Diana 1961-1997: World reaction - 'Do the English blame the French for killing her?'

The appeal of the Princess proved universal
Click to follow
The Independent Online
At the Pont de l'Alma in Paris, the crowds stood largely silent, reading the messages on the flowers people continued to lay above the underpass where Diana died. Many had watched her funeral on television before making their pilgrimage to the scene.

Laurence Renard, a 35-year-old secretary, grasped an English woman's hand in floods of tears. "Tell me, do the English blame the French for killing Princess Diana?" she asked. Unlikely, she was told. "We cared, you know, not all the French people, but a lot of us did genuinely care. I was glad it was on TV. Everything that mattered was said. If you have love in the centre of your life you ennoble life."

In a hairdresser's in the 17th arrondissement, the talk was of nothing but the funeral. "All our clients cancelled this morning. Everyone wanted to watch," said the proprietress, Nicky Rubicone. "Diana was greatly loved in France. Why? It's difficult to say. A little because she was beautiful and yet unhappy but still tried to do good around her. Also because here for the first time was a member of the British royal family who was chic."

"In my quartier, there was nothing moving when the funeral was on," said her assistant, Viviane Denis. "All you could hear were the televisions turned to the funeral ... I cried. When Elton John sang, I cried. His words were so beautiful."

Not just Britain, but the world took part yesterday in the mourning. "She was a Kannon-sama," said a young Japanese woman, referring to the most popular deity of Japanese religion, the Goddess of Compassion. Her most familiar manifestation is that of a young woman with a gentle face and a lotus flower in her hand, the protector of mothers and children, and of the weak and needy.

Lyn Roseman, a separated mother of two children roughly the same ages as Diana's, said in Australia: "I'm a republican, and I never thought much about Diana when she was alive. But her death rocked me in a way I never thought it would. The good in her shone through. She had an ability to bring royalty to people. I think this will hasten the republic debate along here."

Every British mission around the world was swamped last week by local people queueing to sign books of condolence. At the British consulate in Johannesburg there were white madams and their black maids, and groups of red-eyed, gingham-dressed girls from private schools. Though the majority of visitors were white, there was no shortage of black mourners.

The funeral began at prime evening television viewing time in Australia and in Japan. In the US, millions rose before dawn or stayed up all night to watch the blanket coverage on every network. The streets of Paris fell unusually quiet, as an estimated 15 million people in France - one in four of the population - watched the funeral procession and service on television. Even in India, shocked by Mother Teresa's death the previous day, state-run TV and radio were broadcasting the funeral, while in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, five of the six national networks carried live broadcasts. The only major nation to miss the event was China: the 700 million people with access to a TV were shown nothing of it by the state broadcasting network.

"More than any other time I can recall, the global village has stopped to reflect - not just on her death, but on our own mortality," the evangelist Billy Graham told a memorial service in Washington's National Cathedral.

President Bill Clinton, whose wife Hillary attended the funeral, said he had cried while watching on television. In his weekly radio address he linked Diana and Mother Teresa, saying: "Their lives were very different, but ultimately bound together by a common concern for and commitment to the dignity and worth of every human being, especially to those to often overlooked: the desperately poor, the abandoned, the sick and the dying."

It was not only in Britain that Diana's concern for the disadvantaged people broke taboos. In Japan, where disability is treated as a matter of shame, her embrace of a disabled child also served to emphasise the aloofness of the Imperial Family.

In San Francisco 14,000 people held a candle-light rally in her memory. Cleve Jones, the creator of the Aids memorial quilt which remembers tens of thousands of victims, said to applause: "We who are living with HIV and Aids especially remember Diana's courage during the darkest days of the epidemic, when her country and our own were swept by bigotry, hatred and hysteria.

"It was then that Diana visited a hospice and with ungloved hands embraced a gay man dying of Aids. That image of simple compassion flashed across the world and changed the way the world saw Aids."

Comments