DURING her life, Diana, the Princess of Wales, elevated the role of princess to one more befitting a rock star than royalty. She refuted the fuddy-duddy and embraced fashionable chic; she brought a sense of style to a position in which she was expected to be dutiful.
She wasn't the first royal to tweak the establishment. Princess Margaret had done it before her. But Diana captured the imaginations, and in her death the hearts, of Britons who indulged in an orgy of grief when she died in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997.
The 10 years since her death have done nothing to diminish her hold upon her own country and, indeed, the United States. Though the anniversary of her death is still a couple of months away, she would have celebrated her 46th birthday July 1, and the television and publishing worlds are in overdrive as they ramp up to mark the occasions.
NBC's Matt Lauer has interviewed the princes William and Harry; Tina Brown, formerly of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, has written a book, The Diana Chronicles, which is receiving wide attention for the insights it gives into Diana's life; and a massive concert is being planned by William and Harry for July 1 in London in Diana's honor.
These are no doubt only the tip of the Diana iceberg as memorials of all stripes are rolled out to honor, or cash in on, her memory. Some may reflect on the era of Diana with as much aplomb and superb acting as The Queen for which Helen Mirren won an Oscar. Many will likely be of less artistic merit.
What also is in no doubt is that Diana still casts a long shadow both in Britain and pop culture at large. The people's princess, as she was famously eulogized by Prime Minister Tony Blair, became almost iconic in her freshness and modernity as contrasted with what was viewed as a rather hidebound, old-fashioned monarchy.
She in many way represented a new Britain, one less concerned about tradition and more obsessed with celebrity.
As the interviews, the books, and the television programs continue through August, will we learn more about Diana? Possibly, but it hardly matters. Much like figures as diverse as Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy, she transcends her time, and in death is larger than life.
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