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Posted: January 26, 2020

The saga of Lady Diana and the message it carries

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Dark clouds were hanging low over Kootenay Lake as we pulled into the Balfour ferry terminal. Dead tired, we’d been driving for three days from Whitehorse to a new home in Cranbrook and we looked forward to a short break and a coffee as the ferry began to churn towards the other side.

As I reached to turn CBC off, a special bulletin announcement suddenly blurted from the radio. “Princess Diana has been taken to hospital after being involved in a motor vehicle accident in Paris.”

“This doesn’t sound good,” I said to my wife. “Must be serious if they’d interrupt regular programming.” Soon we were across the lake and driving down the ramp to Kootenay Bay and another bulletin burst out: “Palace officials not commenting on Lady Diana’s condition.”

And then nothing.

After that, we slowly drove along the forested bluffs above the lake and the radio reception faded away and we were left with our thoughts. My wife Sandra, a royalist at heart, said little as we negotiated the many curves down the lake. Then, just before Creston, the radio burst back into life with the announcement we were dreading: “Lady Diana, Princess of Wales has died in Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris from injuries she sustained in a motor vehicle accident August 31, 1997. She was 36.”

At least, that’s how I recall it. I’m no royalist and I didn’t cry despite the lump in my throat. But I could hear Sandra sobbing quietly as we continued in the darkness towards a town we hardly knew. Oddly enough the next thing I remember in this royal tragedy was seeing a short article in the local paper saying there would be a special memorial in Cranbrook to mark the death of the People’s Princess and there was a book of condolences that could be signed at a local church. We were busy unpacking, but I thought “I’m going to take time to sign that book no matter what.”

And I did. And so did Sandra and we’ve been going to Christ Church Anglican ever since. So strange, the vagaries of life. And now one of Lady Diana’s sons is in a situation reminiscent of his mother’s but before I say anything about that I’ve got a few more thoughts I’d like to share about one of the bravest and most forthright princesses in British history.

In short, I regard Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, as a hero and I would argue my belief with anybody.

Let’s cut to the chase. With the benefit of history, we all know what the script demanded when Diana Frances Spencer was betrothed to Charles, Prince of Wales and married July 29, 1981. Her “sacred” duty was to provide an heir and a spare and otherwise stay in the shadows while Charles carried on with his mistress Camilla Rosemary Shand, now known as the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles’s wife.

But Diana, a rebel at heart, would have none of that and refused to be constrained to the shadows and dared to live a life of her own despite the onerous dictates of British tradition. She dared to live her life the way she wanted separate from her unfaithful husband and let the chips fall where they may.

And so they did on a dimly lit Paris street with Diana being chased by the relentless paparazzi with a drunken chauffeur at the wheel and it ended like a Greek tragedy with Diana’s untimely death. It was a cruel and tragic ending and it shook the world.

I won’t go on any longer except to say that one aspect of Diana’s disastrous death is often overlooked. Her mother-in-law, Elizabeth the Second, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith etc., and the longest reigning monarch in British history didn’t take Diana’s death very well.

Indeed, she was totally flummoxed by it and didn’t quite know how to react. For a brief, but perilous period, it opened up a gaping rift between her and the British people that threatened to grow wider until the Queen relented and marked Diana’s death with the solemnity it deeply deserved.

In other words, Diana shook The House of Windsor to its very core and that’s why I consider her the greatest feminist of our times because she let no authoritarian man put her down, not even royalty or the man destined to be the next king of England. And now one of her dear sons and his wife, also hounded by the pugnacious paparazzi, are moving to Canada.

I say let them in.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a life-long fan of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales.

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