Diana’s death was the final act in a mesmerising soap opera

Most readers of this newspaper will never professionally encounter the geological pressure exerted on the Royal family by the media in the name of the people over the handling of Princess Diana’s funeral. It might, however, be useful to try to understand the phenomenon.

Most readers of this newspaper will never professionally encounter

the geological pressure exerted on the Royal family by the media in the

name of the people over the handling of Princess Diana’s funeral. It

might, however, be useful to try to understand the phenomenon.



I am appalled that newspapers, which share some responsibility for

Princess Diana’s death, should have demanded, partly to keep the story

going, that the Royal family show they care. I think they had

demonstrated a far greater sense of caring, respect for the dead and

dignity by choosing to remain at Balmoral than the hysterical lot

outside various palaces and in assorted news rooms.



But it doesn’t matter what I or other like-minded souls think. It

happened.



The public reaction, assiduously cultivated by the press, was fearful to

behold. The Royal family did not just bend before the wind; advised by

our insufferably pious thespian of a Prime Minister, they

capitulated.



They came to London early, went on walkabout amid the flowers, extended

the funeral route and the Queen broadcast to the nation. Thank God, they

did not take the advice of the Sun or, Heaven help us, the Independent,

and dissolve into tears.



Still, it was an unprecedented abandonment of protocol, not to mention

British reserve. What on earth are we to make of it? Not much, I

fear.



It was par for the televisual age.



The truth is that many people lead two different lives these days - one

their own, rather problematical and often trying, existence and the

other the fantasy world of soap operas into which they escape. The

tabloids often lead with the antics of soap stars or, better still, the

next thrill in the story line. Cunard even updates its QE2 passengers on

the high seas with the development of plots.



Soap is big, powerful business. And Princess Diana, the Queen of Hearts,

provided the best of them. She played the wronged woman, frightfully

glamorous, following the jet set and at war with the establishment, and

horribly indiscreet in pursuit of hostilities. The other side of the

coin was a loving mother, an immensely tactile comforter of the sick,

dying and diseased - a sort of official stroker to the nation. In short,

as Earl Spencer acknowledged in his cheeky funeral oration, she was a

terribly complex character.



The result was that when she was killed with a millionaire playboy the

soapsudded public felt acutely deprived as well as shocked. But the

press gave them the chance to write the last script. In doing so, they

illustrated what a powerful hold soap opera has on the people. I doubt

whether it was any more than that. After all, would millions have gone

doolally over a plain Jane?



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