Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding, Diana and Me.

Thirty years ago (minus three months) I watched the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana with my family, whilst packing. We had a break to go and pick up my friend Mandy from the station. Mandy had come down from Manchester to stay the night as the next day we were embarking on out gap-year adventure - a year living on a kibbutz in Israel. But first we had a day of joy and excitement, crisps and lemonade, in front of the telly. That is the background to the day but my relationship with Diana had already been established a few months previously.

It was a complicated relationship including fascination, envy, sympathy, and bemusement. In his book, Status Anxiety (Pantheon Books, New York, 2004); use a Barnes and Noble coupon code for a discount, modern day philosopher Alain de Botton writes that you are more likely to be jealous of your classmate who has acheived something big or had extremely good luck, than you are of a public figure like Oprah, for example. Why? Because your classmate comes from a similar background and it could so easily have been you.

There were enough similarities between me and Diana to cause me a bit of the 'why-not-me' syndrome. She was only a year and three months older than me, did not do brilliantly in school, was slightly chubby, a bit gauche, lived in London, and loved working with children. On the other hand, I grew up in a modest, unbroken, Jewish household in a London Suburb. I didn't seriously want to, nor was there any chance that I would, marry into the Royal Family. What I wanted was the romantic fairytale of it all.

A year later I returned to England to start Teacher Training at college. Diana had a baby and was, somehow, looking more beautiful and poised than I had remembered. I was a bit more envious. As Diana blossomed, I didn't. I had a few years in college when I put on weight, was struggling with the workload (not because it was too difficult but because I have  a tendency to procrastinate and, anyway, it interfered with my social life), and, quite frankly, I was miserable. Diana, however, had blossomed, had two babies, had a fantastic figure, had beautiful clothes, had a life of luxury and first-class travel.... And all this on one O'level and a job as a nanny.

Over the years and with a dollop of maturity, I saw that Diana was not living an uncomplicated golden life. Me and the world saw and read that she was actually very unhappy. I lost patience with her at this point. Firstly, thanks to my Teacher Training, I had learned that there are other kinds of smarts apart from book-smart. Diana was extremely people-smart. She knew how to win the hearts of the media and the public. She looked fantastic - my green-eyed monster said: well I could look fantastic with a personal trainer and a personal cook. And yet she wasn't happy.

True, the romantic dream was long gone. True, her husband was still in love with his former girlfriend - but then she also had an affair and he didn't create a fuss. So it was not as if romance was completely off the menu. With all the perks of her position, I remember wondering, why didn't she just enjoy her position, find love elsewhere, and basically cultivate a private life that could give her comfort and pleasure? She had the money and the connections to do whatever she wanted. No one gets everything - not even a Princess. I had admired her, loved her even, but now I was just irritated by her misery.

Then, a week before my 35th birthday, I was shocked to find that I would be getting something denied to Diana - my 37th birthday in two years time (hopefully - I might die in a car accident but I wouldn't be escaping the paparazzi in Paris with the heir to Harrods). What a waste of all that energy, beauty, influence, love, good works....

Thirty years later I watch William - a product of his mother's love in his early life, and his father's love - probably learned from Diana as he had had a very different and more distant relationship with his own parents. I see Kate, his wholesome and well-grounded bride, and I feel that same hope and excitement that I felt in 1981. Maybe I'm naive, but I can't help thinking that this time they've got it right.


  1. Oh I remember it well, Graham (who later became known as Grem as no one on kibbutz could get that middle syllable thing) stayed at mine, we had a houseful of people who all helped sit on my suitcase to get it shut!
    Today am having a street party, with a selection of savoury mini muffins and fizzy apple juice.
    aaah happy times to all xxx

  2. Those were the days eh, Debbie? Enjoy your party!

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  4. Sory David, this is a family blog. You are welcome to submit a less risque comment. :)

  5. I'm not into the Royal Weddings etc but I did watch highlights of Dian's wedding, her (terribly sad ) funeral and now William & Kate's wedding. I remember feeling so sorry for those two boys when Diana died so tragically. She'd be so proud of them now though. And you may very well be right. I didn't see much of the wedding yesterday But it looks like that although they followed tradition they also got in their own touches. Love that he drove his sports car!!

    xx Jazzy

    1. I know jazzy - you can't beat British pageantry when it comes to Royal occasions. Love it.