The Princess Diana Phenomenon: Can someone please explain it to me?

I was watching “The Queen” last night which was a very good movie for the record. The movie showed a huge outpouring of grief and love for Diana that seemed accurate from what I remember of the time. It appeared the Queen not making a public showing of grief for Diana had the British really upset with her and the royal family. I do not understand why.

What was the appeal of this rich stranger? Why did the Diana worshippers blame the royal family or expect to see them show a public display of grief for this woman that divorced the heir? Just why was Diana beloved?

Jim (I don’t expect facts and cites on this, just opinions but perhaps this is a not so Great Debate.)

No idea. By all accounts she was a poorly educated emotionally stunted clotheshorse who had little to recommend her except her breeding potential and a head full of air.

Because she’d been packaged to look like a Cinderella story, believing it herself. She was emotionally unstable, she didn’t understand that her job was to look pretty on her husband’s arm while looking the other way and keeping her legs closed (or at least her IUD properly placed) for other guys… and the same people who would have been perfectly happy to watch her wave while her husband kept playing on the side were happy to buy the notion that it was All His Mother’s Fault.

After all, the evil mother in law is almost a common a theme in modern-day folk stories (read novels and TV) as the fairy godmother was in Perrault’s compilation.

This has baffled me ever since I came home from a weekend trip to find my mother weeping at the TV, saying princess Diana has died in a car crash. Huh? Royalty are the only people in the world who lead highly privileged lives only because of inane traditions, not because of the market economy or talent (in the broadest sense of the word).

I guess the immense popular grief took off just because there hadn’t been a sudden death of a high-profile mother of high-profile children for a long time. A convenient situation to pour myriad personal emotions into.

Could just the Cinderella story make people love her? I kept thinking that there was something more to it that I didn’t see over here in the US. Was any of it a reaction to Prince Charles? I was under the impression he is not very well liked.

I thought the love for her existed even before her death. Maybe I am wrong.

Same as James Dean, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Jean Harlow, Brandon Lee, Selena, or a bunch of others - a popular celebrity dies young in a senseless manner (and that’s not counting all the ones who killed themselves).

I always thought she was kinda hot.


I’m not sure whether so much it’s a matter of Charles not being liked. More that he hasn’t really inherited the liking for the Queen, and moreover is often seen as a bit of a nitwit. I don’t think there’s a massive amount of people who actually dislike the man - though at the time i’d guess there were more.

I’m afraid I really have much to add her death. Being 11 at the time and not all that outward looking i’m afraid I didn’t really get it at the time and still don’t.

Interesting, but at least in some of those cases I can see what the people you listed did. What did Diana actually do to garner her fans? I could explain why John Lennon getting shot had myself and most of my friends very upset. I am not discounting that her fans had a reason to love Diana, I just do not have a clue what the reason was unless it was simply the Cinderella story that **Nava **posted.

I’ve seen a few stories over the years where many hope Prince Charles is never King and should let it go immediately to Prince William. Is this a minor opinion or close to a majority?

This is probably the wrong board though to find someone that love Diana, but I was hoping. I am sure we could get dozens if not hundreds that could talk about what Lennon meant to us and some for the others listed. It seemed like the Diana phenomenon even affect the US to a large degree.

At some point between the Blitz and FaceBook, the British public kinda realised it didn’t have to be all stiff upper lip. Diana’s death was the first chance to express that.

Yes, I think it was silly, but then in some countries football fans actually suicide when their team loses, so it’s all relative.

At least, that’s my theory. I think it was about more than Diana. It was a pent up thing.

I’m no Diana fan, but I think it’s easy to see why many people loved her. She was rich and privileged but she had a common touch, hence the nickname “the People’s Princess.” She was the antithesis of the cold and emotionally distant Queen. A dedicated humanitarian and by all accounts a very loving and devoted mother. The unraveling of her so-called “fairy tale” marriage made her seem more human.

Frankly I didn’t envy her one bit - she seemed quite miserable most of her life, had a lot of problems and was in no way perfect. But to say that she did nothing of substance is ridiculous. She brought a lot of attention to victims of AIDS and land mines, among many other issues.

There is a long run up to her popularity.

Ever since Charles was born, and everyone knew he would be king someday, they wondered who he would marry. So he finallys settles on Diana and people get excited because she is young and pretty. She is Royalty-The Next Generation.

She was also just so very 80’s.

But she did some charity work. She clearly was a good mother and she was clearly stuck in a marriage that didn’t work.

To me there is nothing unlikable about her so she hit this tipping point of popularity and there was no stopping it. The fact that she was hounded by photographers, made people want pictures of her but they sided with her. The bought magazines with her photos and thought, ‘they should leave her alone’.

It’s not rational.

Why is Paris Hilton a celebrity? Some people are just famous. In Diana’s case it’s no real mystery - she was married to the heir to the British throne and that’s the kind of thing that’s going to get you noticed. So she was an attractive celebrity and then she died young.

How was the English/UK economy in the 1970s? There seemed to be a lot of strikes (leading to the downfall of the British automotive industry), and I’ve heard that they resulted to the end of the Labour government at the end of the decade. Maybe the fairytale wedding of Diana and Charles was, with its history and pageantry, a tonic for difficult times? (Of course if the '70s weren’t all that bad, then never mind.)

I don’t think it is the same. Paris is a train wreck and some people love watching a train wreck. I can’t imagine a huge outpouring of grief if she died. I can foresee a media circus like that other ditsy train wreck blond bimbo that died last year, but I cannot buy massive expressions of love.
I like your take on it Zebra, that sounds like a good explanation for it.

Pretty white woman syndrome.

Hmm, maybe, but by the time of that wedding we were well into hating the next government…

I think as others have said there is no mystery over her celebrity. The week of public grieving that followed her death was a very weird time though. By about day three I remember much of the comment in the grown-up media had shifted from “what a tragedy” to “what the hell has happened to the British?”, with theories banded around such as Loaded Dog’s one about how we had become less repressed and this was the first big national opportunity to get out there and emote.

For those of us not overcome with grief, though, it was a strange old week, that’s for sure.

Indeed - it was like the public outpouring of grief, elevated to the level of an Olympic sport.

I think it was all some kind of mass temporary mental illness - eagerly fuelled by the media - not sure if there really is very much to understand by digging deep into it, other than to say that it happened.

Absolutely agree! I just watched in disbelief as Britain went mad.

As to why Diana - a lot of it was a tabloid invention. You probably know that for the British tabloids people have to be either perfect or evil. In the mess of the Charles and Diana separation and divorce they had decided to vilify Charles and make Diana into a saint. Hence endless stories about her AIDS visits and land-mine work (however little time she actually spent on them) matched against depictions of Charles as a looney talking to plants - ignoring his charitable work - and the demonisation of Camilla while ignoring Diana’s affairs.