In the early days of the American republic, the term “monarchist” was the most important political insult, which was not surprising given that our Declaration noted: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Yet the life and death of Lady Diana Spencer some two centuries downstream showed that American citizens are deeply interested in British royalty.
Her marriage to Charles Prince of Wales in 1981 shot her from anonymity to one of the most recognized figures on the globe. That marriage was a disaster and ended finally in 1996.
But it did produce two sons: William 35 heir to the throne and far more popular in Britain that his father and Harry 32 who has fought for his country in Afghanistan and who has shown a tendency for controversy similar to that of his mother. There have been rumors that Harry is the son of British officer James Hewitt now 59 with whom Diana had an affair, based on common features between the two men. But the affair purportedly began after Harry’s birth.
Whether it was her causes, her fashion sense, her love for the US, or sympathy for her personal struggles, a sizable segment of the American public followed all the news about her. We think a great part of her popularity had to do with a perception that she stood up to her mother-in-law the Queen and to Prince Charles. Perhaps she was an American anti-monarchist.
Will Diana be remembered a century from now? We think not, except perhaps as a symbol of a celebrity fascination regnant in our time.
Lady Diana died in a car crash twenty years ago today.