After Diana: `I felt sorry, but everyone went over the top'

There is no lack of sympathy for her family, but, a year on, few people feel that Diana's death changed Britain

Cayte Williams
Monday 24 August 1998 23:02

Sarah Bowler, Chief Executive for Relate

The death of the Princess brought a lot of people up short because a death too early makes us all think of our own mortality. There is definitely a change of attitude among the media, politicians and opinion-formers. For example, the government is setting up Parentline, a helpline for parents to get everyday advice. It's the sort of help that granny used to provide before the extended family disappeared.

Diana was a role model for a lot of people and probably her television interview on Panorama raised a lot of awareness, but I think society was already changing as a whole.

One of the difficulties is that people are trying to hitch that all on to an icon, who is Diana. We are changing because of a great interest in how relationships work and what is needed to support them.

I think that there is a heightened awareness of the effect of an individualistic society. There was a cult of the individual all about self-expression, personal growth and self development. Now there is a great understanding of human beings to be inter-dependent, which is acceptance of the individual's right to share responsibilities. And that would have come about whether Diana was there or not.

I think people are horrified at some of the violence among very young children and the impact in parts of country of juvenile crime. It's the effect of seeing homeless young people on the streets of our cities begging. If you grew up in the Fifties and Sixties you didn't see that.

Sarah Copp, 16, student, Neath, South Wales

I thought Princess Diana was a wonderful lady, but she died on my 16th birthday. I was really happy when I got up that day, but then I saw the television. I was really shocked. People were going over the top and everyone was talking about the death and how she died. It wasn't nice at all and I felt neglected. I didn't want a death on my birthday. It was really annoying. Everyone was really miserable all day, even when we went out for a meal in the evening.

I suppose people have changed because everybody was united in grief. But I think it was all very superficial really because I don't think anybody has changed. People know about her charity work but people have forgotten about her a bit. There's been a lot of talk but no action.

However, I do think people have changed the monarchy because she was more of a people's princess. She was more normal and they did seem to turn against her a bit. I think people made her out to be immortal like a goddess and I think people took it really hard when she died. They couldn't believe it. She was a household name. She'll go on forever in a way, because the work she did is being carried on and people still think of her.

Simon Gough, 38, recruitment consultant, Bridgwater, Somerset

I don't think Diana changed anything. The funeral was just mass hysteria like that old American shmaltz.

Everyone just carries on as they have always been: good, bad and indifferent. There is a canonisation of her in the press and people talk about her now in the workplace, about all that she did and what a wonderful person she was. They do it now more than when she was alive. She's never going to die in people's memories.

I felt desperately sorry for her family when it happened. But everyone went over the top with Diana candles and the rest.

As a nation we haven't changed since her death. We've not lost our cynicism. Maybe barriers were broken down at the time, but this whole stiff upper lip thing is only a thing for the upper classes anyway. Ordinary people have never had that.

The backlash with the monarchy had been going on for a long time before Diana died, over tax and whatever. They don't care about people, they only care about their popularity.

I think that the Queen was pushed into a corner. Charles should not have been at the coffin, she was his divorced wife. I think what happened at the time was purely a PR exercise. The Royal Family won't change, but why should they? They are who they are.

They way people treat Diana now is a bit like the old Elvis thing. What a great career move. They only way her death has changed peoples lives is that they are sick of her and the Royal Family, especially with that dreadful tacky Channel 5 drama that was on the other night. It was an insult to her.

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