Diana - The Last Farewell: She lived in search of love; she died not knowing how much her people loved her, writes Suzanne Moore

Things will never be the same again; for her family, for the people of this country, for the press. The profound outpouring of emotion over Diana's death will continue. Tears are being shed by those who have never cared much about the Royal Family, by those who would much prefer a Republic, by those who dismissed her as trivial, self-obsessed and generally silly when she was alive. The effect that this uneducated woman has had on our national psyche is only just beginning to be gauged.

Icons do not die. Diana's afterlife is only just starting. Forever frozen at the height of her beauty, Diana, like Marilyn, another troubled goddess, will not age. She will continue to glow, forever young, forever vital, in the hearts of those she touched. For the pop princess, the people's princess, the media princess, understood the power of touch, the language of intimacy, of a hug, a gesture that was always more eloquent than mere words. The most looked-at woman in the world grasped early on the impact of visual communication. She was a child of her time. The manner of her death brings with it a dark and terrible symbolism. She died because of the world's appetite to carry on looking at her, to see her in her most intimate moments whether she wanted it or not.

This tragedy, like something out of a JG Ballard novel, is a thoroughly modern one, for Diana was a thoroughly modern woman; her life and death embody so many themes of the late 20th century. She resided at the apex of so many of our obsessions: our preoccupation with image, the nature of fame, the search for personal growth, the changing nature of family life, the quest for depth in a world of superficiality, the oscillation between victimhood and empowerment, the continuing muddle between what is private and what is public, the struggle between duty and desire.

Diana represented these contradictions. She lived them and at times spoke openly of them. She made no secret of the dysfunctional family that she was born into and even less of the one that she married into. She sought, as so many of us do, to remedy this through her relationships with her children. To hear that these poor boys, on the morning of the terrible news, were ferried to church in royal cars to observe protocol - no matter how they felt - is truly sad. She surely would have wanted her boys to weep openly, not to have to maintain the ghastly facade that had already nearly destroyed her.

As Jacques Chirac said, she "was a young woman of our age". Had she been born 20 years earlier she would have been expected to put up with her husband's infidelity, to grin and bear it. In refusing to do so, she laid open the cynical workings of monarchy, patriarchy and hereditary privilege that had used her as little more than a brood-mare. When the fairy tale fractured we saw another story altogether, one that many, particularly women, could relate to. She had her 20th-century problems - bulimia, the disease of depression, low esteem and guilt - as well as the much pilloried 20th century desire to "find herself", to give her life meaning.

This search for depth was mocked because it appeared to sit so uneasily with her lifestyle - a whirl of lunches and work-outs and designer dresses. Those very same men who dismissed her as "barmy" are now seen in television studios up and down the land regaling us with tales of her specialness.

In offering up her own emptiness, she became a void for us to project our fantasies into. She was a saint, supermodel, an international superstar and a sex symbol all in one deliciously toned body. We knew that she, having known what it was not to be loved, could give love freely. For all her manipulation of the media, her compassion was genuine, a gut reaction rather than a thought-out strategy.

Her significance was that she brought into public life an intensely personal language of pain and distress and love and affection. She not only spoke it but insisted that it had a place in the buttoned-up discourse of civic life. Such language, coded as feminine, is too often dismissed as inappropriate, as somehow inferior, as far too emotional to be worth taken seriously.

She was not a traditional political figure; but in realising that her life had been shaped by circumstances which were beyond her control, that a role had been written for her that she could no longer play, she ruptured the divine order, triggering the desire for a new kind of monarchy.

Endeavouring to live both inside and outside the institution that made her who she was, she short-circuited the relationship between the monarchy and its subjects through another powerful institution - the media - which was as interested in her weaknesses as it was in her strengths. Her instinctive populism meant that she was always the biggest show in town. However we are to define star quality, she had it. The singer George Michael once said that what makes a star is not having that little bit extra but having something missing. Diana's appetite for attention appeared insatiable. Her quest for privacy was seen as impossible, as if she had signed a Faustian pact. In making the private public, she sacrificed her personal life. The real Faustian pact, however, is between sections of the press and its readers who in their millions wanted to see every tear this woman shed.

Camille Paglia wrote of the atavistic religious emotion that the cult of Diana stimulated. Now she is dead, the canonisation of the martyr will assume epic proportions. Yet we should remember that Diana died after dinner at the Ritz with her new lover. She was living her extraordinary life to the full.

She wanted to be taken seriously and the whole world is finally taking her very seriously indeed.

In that fateful interview, when she and Charles announced their engagement and were asked if they were in love, Charles made the awful mistake of questioning what love meant. Diana, we always felt, knew what love meant. Now that she is lost, never to be replaced, our public grief shows she was loved more than she ever knew.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

    £18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

    £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future