By: Nellie P. Strowbridge
Little girls imagine they can grow up to be a princess and live happily ever after in a palace. Real princesses soon learn that a castle can be a gilded cage
Diana Frances Spencer, a shy, blonde-haired woman with a long-legged gait, became a princess when she married Prince Charles, next in line for the British throne. Packaged glamour dragged Diana from obscurity to fame. Alas! She soon realized that marrying a prince and living among those in high places can have their drawbacks.
Royal watchers were ready to place the new princess on a pedestal, a place where there is little room to move without falling off.
Princess Diana had all the designer clothes her heart desired, but goggling eyes were ready to like or lump her in them with remarks: “That dress is too daring ? too much shoulder showing. . . .” and on and on. She had all the precious jewelry she could possibly wear, including the ring that was meant to bind a princess to a prince for life. Soon the virginal bride realized that she was not up to competing with the experienced other woman in the wings. She explained on television, her eyes downcast, that there were three people in the marriage. This left the princess feeling lonely and disheartened.
By the time Prince Charles and Princess Diana came to Newfoundland in 1983 to celebrate our 400th Anniversary, she was already disenchanted, her eyes sad, her smile reaching halfway. As the couple walked across the red carpet through spruce bough arches at Torbay Airport in misty rain, excited chatter rippled through spectators. My children and I were pushed against the ropes cordoning off the crowd. Toes were walked on and ribs elbowed as people rushed to get a glimpse of the favorite royal.
The princess gave me a smile and a gentle handshake. Smiling back, I remarked that everyone was suffering from Dianamania. She smiled again and lowered her head. In her soft English voice, she said, “I pity them.”
Prince Charles gave me a firm handclasp and added, “What a shame!” He seemed pleased that people were taking a shine to the princess. He nodded at people along the way and asked if they had managed to shake his wife’s hand.
As I rode through the Point de l’Alma tunnel years after Diana died, darkness broken by the dim lighting, I remembered that shocking August night. The movie on the television channel my husband and I were watching ended abruptly. An announcer came on the screen with news of an accident. There were closeup scenes of the crumbled vehicle in which Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed were passengers. We heard laughter and muffled voices. The announcer said that Diana had a broken arm. We stayed up late, waiting for further news. It was not what we had expected. Diana was seriously injured; she had succumbed to her injuries. Only the year before, Princess Grace of Monaco had died in a car crash.
Twenty years after Diana’s death, Xavier Gourmelon, a first responder and firefighter on the scene of the accident, allegedly, told The Sun that he had revived Princess Diana and heard her last words: “My God, what happened?”
The princess was a delicate rose, thorns growing inward, endogenous pain showing in her face. She had learned that fame, fortune and a prince in a palace were not enough. She was wounded in her reach for true love with a prince and broken by living with false trust and lost hope by the time her smashed body was wrapped in metal in a Paris tunnel. In her last moments, she must have held images of her little princes waiting for their mom to come home as they began their next school year.
Though fairy tale beginnings may not always have happy endings, they have a measure of happy results. Had there not been a union between Charles and Diana, she would not have had her two princes: William and Harry. Who can say that life spent the way it is spent is not destined? One seemingly bad turn, the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, brought a good result beyond Diana’s reach and knowledge. She would have been pleased to know that her sons found love: William with Catherine Middleton and Harry with Meghan Markle.
The People’s Princess
The People’s Princess touched the lives of the poor and disabled, earning her the title Queen of Hearts. Her gentle smile and touch were returned with love.
I did not want to suffer when Princess Diana died. I did not want to mourn someone I met only once and knew only through media images. Still, the shock of her death came through my day in painful spasms.
The bright star born July 1, 1961, a fallen star on August 31, 1997, had invaded the hearts of people around the world, causing them grief in the final memory she left.
I can hear the princess ? who didn’t live happily ever after ? say softly, “I pity them.”