Blair's Britain AD - After Diana
Beware the rampant id
The lonely crowd
A tyrannical new religion
The new protocol
The new protocol
'Now we know', she said, 'that the royals are as frail as the rest of us'
'White people in this country do not really understand what Princess Diana stood for. As a black man I know what it is to be an outsider and Diana was the ultimate outsider. She was a caring and passionate woman in an outdated and screwed-up establishment.' Raymond, a 26-year-old choreographer from Hammersmith in West London, was sitting in a deckchair chained to the railings on The Mall. With less than 24 hours to go to Princess Diana's funeral Raymond said he would brave 'rain, hail, sleet and snow' to bid farewell to his 'personal princess'.
Next door to Raymond was Myra, a 62-year-old grandmother from Surrey. 'I am a passionate royalist', she explained from her makeshift tent, 'but I feel so ashamed every time I look towards Buckingham Palace and see that they still haven't lowered the flag to half-mast. All we want is a sign that the royals are suffering like the rest of us'.
Further on, at St James' Palace, Amy, a housewife and mother-of-two from Kent, was pinned up against the railings. 'There are rumours that the Queen is going to come out and talk to us', she explained. Five minutes later the Queen and Prince Philip emerged from St James' Palace and began chatting to the mourners. Amy handed the Queen a single rose and offered her condolences. Tears were welling in her eyes: 'That is all we needed', she said to me afterwards. 'Just to know that the Queen is hurting as well.' Everybody agreed. Marcia, a student from south London, said: 'Now we know the royals are as frail as the rest of us. It is important for the sake of the two princes that they don't bottle up their grief.'
After years of seeing the Queen on TV, looking down her nose at the rest of us, I was struck by the informality of her impromptu appearance. One reporter said it looked like the Queen was becoming more 'Diana-like'. Another, speaking into a microphone, said, 'At last, the stiff upper lip is giving way to a quivering lower lip'. Everybody I spoke to was pleased to see the Queen; not because they felt privileged in the presence of the head of state and defender of the Anglican faith, but because the Queen had demonstrated that she too is flawed and might be in need of some Diana-style love and understanding herself.
It struck me that Raymond and the other mourners were wrong: Diana was not an outsider. She was an ambassador for the new establishment as much as Queen Elizabeth was for the old. The real outsiders today are the royal family themselves with their old-fashioned protocol and their arrogant belief that they can cope with their grief on their own, in private. Diana's legacy is a new protocol which demands that you demonstrate your fallibility in as public a manner as possible, and prove that you are as pathetic as 'the rest of us'.
Reproduced from LM issue 104, October 1997