Will Diana's death change British monarchy?
September 6, 1997
Web posted at: 2:36 p.m. EDT (1836 GMT)
From Correspondent Brent Sadler
LONDON (CNN) -- Queen Elizabeth II of the royal house of
Windsor has been seen as the very backbone of the royal
family's commitment to ancient ritual, duty and observance of
tradition. But the death of Princess Diana changed that
perception -- a change that may well have been brought about
by an awareness that royalty should listen to the calls of
the common people.
Diana's tragic death led the queen to turn protocol upside
down and address the nation with a moving tribute to the late
"No one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of
others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will
remember her," the queen, visibly shaken, said in her
televised address to the nation.
This tribute was paid by a sovereign who had for the most
part of her reign enjoyed the approval and admiration of a
majority of her loyal subjects.
But that admiration had begun to suffer over the past few
years, and British citizens began to call on the royals to
The British public became saturated with the royal family and
its never ending problems and headline-making scandals, which
the queen referred to in a royal speech, when she described
the past 12 months as an "annus horribilis," a horrible year.
The examples set by members of the house of Windsor appeared
to erode public support for the monarchy, particularly the
behavior of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who became
increasingly estranged. Ironically, at the time of Lady Diana's marriage to the Prince of Wales, it was thought that
she would help the Windsors modernize.
Despite all the marital problems, Diana remained a bright
star with the public, even after her divorce from Prince
Charles and her separation from the royal family.
Some political observers predict that Diana's legacy won't
last, despite her near-celestial status. "She seems to have
been a brilliant comet flashing across the sky. But I don't
think she'll leave much of a trace," commented Times
columnist Simon Jenkins.
But Diana's shadow has already made a dramatic impact: It was
the people's will that the royal family lead the nation in a
more open way in this time of grief. Queen Elizabeth II
listened, and responded by making historic changes in
tradition and protocol by sweeping back to London early, and
lowering the Royal Standard over Buckingham Palace for a
short time as a mark of respect.
Royal family watchers believe that the house of Windsor
behaved in way that Diana herself might have approved. The
monarchy was moving closer to the people, reaching out to the
subjects, helping to soothe the pain.
Constitutional expert Dr. Rodney Barker of the London School of Economics maintained there was nothing new in this change of royal protocol. "Protocol is simply yesterday's
inventions, and institutions like the monarchy exist by
shaping institutions, by shaping tradition, by shaping
protocol. There is nothing new in that to respond to events."
Even though the monarchy is going trough a difficult phase,
the house of Windsor's troubles pale next to the pages of
British royal history. Almost 350 years ago, Charles I was
beheaded, and British subjects saw 11 years of civil rule
under Oliver Cromwell. This marked the only break in the
1,000 years of British monarchy.
Britain's Charles II was finally restored to the throne by
the will of the people, just as future kings and queens
continued to rule by the will of the people.
The British public's reaction to Princess Diana's death
exposed a thick vein of sentiment -- emotions which some say
could help strengthen the monarchy.