I write to you from the land of flowers, mourners and terrifically civilized chaps who are trying to figure out why Diana’s death is touching so many. I, for one, am surprised at how the news has haunted me and from most conversations I have had this has been a shared reaction. Even devout non-royalists have been moved by her loss. A few, like me, believe it is all a political murder—a way out of the predictable awkwardness that an unleashed Princess and a potential Arab half-brother to the future King can bring upon the crown. I suspect we will hear more on this in the press once the photos of everyone doing the right thing has faded.
Meanwhile we are bombarded with photos—the very actions said to have killed her in the first place. Basically all else has ceased to matter in world events. Mother Teresa was a mere note on the front page, as were the deaths in Israel. The sadness is palpable. At the hospital the academics were analyzing the events, but the secretaries and cleaning staff were crying. The streets truly are filled with tributes and in some ways it is a relief that the funeral has at last taken place. The country seemed unable to focus on anything else.
In a country that can’t organize itself to have hot water or cold beer, it is amazing what they can do to organize millions of people in one week. We feared going into the center of things on Saturday. Warnings of 6 million people in a square mile were everywhere, along with pleas not to bring small children. In the end we decided to brave it with caution (and children). I wanted to be “with the people,” to feel the pulse of this historical moment more than I felt overwhelmed with the need to bow before a future saint. We went to Regent’s Park where the large screens were set up for a shared public viewing of, basically, TV coverage. We set out with food for a day, blankets, rain gear, games and all the essentials should we be trapped in crowds and separated from our home 2 miles away by a wall of mourners. In fact, we took a bus and walked although we could have driven. Everything in town was closed and the streets by us were the emptiest I have ever seen. The park was eerily calm and the crowds barely crowds at all. There were police, emergency vans and even food vendors all set up as everyone quietly took their places in front of the screens. No one was selling Diana tee shirts or buttons—how very un-New York! People cheered for Elton John and Earl Spencer but otherwise were quite quiet. After the ceremony and one minute silence we all walked to the road and lined up to watch the hearse drive by. No one pushed or cursed and I was so confused, it was easy to mourn en masse. I stood on a stone wall, got my pictures, did not fear that my kids would fall and then tiptoed past all the media people looking for people’s comments on the people’s princess.
Since no one could do anything else that day London actually felt like a small town and we kept bumping into friends in the park. Later, we went to Kensington Palace which was more crowded but equally manageable. The scene in front of the Palace, with perhaps a half acre filled with flowers, was a sight I will never forget. It had been rainy all week (what else is new in London?) but Saturday morning was gloriously sunny and balloons floated over the sea of blooms. The cards and letters and candles were everywhere and I could not tell if people came to the Palace at this point to lay their tribute, or to see what had become the living museum of everyone else’s feelings. Many people had left stuffed animals and my five-year-old daughter, Harper, really wanted to “buy some” from this impromptu outside store. Later on we went to the theatre which again held a moment of silence, which in a crowd is quite something.
I am sorry for Diana’s death but I was pleased to be here.