Global Focus: CHAT ABOUT PRINCESS DIANA
We were online live with Post correspondent T.R. Reid, who joined us on August 31, 1988, the first anniversary of Princess Diana's death, to discuss the current state of Britain and the royal family.
Read the full chat below:
Tampa, FL: Why should we care?
Host Aileen Yoo: T.R. -- This user, like many others, are asking this same question: Why should we care about Diana's death, the anniversary and the aftermath?
T.R. Reid: There's no obligation to care. I care, personally, because I think her life was such a fascinating story: Child of absolute privilege, grew up in palaces, etc. but with no parental love; shy teenager who catches the eye of the nation's most eligible bachelor; becomes a princess and the most famous woman on earth; tries to give her husband and her own kids the love she never had in her own family; is rejected by her husband and his mum, the Queen; finally leaves him, becomes a world figure, starts to get her life
T.R. Reid: I think the monarchy has regained its popularity in large part because they have been so restrained and dignified amid a fairly gross outpouring of excessive reactions to Diana's death from everybody else. And if they continue to show this kind of dignity, their public support will last.
Alexandria, VA: The latest issue of Newsweek includes a story speculating on whether William will be king one day, and whether Britons see the monarchy as outdated. It was the first time I'd ever seen anyone express doubt about William's future. Do you find that people see the continuation of the monarchy as inevitable, and that William, not Prince Charles, will be the one who carries it forward?
T.R. Reid: If you can trust opinion polls, all the surveys taken here in the past few weeks indicate that the Monarchy is alive and well, and should survive through several more kings. I expect Charles to become King eventually, although I probably won't be here to cover that story. And I expect William to get to the throne as well.
After one year, how would you compare the death of Diana to the loss that the U.S. felt for JFK?
T.R. Reid: I remember the response to JFK's death fairly well, and I think there has been a much greater degree of wallowing in the death here than there was in the U.S. in 1964. I don't remember our newspapers putting JFK on the front page every day for a year after his death.
Princess Di's brother, Charles Spencer, granted an interview to Fox TV in July. He seemed to use the media (which he so vehemently attacked at Diana's funeral) to show home movies of his sister and to promote the Althorp Estate where a Diana Museum now stands.
T.R. Reid: Yeah, I think the ninth Earl has wrecked his reputation. I went into this in some detail in my story on the Sunday (8/30) Post, so I won't bore everybody with it now. But it is a fascinating tale.
T.R. Reid: To me, the Japanese royal family seems to be the more admirable group of people. The countless divorces, the philandering, the tasteless comments that are commonplace among the Windsor family here would just be unthinkable in Japan.
Two of the world's most important leaders are dogged by political and personal problems -- Russia is on the verge of collapse and Clinton's legacy is in tatters . Global terrorism may again be on the rise, while the world economy teeters on the verge of uncertainty. Yet, you fall into the trap of America's preoccupation with British royalty by having a chat on this overblown topic, rather than addressing more serious problems facing the world. Can you tell me why?
T.R. Reid: The financial crisis in Russia is a much more important story than the British royal family. So is the jailing of that political prisoner in Malaysia. But that doesn't mean those two stories fill the entire paper.
Denver, Colorado: You were in Japan before, right? So what makes the Washington Post decide to send you from there to London?
T.R. Reid: Yeah, I thought that, too, at first. But I now feel this was quite a shrewd move on the part of my editors. They want to get the comparative view into their coverage, and so they have sent reporters from Nairobi to Hong Kong, from Delhi to Mexico City, and from Tokyo to London. I think it makes our coverage more interesting.
Landover Hills, Maryland:
Hi Mr. Reid,
T.R. Reid: Hi. Diana was a pretty good capitalist, I think.
Herndon, VA: Do you think there could be another Diana? I mean, even Mother Theresa hasn't received this much attention. Is there anyone that has so significantly captured the world's attention?
T.R. Reid: I'd say the phenomenal response to Diana's death had a lot to do with her, but it is also the product of a global media culture that grabs onto dramatic stories and won't let go. There's going to be another Diana. In a few years, when everybody is carrying a wrist-watch TV and a mobile Internet unit, the next Diana will be an even larger phenomenon.
Evanston, Ill.: Is there anyone who is lending credence to the conspiracy theories posed by Mohammed Al Fayed, or do they tend to dismiss them, as many in the press do, because there doesn't seem to be any proof to support his notion? Also, much has been made of the supposed anti-Muslim feeling in America; do you feel a similar attitude exists in Great Britain?
T.R. Reid: The media here are scoffing at Mr. Fayed's conspiracy theories. so are the British and french governments. One response to his theories is that he's trying to steer the blame away from himself, because the drunken driver of the car was his employee.
washington, d.c.: Over the past year, have you noticed a change in coverage of the royal family by British media?
