where were you…

…when Diana, the Princess of Wales died? I can only think of one other person for whom that question has been asked…John F. Kennedy, our President. I know I was in school when he died, because classes were suspended. Instead we all walked to church to pray for him. In Diana’s case I think I was asleep, and learned with disbelief, about her death early the next morning.

Unlike President Kennedy‘s death of which so much has been written, documented, and analyzed in books and on TV shows, Diana’s death has been treated more gingerly it seems, at least here in the U.S. Either that, or I didn’t bother to read about it in the tabloid magazines because of their tendency to sensationalize the facts to make a profit. I didn’t set out to learn about them even now, they just fell into my lap, by way of Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story

I chose to share this with you because as in life, in death Diana’s beauty remained intact. Her serene appearance belied the inner damage that resulted from the horrific car accident.

It took almost an hour to free Diana from the wrecked car. She appeared to her rescuers to be the least injured of the four: only a slight trickle of blood from mouth and nose indicated that anything was wrong. Yet her internal injuries were life- threatening. After the initial impact the Mercedes had spun away, rotating at high speed before crashing into the tunnel wall on the right. At the first impact Dodi and Diana had been thrown violently forward against the backs of the front seats (not having worn their seat belts), then the rotation of the car had flung them around against the interior. When the Mercedes finally stopped, pointing back towards the mouth of the tunnel, Diana was slumped on the floor, against the back of Rees-Jones‘s seat, facing down the tunnel. Her legs were twisted, one under her, the other on the seat. With her eyes closed and her face undamaged apart from a cut on her forehead, she looked beautiful and as if she were asleep. But the shock of the impact and deceleration on her body had displaced her heart from the left to the right side, severing the pulmonary vein and rupturing the pericardium (the protective sac round the heart), flooding her chest cavity with blood. …

Photo of the Chapel at the Pitié-Salpêtrière H...

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Yet to the first doctor on the scene, Frederic Mailliez, who had been driving through the tunnel in the opposite direction, she ‘looked pretty fine…I thought this woman had a chance.’ He put an oxygen mask over her face while attempting to clear her air passages. When the ambulance arrived, Dr. Jan-Marc Martino, a surgical anesthetist and resuscitation specialist, worked on Diana. Before they could transfer her to the ambulance, she suffered a heart attack. She was given cardiac massage and a respiratory tube was inserted into her mouth. Then she was lifted on to a stretcher and placed in the ambulance which crawled its way with a police escort to La Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, stopping once on the way as Diana’s blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level. She was put on a ventilator. ‘She was unconscious and under artificial respiration. Her arterial blood pressure was very low but her heart was still beating. X-rays revealed the horrific state of her internal injuries and afterwards she suffered a second heart attack. An incision in her chest revealed that bleeding was coming through a hole in the membrane round her heart and later that her superior left pulmonary vein was torn. Adrenalin was administered and cardiac massage kept her heart going but only just; there was no independent rhythm. Diana was to all intents and purposes already beyond help. Electric-shock therapy was administered, to no effect. At 4 a.m. (3 a.m. British time) on the morning of 31 August, she was pronounced dead.

Charles, Prince of Wales outside the White Hou...

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And while it was rumored at the time that Diana allegedly spoke a few words to Prince Charles, that was obviously not the case. “When Prince Charles and Diana’s sisters arrived in Paris, they found Diana looking serene and composed in death, wearing Lady Jay’s black cocktail dress and shoes, her hair freshly blow-dried, the rosary which Mother Teresa had given her in her hand. After Charles and her sisters had spent time alone with her, she was placed in a coffin for the return journey.” 

According to those who accompanied the hearse through the streets of Paris, there was an outpouring of support for the People’s Princess.

‘They do it differently in Paris–they applaud. With the coffin, Prince Charles, the President, millions of police by now,…and the vicar (the Rev. Martin Draper), the whole of Paris was applauding…

Sadly Diana’s body was not received with the same honor bestowed upon it by the Parisians and the British masses, when it came to rest in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. Good friend, and the woman thought to have been most like a mother to the princess, Lucia Flecha de Lima flew from the U.S., where she lived, to London, upon learning of Diana’s death. To her amazement the coffin lay “…in lonely state, without flowers.”

Flowers for Princess Diana's Funeral

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‘The first day when I arrived at the chapel there was not one single flower on her coffin. Then I said to the chaplain that if he didn’t allow flowers in, I would throw open the doors of the chapel so everyone could see her there without a single flower and all the flowers outside that people had brought. I said, “Tomorrow I’ll come back with my flowers for her.” And I came every day. And from then on I brought flowers, not only mine but from friends and people who knew her. And I went to a flower van outside the Michelin restaurant (Bibendum in the Fulham Road) and he said: “What are they for?” And I told him, and every day after that he insisted I take flowers to her for nothing…’ ‘And they (the flowers) were around her, over her coffin representing the flowers of the world, and I said to Prince Charles, “These flowers represent the people, thousands and millions of flowers all around the world that people want to give to Princess Diana.” I’ve never felt like that in my life. I have experienced personal loss…but the public’s reaction was extraordinary…’

 One other item mentioned in Bradford’s book caught my attention. While Queen Elizabeth seemingly struggled with her decision to recognize Diana’s death with the pomp and circumstance demanded by the people, personally she too had to deal with the passing of her former daughter-in-law, the mother of the queen’s beloved grand-children. Bradford wrote of Dickie Arbiter, the most experienced of royal officers who had worked for the Waleses before their divorce,

The coffin passing through one of the streets.

