Back in 1997 on this day early in the morning I was up and working in our old sitting room (now post extension the dining room) watching the early morning news. It was the day Diana (then titled Princess of Wales) died in a car crash. The news was only a few hours old at the time and it was notable enough that I walked to our bedroom to mention the news item. I regarded it as interesting, but to be honest a so what question. To my mind the death of Georg Solti five days later was more significant, but that became forgotten in the hysteria that followed. It became dangerous in public (or in my case in the home if my wife was around) to question the significance of the event. My attitude then and now was along the lines of, OK its a pity, terrible that anyone gets killed that young, but there are more important people who have made a greater contribution to the world , who deserve both greater praise and celebration. After the funeral and the fairly cynical use of the situation by Tony Blair and others (I really liked the2006 film The Queen for its Downing Street portrayal) we got the various conspiracy theories that continued to consume public funds for years afterwards.
A year later I was dreading recurrence of what I can only describe as maudlin sentimentality, but interestingly the whole thing turned out to be a one off, one time event. Whatever my feelings about what should have been, at the time what was became a dominant political story, but it was ephemeral in nature. I still wonder about it from time to time. Why that immense outpouring of public grief at the time, but then forget it all a year later? Was it an example of catastrophe theory? A single grain of sand (maybe not putting the flag at half mast above the palace) that means the whole pile collapses? How vulnerable is the body politic to similar sudden and irrational outpourings of sentiment? Was the cause of republicanism advanced or reversed by the event? I do like the fountain mind you