T.R. Reid: Yes. As I wrote in Sunday's paper, the royal family is once again viewed as the mother/father/brother figure for the whole country. People aren't mad at them anymore. That is largely because the press have been kind to the queen, and Charles, over the past year.
Host Aileen Yoo: We are roughly half-way through this live online discussion with T.R. Reid in London.
Send your questions by clicking on the Submit Question hyperlink.
Washington, DC: As an African American, I was astonished at how deeply felt was the response from many members of my own culture, this reaction was not defined by age or gender. To what do you attribute Diana's transracial appeal?
T.R. Reid: I think Diana's story is compelling in a way that reaches over age, gender, race, nationality, etc.
Rosslyn, VA: Does public support for the monarchy vary with the state of the economy? --as it does here in the U.S. with our presidents. Does the current popularity of the monarchy have anything to do with the fact that Britain's economy has rebounded as of late?
T.R. Reid: I haven't lived in the UK during an economic downturn. But I personally might feel resentful of the queen if I were out of work and she went zipping by in her Rolls. So it will be interesting to see what happens if the economy turns sorrow.
Portland, Maine: Is there anyone to ensure that Princes William and Harry will continue to experience the aspects of life that they shared with their mother?
T.R. Reid: You know, those boys look reasonably happy, from what you can tell from afar. Everybody says they get along great with Charles. But of course, everybody used to say that Charles and Diana got along great, so we don't know is this is true.
Kansas City KS: At the funeral Charles Spencer promised to see that Diana's children were protected from the press. I haven't heard much about what he has done to insure this.
T.R. Reid: Charles Spencer hasn't done much to protect the boys, because they never see him. It's reported that they don't like him much.
Raleigh, N.C.: The marketing around Diana's image has been extraordinary. I was in NYC recently, and saw Diana refrigerator magnets at a store in the Village, alongside James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Are you surprised? Will it last?
T.R. Reid: Well, I'm disgusted with the outpouring of tacko Diana souvenir junk, but I don't suppose I'm surprised.
tulsa, oklahoma: What are the beliefs of the royal family regarding death? Why and where did the stoic way of dealing with public displays of emotion originate? Was Princess Diana's body viewed by family and friends while it lay in state? Why was the public denied the last view of The People's Princess?
T.R. Reid: This royal family is all Christian, and Anglican, as far as we know. So they presumably assume that Diana has gone on to some form of eternal life in Christ. This is the basis for St. Paul's famous "Oh grave, where is thy victory?", a line that always brings solace to me when somebody I know dies.
rosslyn, va.: Are you tired of covering Diana?
T.R. Reid: I'm not tired of covering the story. But I do sometimes have to write about stories that I'm fed up with.
Rosslyn, VA: What's the latest word from palace watchers on whether Elizabeth will step down and allow her son Charles to become king?
T.R. Reid: Queen Elizabeth II is 72, looks health, and doesn't show any sign of stepping down. Charles will be 50 this year, and I'm afraid he still has a long wait ahead of him. His grandmother is a jaunty 98, so the family genes may be on the Queen's side.
Durham, N.C.: Do you have any predictions about what the public's reaction to the death of the Queen Mother will be? Since she is now 98, her death can't be too far off!
T.R. Reid: I can guarantee you I am going to write a huge and highly favorable story about the Queen Mum, because my wife loves the woman and has made me study her life.
Bethesda, Maryland: Are royal offspring prepared for great loss? While watching William and Harry on the day of Dianas funeral, they seemed most composed, and continue to handle their loss with dignity. I don't know of any children their age who could maintain composure in the fashion they have exhibited.
T.R. Reid: My guess, totally a guess, is that the windsor children learn pretty early in life that they've been dealt a strange hand: No worries ever about making money or paying the mortgage, but in return they have to be the royal family of the stiff upper lip, dignity, tut tut old boy, and all that stuff. And they seem to learn these lessons well.
Boston, Ma: Can you cite any other event of the Royals which has elicited as much sentiment and controversy?
T.R. Reid: The obvious example would be Edward VII (was it VII) who gave up his throne in order to marry a divorced woman. Pretty shocking. In my gut, I feel he was wrong, but my spouse thinks it is glorious that he chose love over tradition.
T.R. Reid: All I can say is you must be a discerning reader. Thanks so much for remembering my book The Chip. Here in London, I hope to cover the big question of whether there really is one place called "Europe," and what it would mean if they ever formed a real political and financial union.
Reston, VA: Do you think that the ghost of Dianna is around? and if so, is she happy or sad?
T.R. Reid: I'm Catholic. We pray to the spirits of the departed all the time, and I think they are around. I can remember when our third child was born, after my father had died. And I said to the other two kids, "Let's go to church and tell your grandfather that Willa was born today." And my kids said, "But, he must know already. Isn't he watching us?"
Host Aileen Yoo: We're out of time now … so let's bring this online chat to a close. Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid has answered your questions … live from London. Thanks to all for participating.
Tomorrow at noon, come back for "Levey Live." See you then.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company