Tuesday, September 2, 1997
Diana chose the people,
and they her


BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Did we adore Diana to death? Her brother thinks we did, all of us with our insatiable interest in her life.

We can hardly be blamed, can we? Really? Who would not be fascinated by a privileged child who chose to become a woman of substance? Who would not love a princess who left the ball to go to a hospice? Who would not admire someone who touched the hands of the dying while the rest of the world looked away?

"With one royal handshake given to a young man with AIDS in the late 1980s, Diana forever changed the face of AIDS for the world," said David Harvey, of the national AIDS Policy Center for Children, Youth and Family.

Who would not like to know more about this princess, who coltishly stepped from the back seat of the Bentley limo to shake hands, to hug, to smile?

And, just this once, can we not make her a victim?

Or a saint?

Wicked humor, glitz

She was a woman with, according to Henry Kissinger, "a wicked sense of humor." She had the vanity to spend hours in the gym to shape the body that was draped with hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of glamorous gowns.

At one time, she was bulimic. At another, she attempted suicide. She giggled when she was supposed to be solemn. She was headstrong. She cried in public. She had a lover while she was married. She blabbed to the press. She was, in short, a very human being.

Does anybody believe that 19-year-old Lady Diana Frances Spencer knew what she was walking into when she said yes to the heir-apparent to the throne of England? Did she know that she was signing up to be the trophy wife of a man who had no intention of giving up his mistress? Did she understand that they were not hoping that she would find a place for herself in their world? They had the place already picked out. Ribbon cutter. Decoration on the arm of the monarch-to-be. And, most important of all, she was expected to produce a little king.

Did this doe-eyed child understand that she was being recruited as a breeder? And what a good breeder she was, quickly producing the "heir and a spare." It was then, I think, that she became the person so mourned by the world today.

She became a good mother, as well as a good person.

Did she continue her good works with such a vengeance because she wanted to set a good example for her boys? Where did she find the courage to buck the English monarchy to rear her boys with love as well as a sense of duty?

"I want my children to have an understanding of people's emotions, of people's hopes and dreams," she told a reporter.

When I heard the news, I admit that I did not immediately wonder about the fate of the royal House of Windsor or the laws governing photo-thugs. I wondered who would tell Harry and Will that they had lost the warmth in their lives.

And I wondered whether anybody would let them cry.

World is watching

Will her death spell the doom of the monarchy? A British commentator says Prince Charles may forever be blamed for the tragedy of Diana's life. For certain, we will be watching the Royals between now and Saturday. They had better fly their flags at half-staff. They had better get off their horses. And they had better look at least as bad as the rest of us feel.

The service will be Saturday in Westminster Abbey, and Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly advised Buckingham Palace to plan a state ceremony. This may be a bitter pill for the royals to swallow. They threw her out. They took her title.

If they'd like to keep their jobs, they should have been paying more attention to her. She chose people, and they chose her right back. Princess Diana, pulled into the family business 16 years ago, made a real job for herself, refused to be window dressing and refused to be fired. In the end, she understood leadership.

We want our royalty to be better than we are. Not better clothes, not better jewels. But better people.

If the British royal family - these stiff and chilly Windsors - cannot bring themselves to honor her as a princess, perhaps they can follow the lead of us commoners.

Perhaps they will honor her as a person.

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Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8493. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.