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Author Topic: Goddess Diana, An Essay  (Read 1602 times)
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Duchess Crimson
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« on: July 10, 2012, 02:30:50 am »

Hi everyone,

I'm very new here; I introduced myself in that topic area. As promised, below is the essay I wrote for a college course in mythology. Please keep in mind it is an academic paper, and I don't necessarily personally subscribe to all of the assertions I make in this essay. A requirement of the assignment was to be objective, so I tried to maintain that as much as possible. I post it here, because I thought it would be interesting and bring up lots of topics to discuss if you like. oh, one other caveat: at one point I assert that Diana enabled her son to marry for love alone, which, thanks to reading this forum, I now question the validity of that statement.  tehe

 So, as promised, here it is below, my academic research paper on my favorite topic in the world, Diana, Princess of Wales: (Enjoy! I hope.)

Diana, Princess of Wales as a Semi-Mythical Modern Goddess
From its sensational beginning in the gentle warmth of the sunshine in the yard of a London preschool, to its horrific conclusion at the foot of a pillar shrouded in the cold darkness of a Paris tunnel, the public life of Diana, Princess of Wales was a source of unrelenting controversy. It was part myth, part fairytale and part soap opera, and it ended abruptly in a series of events that some observers have described as similar to a ‘Greek tragedy.’

As a historical figure who embodied the sometimes contrary mythic heroic principles of chastity, beauty, glamour, compassion, promiscuity and tragedy, this essay will argue that Diana herself was – and continues to be – a semi-mythical goddess of modern times.

With great fanfare, American news network NBC advertised its in-depth coverage of the royal wedding of Diana to The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales as The Wedding of the Century – ‘When England’s future King says “I do” a shy 20-year-old girl turns into a royal princess. Watch the fairy tale come true!’ (Clayton, 83.) During the service, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Robert Runcie declared that the wedding itself “is the stuff of which fairytales are made.”
 
Diana’s brand positioning from the start was calculated for her to become much more than a mere storybook princess – she was specifically chosen by courtiers and senior members of the royal family (Seward, 81) possibly for qualities she had in common with another Diana – the ancient Roman goddess of chastity, the moon – and the hunt.

            Even though morality had changed dramatically by the onset of the 1980’s — the standards of the day no longer required unmarried females at the age of majority to remain intact — a controversy surrounding the state of Diana’s virginity almost derailed the marriage, which caused some observers to wonder why, in the modern post-sexual revolution era, a royal bride was still required to be “pure.” In fact, so grave was the media-manufactured controversy that Diana’s uncle, Lord Edmund Fermoy, was pressed into reluctant service by her family to issue a public statement affirming his niece’s virginity. (Campbell, 106.)

            It all seems so silly now. Even then, observers questioned the appropriateness of a public debate over a young woman’s private sexual history. Beyond the obvious publicity advantage in cultivating a ‘Disney-esque’ image for the future princess, perhaps there was another, more cynical reason for the official declaration of Diana’s “purity” – the royal establishment needed to create a goddess worthy of worship, for if one member of the family were to be so popular among the people as to be venerated by the public, then surely the fortunes of the Royal House of Windsor could be secured.

Indeed, the popularity of the monarchy had declined significantly in the decades following the coronation of Her Majesty in 1952. The royal family, which by 1981 was headed by an un-glamorous and rather boring middle-aged couple, was accused of being too expensive and not providing any discernible value for money; moreover, the monarchy’s relevance and value to a modern society was beginning to be called into doubt, especially after the social upheavals 1960’s and then the severe economic recession which followed, straddling the end of the 1970’s and the start of the 1980’s. Three years prior to the royal wedding, The Queen’s own sister, The Princess Margaret, divorced. This bode ill for a monarchy whose moral credibility was based on almost a century-and-a-half of ostensibly secure, albeit dull, royal marriages. Even worse, there were murmurings of republicanism, whose voices were becoming audible in the public discourse. Therefore, something had to be done, and quickly. It was decided that the public had to be distracted from the unrelenting social and economic problems of the day. Diana was the solution – beautiful, young, fresh, and pure, just like mythical Diana.

