In Death, Diana Could Have Brought Down the Monarchy

Posted on September 2, 2010


In life, Princess Diana’s fame and infamous interviews did a great deal of damage to “the Firm” as the royals refer to themselves collectively. But she also did more than anyone to secure their future.  As a young bride, she was like a breath of fresh air.  During her marriage to Charles, she revived interest in the monarchy.  Diana may have had an innate media sense but one thing about her is certain:  she never received the kind of support from the royals or her husband in particular that she deserved.

Anne, The Princess Royal and Andrew Parker-Bowles 2009

It was clear from the beginning of the marriage that she was emotionally unstable.  Her bulimia was in full force.  It was also clear that there was tacit approval among the royals that Charles’ continued liaison with Camilla Parker Bowles was a traditional royal arrangement.  Even more remarkable, Camilla’s former husband, had been rumored to have had a decades long affair with Charles’ sister, the Princess Royal, Anne.  2010 saw rumors swirling that their affair was back on. [Daily Mail]

Diana was, then, up against not only an institution but one with traditions that did not include respect for the bonds of marriage.  Charles was and is unapologetic about his relationship with Camilla and his dependence on her is at once troubling and a salvation to more than just Charles, but to the monarchy itself.

To his credit, Charles can and does go up against his mother, Queen Elizabeth and at the time of Diana’s death, he did exactly that.  However, his motives were more to save the monarchy than to honor Diana.  He had been the target of Diana’s media savvy and had been forced to hire his own good PR person to counter it.  He crossed the Queen’s wishes by going to Paris to accompany Diana’s remains to Britain.  He forced the issue of making the funeral royal in a new way, and he insisted that his mother return to London and address the public.  But he was encouraged in this not just by his PR handler.  It was Camilla Parker-Bowles herself that gave him the confidence to pursue his gut instincts about what had to be done to preserve the monarchy.

A new book, After Diana, outlines all of the events surrounding Diana’s death and burial.  In an excerpt, Camilla’s import is revealed:

ironically, behind the scenes, Camilla — now unquestionably the most reviled woman in the land — played a role similar to Tony Blair’s. Charles had always been reluctant to defy his mother, and now, in a series of intense phone conversations, it was Camilla who gave her prince some much-needed backbone. She urged him to give the Queen an ultimatum: either she would return to London and address the people on television — or he would. “The Queen must be made to understand,” she told him bluntly. “You must do this, Charles. The monarchy may come down if you don’t.” Camilla was not alone in this assessment. [abcnews]

In the end, the Queen did all that Charles had asked and the monarchy was saved yet again.  One day it will become too expensive and too out of touch with reality.  But at Diana’s death, she and the Queen and Camilla had saved that august institution for a time.

Diana’s contribution will be lasting.  It is her sons William and Harry who now have brought back the fresh air to the Firm and who carry on her work in the world at large.  Her lessons of getting them out among the people have taken hold and fired their resolve to carry on her work.

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