Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Diana Redefined Fame and Royalty Her Achievements Live on as Do New Questions about the Role of Monarchy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Diana Redefined Fame and Royalty Her Achievements Live on as Do New Questions about the Role of Monarchy

Article excerpt

Diana, Princess of Wales, redefined the nature and uses of fame even as she struggled to find peace in her own private life. Reaction to her death Sunday made clear she was one of the world's greatest celebrity icons of the century.

Her legend now seems sure to grow and continue to influence everything from her personal crusades, such as the effort to ban land mines, to the very future of the British monarchy.

Britain's grief at her death shows that she remained royal to the public, whatever her estrangement from Buckingham Palace. Her memory is a powerful force that the remaining royals will struggle with for decades to come.

"If the monarchy is going to continue, it must be seen to be magnanimous in its treatment of the late Princess of Wales," warned royalty expert Harold Brooks-Baker.

Whether the queen and her family were according fair treatment to the memory of a princess who captured the imagination of the world was an open question for some, at least in the initial days after the tragic accident.

When mourners gathered outside the gates of London's Buckingham Palace Sunday morning, an initial - and, commentators say, revealing - failure of Queen Elizabeth's advisers to assess the developing public mood soon became clear.

"Why isn't there a flag flying?" asked a Jamaican woman clutching a bouquet of late summer flowers. Flags were at half-mast at the nearby Houses of Parliament, so why not at the Queen's London home?

A police constable explained that the queen was on vacation in Scotland, and said it was "not correct form" for the royal standard to be flown while she was away from the capital. The woman appeared not to understand the explanation.

Anthony Holden, author of acclaimed books about the British monarchy, says the failure to order the flag to be flown at the palace was "typical of insensitive officials mired in protocol."

The tension of protocol versus spontaneity was one that marked the princess's whole relationship with the royal family. From her first appearance as a shy former kindergarten teacher, to her later life as single mother and international celebrity, she was the one who appeared modern and unstuffy. Fairly or no, the tradition-oriented Prince Charles had little chance of winning the public's hearts when paired against his former wife.

Not that her image was one of Saint Diana in life. At times she seemed self-centered and too attracted to the rich and idle. She was hounded by the press, but in turn she knew how to use it as well as any celebrity in the world - occasionally meeting reporters for clandestine leaks, for instance. In the end she, like so many others, found that there is no on-off switch to fame.

Now, after dying in an automobile accident in Paris, she will remain forever young, as has Marilyn Monroe. If nothing else the outpouring of affection from British and world publics shows many regarded the princess as an icon, and appeared to agree that her work for a wide range of charities had made her deeply loved.

A spokesmen for the Red Cross said that, until Diana's high-profile visit to Angola last year, attempts to make progress on banning land mines had become bogged down. Her decision to be filmed and photographed near a mine field transformed the campaign, the spokesman said.

Among ordinary people, Diana's impact has been enormous.

Details of her more discreet activities, largely unreported by the media until now, were recounted on round-the-clock TV by many people. …

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