            Chastity was but one of many attributes unmarried Diana Spencer shared with the ancient Roman moon goddess. Goddess Diana was often portrayed as a young woman, aged 12-19. Diana Spencer was aged 20 at her marriage. In the statue Diana Huntress, by Jean-Antoine Houdon, Louvre Museum, Paris, Goddess Diana is portrayed as having an attractive face similar to Aphrodite with a tall body, slim, small hips, and a high forehead. Likewise, (princess) Diana was renowned for her athletic build, sparkling blue eyes, attractive face, fair skin and glamorous appearance.

            It is interesting to observe that Queen Mary’s Cambridge Lovers’ Knot tiara – which, upon her wedding, was loaned to Diana for her lifetime use – is visually reminiscent of a quarter moon. Set with diamonds on a low semi-circular band, nineteen graduated drop pearl pendants are suspended dangling from diamond lovers’ knot bows spanning the top of the diadem. Coincidentally, pearls are associated with water, which is associated with the moon, which, in turn, is associated with the ancient Roman goddess.

            The Goddess Diana was believed to secure the succession of kings by protecting women and infants during childbirth. Interestingly, the one absolute requirement in the royal career of Diana, the princess, was to ensure the succession of the British monarchy by providing a royal heir (or two) to the throne.

            Additionally, Diana, Princess of Wales, embodied the mythical heroic principle of compassion. Widely known for her emotional vulnerability, eating disorder, marital problems, fondness for children and her open, friendly, and tactile style of conducting public engagements, Diana was a beloved and popular figure particularly among the lower strata of British society. Similarly, Goddess Diana was venerated especially by the poor and lower classes of ancient Roman territories.

Diana, the princess, began her public life undertaking engagements chosen and arranged for by courtiers. As she matured and as her marriage disintegrated, her commitment to humanitarian causes deepened – perhaps as a result of her personal suffering. She said often that she was called to minister to her ‘constituency of the rejected.’ By the end of her life, she enjoyed a kind of secular sainthood, recognized for acts of compassion she performed throughout her public life.

In 1986, Diana was photographed shaking the hand of an AIDS patient, which is widely credited with having helped dispel some of the misconceptions and stigma of the disease. Furthermore, however valid the criticisms of the conduct of her behavior within the royal marriage or her personal life, even her harshest detractors admit there is no evidence her involvement in charitable and humanitarian causes was anything but sincere. ( Campbell , 199.) So great, in fact, was her popularity among the British underclass that by the end of her life British Prime Minister Tony Blair famously referred to her as “The People’s Princess” as he gave an impromptu eulogy the morning she was killed.

In fact, so great was the public’s affection for her, in the immediate aftermath of Diana’s death, the perceived lack of any official response by the royal family to her death resulted in a constitutional crisis for Queen Elizabeth II. Some observers in the media wondered if the monarchy would survive at all, so great was the outpouring of anger over what the media characterized as harsh, cold treatment by the Windsors of the people’s beloved princess, both during the contentious royal divorce and the in the tense days between her sudden death and elaborate funeral.

            Suffering and tragedy are two aspects of mythic hero qualities Diana embodied. From the outset of her public life, Diana suffered press intrusion and harassment, rarely escaping the lenses of prying photographers, even in her “off duty” private time. (Fairley, 114.) Even worse, the breakdown of her marriage – a difficult process for anyone to endure – was regularly catalogued and analyzed in the press. Embarrassing stories about her mental and physical health issues, including her admitted eating disorder, were published regularly alongside photos demonstrating fluctuations in her weight accompanied by constant appraisals of her hair, clothing, makeup, and jewelry.

The last years of Princess Diana’s life were filled with rancor, drama, tragedy and intrigue. In the run-up to the divorce, she was accused of damaging the monarchy by complaining openly about trouble within the royal marriage. She personally (and secretly) contributed to Andrew Morton’s biography of herself, in which scathing charges of Prince Charles’ adultery and callous treatment of the princess were leveled. Astonishingly, Diana herself was accused of supporting republican demands to abolish the monarchy altogether (Simmons, 75). In 1995, Diana gave a notorious interview to the BBC program Panorama in which she candidly discussed the breakdown of her wrecked marriage, her personal misery and her and her husband’s infidelities. In commenting on Charles’ long-term mistress Camilla Parker Bowles, Diana famously declared “there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” (Bashir, Video.) Following that infamous interview (which, interestingly, was taped on 390th anniversary of the treasonous Guy Fawkes Gunpowder plot, an unsuccessful assassination attempt on King James I of England and VI of Scotland), Queen Elizabeth II ordered the royal couple to divorce – something Diana herself considered a tragedy, claiming it was “the saddest day of (her) life.” (Kelley, 487.)

