Once there was a Diana Effect. Alas, it is no more

She inspired republican sentiments in people. Politics, however, did not respond

Share

Rumour has long since swirled around the security services’ possible involvement in the death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, and now the Metropolitan Police says it will seriously address the credibility of a soldier’s claim that the SAS had a role in her death on 31 August 1997 in a Paris underpass.

It tells us something that enough people find this spooky possibility thinkable. But nothing would surprise us about the security system wrapped around this most sexist and religiously sectarian (not to mention establishment) institution that still scaffolds democracy in these islands. What is shocking, however, is that a Republic of Britain remains unthinkable to all but a stalwart minority – that Britain can’t imagine a polity which doesn’t bow before the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty.

There was a moment when its sovereignty was not secure: that was the “Diana effect” two decades ago. It would be an exaggeration to say that this effect ignited an anti-monarchist majority. But it shook the monarchy: distaste for royal sexism morphed into dissent. It was fired by the discovery that this aristocratic foundling had been delivered to a prince – and then cruelly deceived by him – before a global audience of millions; and fired by the revelation that the entire Royal Family was complicit; that no one took care of the girl whose destiny was merely to harvest heirs.

The fairy princess was a throwback. Unlike the rest of her generation, her biology was destiny. But when she found her touch, her spirit and finally her voice, then she connected not with her own class but with other women.

The Diana effect was, first, her own righteous indignation: how dare the supposedly modern Prince behave like … well, a prince! How dare the Royal Family behave like … a royal family? By sharing her story, she called the Royal Family to account for their behaviour as human beings: this was their comeuppance.

If the royals wanted to be seen to perform sovereignty, then they had to be seen as normal – as people like us. But they weren’t like us – their manners and priorities indulged patriarchal values that were being thoroughly discredited in popular culture and the law. It was Diana’s exposure of the sexual politics of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha house that pushed this frail contradiction to extremes. That was the Diana effect. But that was then. Royalism has been rescued by the middle-class Middletons and by the loyalty of Britain’s political parties.

The Diana effect animated an inchoate republican sentiment of sorts. But there was no answer from Britain’s political parties. They are royalists and they never understood that sexual politics is not soap opera, that the personal is political. There is no Diana effect now.

Twitter: @beatrixcampbell

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific