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Mourning sickness

Blair's Britain AD - After Diana
Beware the rampant id
The lonely crowd
A tyrannical new religion
The new protocol
Tragic lives

Tragic lives

Ann Bradley

'Diana's death was of her making - as was her life'

Everybody tells me that Princess Diana led a 'tragic' life. Why? A cursory consideration of the life and death of Diana gives the lie to her famous vulnerability and victimhood.

Consider the circumstances of her death. First we had Di as victim as the paparazzi, then Di as victim of drunken chauffeur egged on by paparazzi. In reality the culpability for the accident seems to have lain fairly and squarely with those who died in it - all of them, not just the driver. Chauffeurs are not known for careering along at idiot speeds if their employers protest.

Since when has the 'threat' of being photographed been accepted as an excuse for hurtling through the middle of Paris at more than 100mph? A threat of gang rape might have justified it but photographers...be serious. Commentators were quick to demand of the photographers whether they really felt their pictures were worth the carnage. It might have been more appropriate to pose that question to the spirits of Di and Dodi. Did they think avoiding having their pictures taken was worth the carnage? Not to mention the even greater tragedy that would have been caused had any of the good citizens of Paris been going about their business in the path of the maniacs in the Mercedes. I only hope the millions deafening their gods with prayers for Di and Dodi are giving thanks that the loss of life was so limited.

No, Diana's death was of her making - as was her life. Yet, as we are told she was a victim in death, so we are told she was a victim in life.

Sorry, but I cannot see it. Yes, she was in the public gaze. She chose to be. Future Kings are not noted for their low public profile - nor are their wives. Yes, she felt isolated among hostile in-laws. So do many women. Yes, her husband cheated on her. This is what husbands sometimes do, and most women survive it. In fact, Diana survived it and found a lover of her own.

While the nation is being carried away on a tide of mawkish sentiment and rewritten history we should remember what Di's life was really like. She was an aristocratic socialite who enjoyed high society, an endless supply of designer frocks, amusing companions and ritzy holidays. The 'good works' for which she has been canonised were a nineties version of the part-time charitable deeds which ladies-who-lunch have pursued for generations, and which have never interfered with a luxury lifestyle. Her personal disappointments should have been offset by the fact that she had two healthy sons whom she adored, she was fit, attractive and healthy, and always able to buy a degree of independence. This is not a tragic life, it is a privileged life.

Reflect on this for a moment.

I know a woman who at the end of the Second World War was forced to leave her own sister dying in a ditch as she was marched away from a concentration camp by Nazis trying to avoid capture by the Americans.

I know a woman who after several years of infertility had a successful IVF pregnancy which ended in the birth of a severely brain- damaged child.

I know a man who lost both his legs in an industrial accident and who, when asked if he ever wondered 'why me?', replied in genuine bemusement, 'why shouldn't it have been me, why should it have been someone else?'.

These are people who have endured true tragedies, yet none would accept that they were tragic figures or had tragic lives. Nor would they thank you for your pity, but resent the implication that their lifetime's achievements were less important than the sad events they have experienced. Those who genuinely suffer rarely do want to wallow in their personal tragedies - they just want to get on with it. 'It' being life, despite all it has dealt them.

Out of all of the millions who have shed tears for Diana many will have themselves lived harder lives and known others who have died harder deaths. I would rather save my tears for those who deserve them.

Reproduced from LM issue 104, October 1997

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