Diana's Mourning: A People's History

Diana's Mourning: A People's History

Diana's Mourning: A People's History

Diana's Mourning: A People's History

Synopsis

Following the death of Diana, the British media presented an image of the country united in grief, suggesting that the mourners who dominated media coverage represented public opinion. This title challenges these myths and provides an examination of popular attitudes during September 1997.

Excerpt

Some might wonder whether there is much point in yet another analysis of the popular reaction that followed the death of Princess Diana on 31 August 1997. After all, her mourning generated more media coverage than any other event in world history, even the outbreak of the Second World War (Jack 1997) and was followed by a wave of popular analyses of her life and death. Amongst academia the pace was slower but the output has been no less remarkable. Until September 1997 the popular appeal of modern royalty was a largely neglected academic topic, deemed unworthy of serious enquiry, despite some important exceptions. Michael Billig, author of one of the most notable of these, recalled that the response of colleagues to his subject of research was a sort of amused, or bemused, tolerance: 'People would smile condescendingly when I told them what I was doing. It was considered a rather silly topic for an academic to apply his mind to' (Driscoll 1997). It was an attitude that distinguished historian Ben Pimlott encountered when he turned his attention to the subject. 'I hear you have been writing a biography of the Queen', said one colleague expecting a denial. 'But does it', puzzled the colleague pausing, 'does it count towards the Research Assessment Exercise?' (Swain 1998). Diana's mourning qualified, even if it did not destroy, these elitist dismissals of such a central feature of contemporary Britain. There followed a wave of conferences, half a dozen books and countless journal articles devoted to exploring the extraordinary popular response. Collectively they suggest that studying Diana's mourning, for want of a better phrase, has been done to death, buried under an avalanche of populist and academic analyses. Perhaps it is time to let it rest in peace?

My answer, somewhat predictably, would be no. Too much, perhaps, has been written on the subject, but not nearly enough attention, curiously, has been spent examining the popular reaction. Despite all the emphasis on the response of 'the people', there has actually been no detailed empirical examination of a popular response wrongly assumed to be self-evidently on public display in September 1997. As part I of this book explores, there is a popular myth of mourning, informed by both media and academic analysis, that the nation was united in tearful, adulatory grief in September 1997. This book goes on to demonstrate . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.