Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Why this Royal wedding marks end of Diana era

Princess Diana

It is, of course, a very different world from the one of that bright July day in 1981 when Lady Diana Spencer fluffed Prince Charles' middle names and the world's greatest soap opera got properly on its way.

We are certainly a different people. Then, republican sentiment was the argot of a few left-wing intellectuals; on Friday sizeable pockets of the population will probably feel fairly indifferent to William and Kate as they make their way towards Westminster Abbey. While the event - despite the predictable naysayers - will be massive, not even the most ardent royalist believes it will match the near-hysteria of Charles and Di.

But who cares about that? We all love a good wedding and I'm sure most of us will be glued to our TVs as we drink in the spectacle, pageantry and, yes, romance of it all.

And in some ways, William and Kate's nuptials will mark the end - and the completion - of the age of Diana. Her presence, like her absence, will be keenly felt on Friday; the uninvited guest at every royal showpiece event. Even now we can imagine her, smiling wistfully under her blonde fringe, those mesmerising blue eyes noting with approval her engagement ring on Kate's hand; with sadness her rightful place taken by Camilla Parker Bowles.

Both William and Kate are, in different ways, part of the legacy of the late Princess of Wales. William biologically, obviously, but equally if it hadn't been for Diana's democratising touch, it is hard to imagine commoner Kate traipsing down the aisle - even if in reality Kate is about as "common" as an airborne unicorn.

Recently some have criticised the couple for not showing a great deal of passion (what do they want, their hands copping a feel in each other's rear pockets?) yet there's no doubt this is a modern love story.

They met at uni in St Andrews, have had the odd blip but each is certain they have met The One, that they are fated to be together. At the very least, William won't ruminate about "Whatever 'in love' means". In their modest, slightly unglamorous way, they seem to know what it is really all about. "We are looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together," says the prince. How simple, how straightforward, and yet how utterly real and romantic.

And how unlike the whirlwind courtship of Charles and Di; a romance that had all the naturalness of a business transaction. Man with bit on side seeks brood mare for procreation. Must be tolerant of mistresses.

Due to the tragedy of her loveless marriage and the public affection she engendered following her heartless treatment at the hands of the Royal establishment, Diana paradoxically forced the royals to recognise that for most of us, marriage is about love - not a suitable gene pool.

Although Diana was the daughter of one of the most distinguished families in the kingdom (and one which rather looked down on the upstart Windsors), she - somewhat by chance but also motivated partly by hurt - modernised, revolutionised and humanised the monarchy, forcing it to at least pretend to recognise the people over whom they claim to rule.

We don't want our royals to be remote, distant and, well, weird. We want them to be as normal as possible while retaining some sense of majesty.

While Friday's marriage can be said to represent a culmination of Diana's real legacy, it also finally exorcises the ghost of Diana and her thrall over our collective imagination.

As William and Kate take their vows, the wedding will be a true fairytale ending - in all manner of ways.

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