Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The People's Princess

On Sunday 31st August 1997 I was woken at around 6.30am with the news that Princess Diana had died in a car crash. Later that morning I passed on the request that if any other members of the royal family were to die I would wait for the news without being woken. I know she was very popular and some readers may wish to be woken but I prefer the person who died a week later as a role model for me. Mother Teresa.

Yesterday I was speaking with someone who had attended Diana's funeral. He had done so as a guest of an MP. I am sure this was an important moment for him but I wondered why a backbench MP had been invited along with a guest. I didn't think that Westminster Abbey could hold that many mourners and with 659 MPs I didn't think there would be any space left if they all took a guest. I was surprised when I did an Internet search to discover that it had seated about 8,200 for Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953. Still, though, I can't help wondering about the criteria that were applied to decide who should attend. How many of the mourners actually had a close connection to Diana?

I suppose MPs should have some representation at times of public mourning and maybe that doesn't make them any less genuine than Diana's nearest and dearest. However I am also reminded of Tony Blair's speech, with its famous reference to the "People's Princess". It was certainly a well crafted speech, and it didn't do Tony Blair's reputation any harm, but I remember wondering at the time if he ever thought of her as the "People's Princess" before she died.

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