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Diana , Princess of Wales: in my heart forever
Last uploaded : Wednesday 27th Sep 2017 at 01:27
Contributed by : Carol Gould



24 September 2017

I am still reeling from the derogatory comments that flooded into social media and the press during the commemorations of the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Most of the condemnations came from those who were very young at the time. Mine was a different perspective. I'd spent a year - 1996- supervising a student documentary, 'Long Night's Journey into Day' about Israel's collective national nervous breakdown after the killing of Rabin. I didn't just interview mourners but those who had hated him. His funeral in 1995 and 1996 Yahrzeit were powerful experiences. So when I saw the mountains of candles, paper tributes and stones at Mt Herzl it affected me deeply. Who can forget the hundreds of candles in the hillside windows of the Druze? When Diana died it was like being in Israel post-Rabin assassination all over again. Rabin's funeral was watched around the world and it was apparent to me in that desolate week in London that non-Jews had adopted the Israeli way of open mourning.

Also, she was loved by millions of women in loveless marriages - most trapped and enduring in silence their husbands' infidelity and brutality. But on those seven days in London after Diana's passing when I walked miles witnessing a grief I'd never imagined amongst stiff-upper-lipped Britons I saw men in pinstriped suits weeping in St James's where Diana lay in state. She WAS mother of our future king and that is another reason why so many in the nation paid respects. Her work at my local St John's Hospice I do believe helped change the world's view of AIDS and homosexuality.

Here is what one young journalist friend of mine in his thirties wrote on Facebook:

‘I remember as the rolling coverage (then a relatively new thing for the BBC) got started, the crowds at the key locations were still small. Only when people saw it on TV did the mass hysteria seem to start, and as it was covered widely, of course it grew. I recognise the same trend every time I report for days on end from the scene of terrorist attacks. The flowers, the balloons, the exhibitionists with ever evolving sympathy stunts (either consciously or subconsciously designed to get attention)... I think people "showed their emotion" in large part because they were told to.’

It was not mass hysteria, any more than the overwhelming, protracted national grief in Israel after the Rabin assassination. It was beautiful to witness. Maybe because I've had 10 bereavements in recent years and now have stage 4 cancer that I have such a deep understanding of loss. Why were so many commentators being so uncharitable about this amazing, brave and pioneering (AIDS/hospices/landmines) woman? Rotten tomatoes have not been thrown in Diana;s memory by those my older circle. In the hours after her death in 1997 everyone I knew from old to young to Christian, Jewish, Muslim, left or right wing - was stunned to the core of our being.

Special editions of newspapers appeared at 0230 and my neighbour Ruth and I went in her car at dawn to buy the papers. My instinct - nothing to do with TV coverage, - and that of every friend and neighbour, was to make a pilgrimage to Kensington Palace. This - and the week following - was not 'hysteria.' It was one of the most moving experiences of my 41 years in Britain apart from the huge outpouring after the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten. How could abyone call the recent displays of shared grief in dynamic democracies 'sympathy stunts' ' to get attention?.

Another current friend wrote:

‘It was 20 years ago and of course it was terribly sad that a young mother had died. She did not endure her husband's infidelity in silence in fact she was extremely vengeful and did a great deal of harm to him and to the monarchy.
I don't know about brutality though because the marriage had failed he loved another woman and she embarked on a series of affairs with many other men. Personally I agree with others writing this week: the public outpouring of grief for Diana was over the top then and 20 years later distasteful. She didn't discover a cure for cancer she was beautiful and married Charles.’

Distasteful? Not in my view. Diana, Princess of Wales was a remarkable woman who was possessed of a spark that inspired millions around the world and when her flame was snuffed out it left a gap in the hearts of many - including my own heart - but her good work will endure forever.


Carol Gould is the Philadelphia-born author of ‘Spitfire Girls’ and ‘Don’t tread on me -anti-Americanism Abroad’ and is a BBC, Sky News and LBC political commentator. For eleven years she was Drama Commissioning Editor at Anglia TV for ITV/PBS.


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