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Contrary to public perception, the Queen was, Arbiter said, ‘very grief-stricken’ by Diana’s death. ‘On the day of the funeral when the Royal Family came out of Buckingham Palace as the gun carriage carrying Diana’s coffin passed, the Queen bowed. And the only other time that the Queen bows is at the Cenotaph.’

…there are the rumors…there are the myths…and then there’s…the truth…hugmamma.

Rose, Diana Princess of Wales

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…princess diana…england’s rose…

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Cannes film f...

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the last word…diana

President and Mrs Bush greet TRH The Prince of...

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Am almost done reading Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story. It really does seem to be the definitive last word, with contributions from previously unheard sources. Now that Diana, the Princess of Wales, is no longer at the center of the maelstrom that had become her life, and Prince Charles and Camilla have moved on together into older age, and Prince William has married his Kate, those “in the know” are inclined to come forward with the truth, as they witnessed it.

“The definitive biography of the Princess of Wales. In this authoritative account, Bradford paints a revealing, accurate portrait of a complex woman flawed and adored in equal measure.” —Daily Telegraph

“A very sad story. Bradford tells it eloquently, but it’s her admirable detachment that leaves one pitying all, not one, of the characters involved.” —Antonia Fraser, The Guardian Review

“Forget about tawdry revelations–Bradford takes us to the heart of the People’s Princess, examining her relationships with her staff, friends and family as well as her children, husband, lovers and the royal family. Authoritative and admirably balanced, it draws on new sources and firsthand accounts.” –Tatler

Minefield warning on the Golan Heights, still ...

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I won’t rehash the past, I’ll leave that to your potential to purchase the book, but I did want to call attention to the last charitable cause Diana undertook, which no individual seems desirous of undertaking in the wake of her untimely death years ago. And that is the detonation or better, extinction, of land mines. While those who sought to undermine the Princess of Wales would’ve labeled her a “basket case” or a “nut job” for walking through fields which had been cleared of landmines, there are those who would beg to differ.

According to William Deedes, a traveling companion on Diana’s landmine research trips to Angola and Bosnia

she sought to address herself to various issues in the world which were being neglected. There were millions of them (landmines) scattered round the world. They lurked wherever there had been conflict. A few charitable organisations were engaged in locating and lifting them, but it was discouraging as well as dangerous work because more mines were being constantly laid in the wars bedevilling Africa. The manufacturers of these mines represented a huge vested interest, which reduced the chances…of an international ban…defence forces in Britain, America and much of Europe saw the mines, properly laid and charted, as legitimate means of defence…

…’Nobody took a blind bit of interest in landmines until she (Diana) came along,’…

Deedes went on to say that the journalists who accompanied Diana on these trips were accustomed to “royal visits in daintier surroundings than Angola” and were, therefore, ” ‘dismayed’ by the state of the capital, Luanda, with stinking rubbish piled high in the hot streets.

 Sunday Times reporter Christina Lamb, a young, veteran war reporter cynical of Diana’s efforts there, had a change of heart after witnessing her work firsthand. “She was impressed: despite the heat and the smells Diana had come to work and work she did. Angola, said Lamb, was one of the few remaining places in the world where most people had no idea who she was, and therefore it was all the more remarkable to see the effect she had on the amputees she went among. ‘The Red Cross whisked us from one hospital to the next,’ Lamb wrote,…”

Nelson Mandela.

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each with ever more horrific scenes of skeletal figures with missing arms, missing legs, and blown off heads–victims of some of the 16m landmines scattered round the country. Many of the injuries were so gruesome I could not bear to look, despite years of Third World reporting. But Diana never turned her head away. Instead, she had something I’d only ever seen before in Nelson Mandela–a kind of aura that made people want to be with her, and a completely natural, straight-from-the-heart sense of how to bring hope to those who seemed to us to have little to live for.

Her cynicism ” ‘wiped out’,” Lamb went on to say ” ‘That Lady-with-the-Lamp performance wasn’t just for the cameras,’ “

Once, at a hospital in Huambo when the photographers had all flown back to their air-conditioned hotels to wire their pictures, I watched Diana, unaware that any journalists were still present, sit and hold the hand of Helena Ussova, a seven-year-old who’d had her intestines blown to pieces by a mine. For what seemed an age the pair just sat, no words needed. When Diana finally left, the young girl struggled through her pain to ask me if the beautiful lady was an angel…At the end of the Angola trip Diana said that the lasting image she’d take away was of that terribly ill young girl.

Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute

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…one for the ages…diana…the people’s princess…hugmamma.