The Diana Effect: 10 years later

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Ten years on, there is still something dreamlike about the week that followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Was central London really carpeted with flowers? Did every U.S. TV network throw out its schedule to cover, at length, the funeral of an English divorcé of uncertain prospects? Did the most levelheaded folk you know choke up about 10 times that week, snuffling into their tissues,"I can't imagine why it's gotten to me so much"?

Yes, and yes, and they probably did. To be sure, quite soon after Diana's death, a school of thought argued that the raw hugs-and-tears emotionalism of her funeral was an embarrassing aberration, a fake sentiment tricked up by the mass media, keen for a good end-of-summer story. But that's not a line that convinces. The memories are too real for that, the significance of them too apparent.

In Diana's funeral week, what had been considered the virtues--the Roman virtues, an earlier generation would have called them--of restraint, stoicism and quiet, private mourning were tossed overboard. For Diana, you were allowed public gestures and declamations usually reserved for the final act of an Italian opera. That this happened in Britain of all places--home of the stiff upper lip and the sort of strangulated emotional life that has provided Hugh Grant with endless paychecks--only added to the oddity of the events. Those in other nations who thought they knew the British wondered what sort of people they had become. ...

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