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Britain marks death of a princess as "Diana effect" stays on

By dpa news     Aug 30, 2007 in Entertainment
London - This time, there is no question that Queen Elizabeth II will interrupt her summer holiday in Scotland to travel to London to pay tribute to Princess Diana. This Friday The Queen, 81, will lead a congregation of 500 at a memorial service to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.
By Anna Tomforde
Dodi al Fayed, Diana's boyfriend at the time, and French driver Henri Paul, also died in the crash, which 10 years on remains the subject of conspiracy theories.
A decade ago, the queen's initial reluctance to leave her Scottish seat at Balmoral to share in the nation's deep mourning for the "People's Princess" prompted accusations that the British monarchy was "cold and heartless."
"The mood of that week 10 years ago shook the ancient institution of monarchy to its foundations. It is easy to forget how volatile and eerie those days seemed," said Matthew D' Ancona of the Spectator Magazine.
Anti-monarchists, estimated at around 30 per cent of the population, even interpreted the public anger directed at the queen as a "republican moment."
But they now admit that their hopes have been dashed. "Republicans have been struck down, at least temporarily," said Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland.
While the monarchy "adapted to survive" in what the Spectator called the "great royal fightback," the effect Diana has had on the British way of life lingers on.
It was, in the end, Diana's shadow that forced Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and her long-time love rival in the marriage with Prince Charles, to pull out of the thanksgiving service for the princess in the Guards' Chapel of Wellington Barracks in London.
Camilla, 60, who married Prince Charles in 2005, will be walking alone in the Scottish mountains during Friday's ceremony that will be watched by millions around the world, British press reports said.
The Duchess was "furious and upset" at the way her role in the ceremony had been handled, reported the Sun.
"Camilla once again feels like Public Enemy No. 1," a source told the paper.
Diana's sons, William and Harry, who will address the memorial congregation, were said to have backed Camilla's presence.
But "friends of Diana" expressed open relief at the withdrawal, describing Camilla's planned participation as "astonishing and inappropriate."
Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, whose fiery eulogy 10 years ago embarrassed the monarchy, will be present at Friday's ceremony, as will Elton John, the singer who performed "Candle in the Wind" at her funeral on September 6, 1997.
"After Diana's death, subtly, and without saying very much about it, there was a general agreement that things should be done a bit differently, that more experiments should be made and that a less formal style should be adapted," said Mary Francis, a former private secretary to the queen.
"The chosen direction after the Princess' death was to make the monarchy just a little bit more Diana-like," said one commentator.
This manifested itself in the Palace's "clever public relations" handling of events such as the 2002 death of the Queen Mother, and the celebrations of the queen's jubilee in the same year, which was marked by a rock concert at Buckingham Palace.
Brian May, lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, performed his rendition of "God Save the Queen" on the palace roof.
"After Diana's death, the soap opera continued - but the royal family learned how to adapt to the world of modern celebrity rather than to recoil from it," said d'Ancona.
The price for the transformation was, however, that the "mystique of the monarchy has gone for good."
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