Diana, Self-Interest, and British National Identity

Diana, Self-Interest, and British National Identity

Diana, Self-Interest, and British National Identity

Diana, Self-Interest, and British National Identity

Synopsis

The public display of grief that accompanied the funeral of the late Princess of Wales drew attention to the many Britons who had found an affinity with Diana. Seeking an explanation for this affinity, Taylor argues that during Diana's brief time in the world spotlight Britain underwent a change in values and a shift in national identity from a system based almost exclusively on household and family values to one more accepting of individual autonomy and self-interest. Accustomed to royalty as symbols of national values and identity, persons of resentment (women, people of color, and homosexuals) found the divorced princess an apt symbol of their transvalued values. These groups declared ignoble the Queen, Prince Charles, and others who had previously been the patterns for nobility in British society, and they held up Diana as one truly noble.

Excerpt

Royal estrangement was shocking, so Prime Minister John Major tried to downplay its results. He told a packed, hushed House of Commons that "with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate . . . [but] the decision to separate has no constitutional implications. The succession to the Throne is unaffected by it . . . and there is no reason why the Princess of Wales should not be crowned Queen in due course. The Prince of Wales's succession as head of the Church of England is also unaffected." Despite the soothing words of the Prime Minister, the most famous marriage in the world had irretrievably broken down in 1992, and the separation that he announced was a preliminary stage before a divorce. In 1995, Queen Elizabeth II ordered the Prince and Princess of Wales to divorce. Despite the Prime Minister's assurance during the separation, the ensuing divorce brought to the fore questions about succession to the throne and the administration of the Church of England.

By disclosing the Prince's adultery, the Princess herself had devised the public shock that led to the separation. Working through an intermediary so she could hide the contact, Diana gave journalist Andrew Morton the story. She directed her friends to him also. Morton was not then well known, although he had already written on Diana and the monarchy. She chose him be-

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