Have you been following the Paris inquest into the passing of the late Princess of Wales, Lady Diana? I find it to be the most fascinating exercise. As an opinion journalist I have nothing to add to the record itself; no bravura pronouncements, no penetrating insights, no whizbang deductions, no counterintuitive analysis. But as a person, as a student of life, I see here an earth-shattering event of Biblical proportions. I see the Tower of Babel, Jacob wrestling the angel and Moses demanding to know why he was sent.
This is mankind railing against Fate, rebelling against majesty, trying to put romanticism before Romance, literalism before literature. There is such rage against her death not because it was illogical and jarring, but because it was so sharply logical that it shouts out the dominance of a higher order.
Consider. Diana accepted the proposal of Charles, Prince of Wales, and was apotheosized in a grandiose processional marriage seen by most of humankind. She could do no wrong with the British populace ever after, her visage on that magic day holding them in thrall. She bore two princes, one of them a potential king. She made various formal appearances, generally true to her depiction of the aethereal fairy-tale princess.
Suddenly things went awfully awry. Word came that people were drinking and drugging and straying, that Diana was bucking Buckingham. Then the usual tawdry palace affairs, the princess with the equestrian and the prince with a married noblewoman. Butlers and valets and lady’s maids were talking to the tabloids, and relationships deteriorated all around. Charles’ brother Andrew married a similar woman, affectionately dubbed Fergie, and their marriage followed about the same pattern. Eventually everyone decided to give bills of divorce all around and the madness settled into a routine that came to simulate normalcy.
To make matters worse, or more sordid anyway, an audio tape surfaced with Charles and his paramour cooing at each other in the sort of amorous jargon for which privacy was invented. Once and for all it could be said that Charles had humiliated Diana, Diana had humiliated Charles, both of them had humiliated their parents and their children, and all this was true regardless of who could be faulted in the breakdown and the breakup.
Still, all the dirt was royal dirt. Pathetic, derivative, cliché, history-repeating-itself (to the point that Camilla introduced herself to Charles by reminding him her grandmother was his grandfather’s mistress), boring dirt, but within the traditional gamut of royal obliviousness and stupidity. Everyone could still walk around pretending no change of substance had occurred. There may have been a few extra princesses in the deck, but all that was still ace.
Then suddenly Diana is dating a pretender, a nobody, a nothing, a rich Arab living off his father’s dubious money, an international playboy, a man without purpose, without talent, without credentials, without substance, without depth, what the old Yiddish speakers used to call “a pusteh keli (empty vessel)”. His father had assumed ownership of Harrod’s with money whose provenance could not be traced, making numerous representations about himself and his family that all proved false when probed. So the gadabout son of a spurious financier wins the heart of the princess: whuh?
On the day she died, he died, they died, her beau slipped off into the jewelers to pick up the magnificent engagement ring he would present. Who knows what blood ran over that diamond, what sweat of the downtrodden, what tears of the oppressed, what heinous fraud, what vile treachery, what inequity and iniquity? That was Romance? Bull, Lady Love shunned Lady Diana that night, just as Cupid scorned the cupidity of her suitor.
It was not possible for this world, if it is indeed a created place, a place of purpose and dignity, a place where kingship confers a spiritual stature, where majesty is a reflection of godliness, to suffer such an affront. Fate cried out in anguish, Romance wilted in despair, Poetry waxed plaintive and Literature was florid in protest. This could not stand.
In his new book, biographer David Michaelis explains why Charles Schulz died on the day his farewell Peanuts strip was published. “To the very end his life had been inseparable from his art. In the moment of ceasing to be a cartoonist, he ceased to be.” How much more true is that of a princess! The day she ceased to be a princess is the day she ceased to be. And now, if you don’t mind, I will bang the gavel. Inquest concluded.