Following the divorce, members of aristocracy expressed anger with Diana, who defied the conventions of aristocratic marriage which were adhered to for centuries. Aristocratic and royal marriages historically were less about love and more about land, titles, wealth, power and status. After aristocratic and royal marriages produced children (heirs, for the purpose of keeping property and wealth concentrated and within the family rather than having it disbursed among cousins) and passion waned, spouses often discreetly took lovers, while continuing the pretense of marital happiness and thus, maintaining the infrastructure of aristocratic society. ( Campbell , 4-5.)

Sexual promiscuity is yet another similarity Diana shared with mythic heroes. Charles and Diana were both ridiculed in the press for immoral sexual conduct with their respective retinues of extramarital partners. However, Diana, in particular, was characterized as a *lowlife* in the media, having been accused of conducting an affair that was alleged to have broken up a marriage and involving herself with a string of caddish lovers of dubious character.

Moreover, since the monarch is also the secular head of the Church of England, the royal family had been held up to subjects as paragons of morality and decorum. Courtiers believed Diana’s public revelations of her personal misery, marital discord, and her own and Charles’ adulterous affairs were humiliating, undignified and damaging to the Crown’s moral credibility, and, therefore, tantamount to treason.

In turn, Diana accused some members of the royal family and courtiers of insensitivity to her plight, engaging in a program of systematic persecution against her within the palace and of undermining her marriage to Charles by tacitly (and, in some case, overtly) supporting his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Charles’ friends said he and other members of the royal family tried to support Diana, but, in the end, just couldn’t understand her problems and accused Diana of being temperamental, manipulative and psychotically determined to ruin Charles’ moral claim to the throne.
Ironically, then, Diana’s unwillingness to tolerate an empty, broken marriage for the sake of two socio-economic classes that had rejected her, may have actually strengthened the monarchy in the long run.  Diana demonstrated that antiquated forms of aristocratic and royal marriage may no longer work in the modern world, especially since the media no longer allow the involved parties to hide relationship difficulties. In doing so, she single-handedly changed the marriage customs of the monarchy, which enabled both her ex-husband and her son to marry for love, rather than having to engage in additional loveless marriages with incompatible partners for the sake of dynastic considerations alone.

Furthermore, her informal style of interacting with the public (for which she was harshly criticized in some circles at the time) proved popular and effective, eventually earning for Diana a grudging respect by courtiers, and influencing the royal family to make efforts to be less formal with subjects and involve themselves in causes once thought to be inappropriate for royal patronage – including homelessness, drug addiction and diseases such as AIDS.

 However, those changes didn’t occur overnight. Animosity and mutual resentment between Diana and individual members of the royal family were at high ebb the last year of her life, fueling suspicion among her supporters that she was murdered to prevent her from issuing further scandalous revelations. The events surrounding her death were dramatic, tragic and drenched in controversy, which, more than a decade after her death, only seem to add to her legend.

Though there are several theories circulating that speculate on the causes of her death, some of which allege nefarious conspiracies on the part of individual members of the royal family (or, in some cases, domestic and/or foreign governments), two data points are generally accepted as fact: on the night of her death in that Paris tunnel, her car was chased by photographers, and her injuries would likely not have been life threatening had she simply been wearing a seatbelt. Indeed, one of the protection officers assigned to the princess during her marriage opined that the fatal injuries Diana sustained – possibly even the accident itself – were a direct result of amateurish overconfidence, poor decision making and incompetent lapses in judgment within the Al-Fayed private security organization. (Wharfe, 244-245.)
 
            Perhaps Diana could be compared to Icarus. Like Icarus, Diana failed in her ambition; as a result of her divorce from Prince Charles, Diana was no longer constitutionally entitled to become Queen Consort upon Charles’ assumption of the throne. Like Icarus, Diana failed to guard her own safety. She rejected her professional Scotland Yard police protection officers and in seeking to free herself of their restrictive presence, refused their advice and service. Like Icarus, Diana attempted an escape – but in her case she tried to outrun a relentless hoard of photographers. Like Icarus, she flew too close to the sun – she had flirted with danger in the past by taunting the paparazzi, but Diana tempted the fates once too often and this time, her phenomenal popularity caught up with her.  Ultimately, Diana herself was the catalyst ingredient in a caustic witch’s brew that devoured her life one fateful August night beneath the scornful glare of a pale and wizened alabaster moon.
In what was, perhaps, a final, fitting twist of irony (or disclosure), Diana was publicly compared with that other Diana – the ancient Roman goddess. In his eulogy for Diana, Charles, 9th Earl Spencer blamed the media for his sister’s death, saying “a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.” (Spencer, Internet.)
Associations with the ancient Roman goddess don’t end there. Diana’s remains were placed beneath an urn surrounded by oak trees on an island in the middle of a lake on her family’s ancestral estate. Oak trees, islands and lakes are strongly connected to ancient worship of the Roman moon goddess.

