Blame for the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, will be shared
among many: the dead driver, the ghoulish paparazzi, their media
paymasters, and all of us for our eager consumption of those snatched
images. It will also be laid at the door of the Palace ’establishment’
which failed her during her marriage and afterwards removed her Royal
status, driving her towards the media and the uncertain protection of
All of this is to be expected. In our rush to comprehend terrible
events, we seek causes and retribution. By doing so, we hope to impose
meaning on tragedy and restore order to the world.
There are already calls to introduce privacy laws in the UK. But these
laws didn’t save Diana in Paris, and in framing them we may only end up
safeguarding those in public life whose weasel ways deserve to be
Such a backlash against the media would ignore the positive role the
media played in promoting Diana’s charity work, and in putting her in
touch with the public.
It would also ignore the fact that she often sought media interest in
her private life. She had an instinctive flair for handling the press,
tempered by occasional lapses of judgment. These stemmed mainly from her
self-confessed unwillingness to accept PR advice, but even her more
outlandish decisions - such as baring her soul on Panorama - had an
After that uncomfortable Panorama interview, the world weary media and
the chattering classes sniggered at her naive desire to become ’Queen of
people’s hearts’. But no one laughed when Tony Blair called her the
People’s Princess on Sunday.
The colossal outpouring of public grief this week has revealed the full
extent of the powerful connection she established with ordinary
She had a gift for expressing compassion, which no other member of the
Royal family could match.
The Prince of Wales was often overshadowed by his former wife’s facility
for engaging so directly with the public and the media. He can no more
compete with her icon in death than he could in life, unless he learns
from her example. But it will require a revolution among Palace
courtiers to achieve it.
There must be an urgent meeting with media owners to hammer out a code
of behaviour on both sides. But it will not be enough to then retreat
into stuffy isolation. The Royal family has struck the right note with
funeral arrangements which reflect the style and overwhelming popularity
of the Princess. They should now follow her lead by reinventing their
unbending institution as the people’s monarchy.