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Diana's death puts heat on Charles and royal family

British newspaper headline September 2, 1997
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT)

In this story:

LONDON (CNN) -- Judging from the headlines, Prince Charles has no place to hide in a kingdom that may someday be his to rule.

"Charles can no longer hide from reality," reads one. "Could Diana yet destroy the monarchy?" says another.

CNN's Bruce Morton reports
icon 2 min., 57 sec. VXtreme streaming video

Indeed, destroy the monarchy?

"I don't think that the end of the monarchy is going on," says Ian Hargreaves, editor of the New Statesman.

But another newspaper, the Independent, says people do blame Charles in some way for Diana's death. To some, it says, he is "a marked man."

A marked man for the failure of the fairy-tale marriage. A marked man for his long-playing dalliance with another woman, a woman who, at the time, was also married. A marked man for the chill and the stiffness he affects, and a marked man who is the most visible symbol of a most dysfunctional royal family.

"It has had its problems, partly because of the media and the intrusiveness of the media," says author Ben Pimlot. "It is not a model family, because there are no model families."

Flowers left by mourners

The British took Diana's side

Nevertheless, people took sides: some blamed Charles for the end of their marriage and some blamed Diana, Pimlot said. "There may be some feeling that if they were still married it wouldn't have happened."

"Most people think Charles behaved worse than Diana in their marriage," said Ian Hargreaves, editor of the New Statesman. "People take sides in such things, and the British people seem to have taken hers."

As for Diana, her complaints about the media obscure the fact that she -- better than any of the royals -- knew how to handle the media and bend them to her purpose.

"There is certainly some fear that without her the royals will cease to be popular," said Anne Applebaum of the Sunday Telegraph. "But remember, the royal family goes on."

It is certainly not in trouble now. Neither political party would abolish it, and Diana has taught it how to adjust in a modern, changing world.

"Diana showed how it can modernize the way it talks to people, the way it uses the media," said Hargreaves. "If the monarchy is not capable of understanding these lessons, then it will be on a path of perpetual decline."

Diana was the alternative queen

Queen Elizabeth

No less a royalist than the curmudgeonly essayist Auberon Waugh, he of the estimable Waugh literary dynasty, says Diana was a compliment to the queen, no matter how distant their relationship.

"She was an alternative queen, and each did the other proud," says Waugh.

Waugh notes that in her most revealing interview, Diana told the BBC two years ago that "I'd like to be queen in people's hearts, but I don't see myself being queen of this country."

The reaction to her death, Waugh said, shows she achieved her goal. Indeed, he says, he has not seen such an out-pouring of grief and affection since the death of John F. Kennedy.

"It's quite rare for a whole nation to show such genuine, genuine grief," he said. "She will be greatly missed."

The monarchy has survived a lot over the years -- a mad king, a beheaded king, an abdication -- and those who study it say it has the ability to survive this as well. Whether it does may depend on its ability to connect with its subjects in the direct, human way that came so naturally to Diana.

"The royals are certainly in a position to regain their popularity," Hargreaves said. "Whether they will have the personality and skills to do it remains to be seen."

Correspondent Bruce Morton contributed to this report.


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