During her lifetime, observers weren’t sure which parts of Diana’s version of her life and marriage were myth and which were fact. Even now, royal biographers, journalists and historians continue to debate the causes of the breakdown of the royal marriage. As yet, there is no consensus on whether Diana was the victim of a loveless marriage entered into by a cynical, reluctant Charles or if she, herself, was selfishly immature, manipulative and mentally unhinged, or whether it was a blend of the aforementioned or altogether different. Whatever the truth, the fact that no one outside Charles and Diana knows for sure only adds to the tragic mystique of Diana, a woman who never could seem to find love and acceptance, even though in public she seemed constantly surrounded by it.
Whichever version of history one chooses to believe, it is largely agreed that Diana brought prestige and popularity to a decaying institution and introduced modern notions of marriage into the monarchy. The contradictions of her life have mixed with fact and fiction to create a myth larger than the woman herself. She was at one time or another cast by the media as fashion icon and secular saint; virgin, mother or *sleazy*. Sometimes she was a hapless victim; other times a vindictive ‘loose cannon.’ Nevertheless, she was for a long time beloved by the masses. She was respected by the people for her many virtues, and accepted with all her faults. Her massive appeal ensured the survival of the monarchy, and yet that same popularity nearly destroyed it.  The royal family couldn’t relate to her, yet she taught them to relate better to the people.

Her tragic early death, immersed as it was in mystery and drama, secured her place among a pantheon of semi-mythical modern gods whose lives were robbed of the extraordinary potential they had yet to fulfill: Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy and John Lennon, to name a few. Though Diana’s legacy will probably be debated for decades yet to come, the fact of its existence will likely never be in doubt.

By virtue of the lingering questions about the facts of her life and death, her glamorous image, compassionate presence and tragic lost loves, the secular worship of modern Diana continues among her loyal cult – the media, her admiring public, and the many individuals into whose lives she brought a touch of glamour, gentleness, love, compassion, and charm, even if but for a moment.
In the decade-and-a-half since her death, the ancient, modern, real and imagined Dianas have merged, creating a semi-mythical modern goddess whose powerful magic emanates not from historical fact, but the stuff of fairytale, legend and myth: an ambrosia of enduring hyperbole blended with human nature and all manner of melodrama, with wordless hints of a kind of humble, heartfelt, and human truth.

                                              Bibliography
 
Bashir, Martin. Panorama Interview of HRH Diana, Princess of Wales .        BBC/Internet/Video: 1995 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RKg7bVnIOo
 
Campbell, Lady Colin. Diana In Private: The Princess Nobody Knows. New York : St.               
             Martin’s Press, 1992
 
Clayton, Tim; Craig, Phil. Diana, Story of a Princess. New York : Pocket Books, 2001
 
Fairley, Josephine. Crown Princess: A Biography of Diana. New York : St. Martin ’s       
             Press, 1992
 
Kelley, Kitty. The Royals. New York : Warner Books, 1997
 
Seward, Ingrid. Diana, An Intimate Portrait. Chicago : Contemporary Books, 1997
 
Simmons, Simone. Diana, The Last Word. New York : St. Martin ’s Press, 2005
 
Spencer, Charles, 9th Earl. Eulogy for Princess Diana of Wales . Video/Text/Internet:  1997 http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/9thearlspencerdianaeulogy.htm
 
Wharfe, Ken; Jobson, Robert. Diana: Closely Guarded Secret. London : Michael O’Mara
            Books Limited, 2002
 

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YooperModerator
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2012, 11:15:15 am »

Nice I hope that the press wont steal any of it because it's a very printable story! Imo  thumbsup
It wouldn't be the first time they do that: read and lurk for some inspiration!
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