Mercy of Princess Diana restored the royals

Being British, it’s hard to avoid the topic of the Royal Family when abroad. Foreigners often don’t let you.

I’ve learned to spot the disappointment in people’s faces when I don’t have an opinion on Harry’s latest girlfriend, or Kate’s dresses.

As my wife will tell you with some regret, I’m a bit of a disappointment in the royal gossip department.

But I’m no republican. I get that it goes with the territory once you throw off your imperial monarchy and set up on your own, like Ireland, India or the U.S.

But if a royal heads your state, it’s obvious that once you defenestrate them, their powers will transfer to the president, and soon you’ll be obsessing about Melania Trump’s footwear or Emmanuel Macron’s holiday home.

So: I respect the royals, even admire them. I can riff, for example, on the evangelical Anglican piety of the Queen — a model of tireless, faithful service — and Prince Charles, who shares his family’s Christian passion for the environment.

But the people themselves, and their dramas? I don’t live them the way many do — with an intensity normally reserved for soap operas.

So when, in the Peruvian mountain city of Ayacucho 20 years ago, tearful strangers — Quechua speakers, mostly — crossed the Plaza de Armas to commiserate over the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, I was taken aback and didn’t know what to say, except gracias, es una tragedia.

The months prior to her brutal end in a Paris traffic pile-up had been tawdry.

The messy divorce from Charles a year earlier, her tearful self-pitying interview on the BBC, her affairs and the cold-shouldering from what she called ‘the Firm’ — it wasn’t the royals’ finest hour, and there was even dark talk of the monarchy’s extinction.

But two decades on, the monarchy thrives, and the coverage of the anniversary of Diana’s death has helped me see why.

The BBC’s brilliant account (also on Netflix) of the seven days leading up to her funeral, as told in part by the princes, William and Harry, was essentially the story of the restoration of a deep, preternatural bond between a people and their sovereigns, one that has a powerful religious resonance. Continue reading

  • Austen Ivereigh is a British writer, journalist and commentator, and co-founder of Catholic Voices, a communications project now in 20 countries.
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