecedented, live address to the nation.

More than 1 million people turned out for Diana's funeral procession on Saturday and more than half the country watched on TV and saw Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, lambaste the royals for failing to support his sister.

Talk of far-reaching reform for the monarchy abounds, with newspapers reporting that Charles is pushing his mother to change the monarchys image, and pension off many of her old advisers.

"There's too much protocol, their family is too rigid. Thats why they clashed with Diana," said Andrew Glowachi, 35, who took his son Adam, 4, to Kensington Palace to see the bouquets. "When Diana's procession passed Buckingham Palace, the royals were there, lined up, expressing humility before the people. Its never been seen before," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who caught the public mood more successfully than the royals, defended the queen on Sunday. "Youve got a simple choice in the end as to whether you have a monarchy or you elect a president. I personally think that the monarchy is a tradition which we want to keep," Blair said in a BBC inter- view.

But he also said it needed to evolve. "I think the monarchy changes and adapts the whole time, and it changes from generation to generation."

And far back in history. Henry II bared his back for a thrashing by the monks of Canterbury after he was held responsible for the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket. In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell's republicans sent Charles I to the chopping block, but Charles II was restored to the throne after Cromwell died.

The royal family became the House of Windsor during World War I, when its previous name, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, sounded much too German. The royals' 20th-century survival strategy was to be a model family, the embodiment of characteristics in which Britons took pride: stoicism, decency, honor and duty, the elements of the the fabled "stiff upper lip."

With Diana's death, much of the nation preferred a moist eye. "The idea that national pride and dignity may only be conveyed by cold obedi- ence to precedent and protocol could not survive the week," Patrick Collins wrote in The Mail on Sunday.

William Rees-Mogg, columnist for The Times, said, "Diana's generation had been brought up to believe that all you need is love. The queen's generation grew up in World War II. For most of us, the Battle of Britain in 1940 was our formative historic experience."

"Open displays of grief for lost brothers, lovers and husbands were frowned upon as a united nation battled for survival. The queen has been criticized for her belief in the stiff upper lip. For our generation, there was not really much alterna- tive," he said.

History | Monarchs | Prime Ministers | Travel | London | Wales
Earth Mysteries | News | People | Arts | State | Sports | Panorama | Links

Comments: e-mail us at
© 1995, 1996, 1997 Britannia Internet Magazine, LLC