The following piece is something that I wrote back on September 12, 1997. I thought it quite appropriate to post this in honor of the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. I think it’s pretty interesting to look back at this piece and reflect on my thoughts about marriage and life ten years prior. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
Fairy Tales and “Happily Every After”
It was my first wedding anniversary on the day the Princess of Wales died. My husband and I were in bed enjoying the cable television we had installed just three days before and had planned to stay in bed all morning. As we flipped through the stations, we could not help but notice that every station seemed to be talking about Princess Diana. “Probably some corny tabloid news,” I remember joking with my husband as he continued to change the channels rapidly. Then one of the bylines caught my eye.
“Wait,” I told my husband. He stopped and read what I had seen: “The Death of Princess Diana.” We both looked at each other in disbelief, listening to the broadcaster as she told of the care accident and the attempts to revive the Princess. “This is all a big joke,” we kept trying to reassure one another. Desperate to find out if the news was true, I climbed out of bed and ran to the front door to retrieve the Sunday paper. The shocking truth hit me as I read the front page.
At that moment, for reasons I couldn’t comprehend, I began to cry. My husband looked at me strangely. I think he, too, couldn’t understand why such a tragedy would make me grieve. After all, it wasn’t as if she was a close friend or family member or even an acquaintance. She was just the ex-wife of a prince and the mother of the future King of England.
I followed the news faithfully that week. I flipped through the television countless times trying to obtain as much information as I could. I just couldn’t seem to get enough. My husband, busy at work, wasn’t able to keep up with me. In all honesty, I believe he just wasn’t as interested as I was. Yet, he woke up with me at 4 am on the day of the funeral and watched it with me.
It reminded me of another time, sixteen years back, when my mother woke my brother and I up at that same un-Godly hour to watch the “Wedding of the Century.” She took all the blankets from our rooms and spread them out on the floor in front of the television. My brother quickly went back to sleep. I, on the other hand, was 9 years old and was so excited to watch an actual Cinderella wedding occur. After all, how often does one get to watch some lucky girl become a princess?
I watched in fascination as Lady Diana’s horse-drawn carriage traveled throughout the streets of London, anxious to see what her dress was like. My eyes widened in awe when I finally saw her walking down the aisle with such a stunning gown. “I’m going to have that same gown when I get married,” I recalled telling my mom. My mother responded jokingly, “Do you want a train as long as that, too?” I nodded my head vigorously. “And are you going to marry a prince as well?,” she asked. I lifted my head with childhood arrogance, smiled and said, “Of course!” I couldn’t wait to grow up at that time and marry my prince and live happily every after.
Of course, Diana’s fairy tale wedding did not have a happily ever after. The shy 20-year old princess seemed to only have a few moments of blissfulness, not to mention privacy, after her wedding. She literally grew up in front of the world, the center of news and gossip. And I, at whatever age I was at the time, tended to gravitate toward news of her. Ever since her wedding, I envied her and secretly dreamed of living her glamorous lifestyle. I remember other schoolmates also pretending to be her, confirming that I was not the only girl who envisioned a life “like Diana.”
However, as the tabloid news exploited her throughout the years, my interest in Diana’s life began to decline. I could no longer separate fact from fiction. And, in reality, I was so busy with my own life that I could no longer fantasize of being like Princess Di. I was in college when Diana’s marriage fell apart and didn’t pay too much attention to it, as I was already romantically involved with my future husband at that time. I couldn’t hold it in my heart to be true that I could find romance while a princess’ own romance was ending. The same year Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, my very own prince proposed to me. And finally, just one month after Diana’s divorce was finalized; I had my version of a fairy tale wedding. Regardless of all of this drama in the Princess’ life, I still dreamt that my own life would eventually read just like a fairy tale, as Diana’s once did.
But one year after my own wedding, I could no longer imagine having a life like Princess Diana. How could I celebrate my first wedding anniversary after all that had happened? For one week, I grieved for her and her children. I grieved for the loss of her “fairy tale” existence. It was strange that after all those years of following Diana’s life so closely and then stopping for a period of time that I, as well as many other women, should once again be utterly enthralled with her.
My brother, whom I spoke to the night before the funeral, also voiced that same sentiment. He couldn’t understand why thousands of people could grieve over someone they hardly knew, leaving flowers at Diana’s home and standing in line to sign condolence books. My brother couldn’t comprehend the “fascination” most women had over Princess Diana. In that sense, my brother forced me to question exactly why I, myself, was grieving so much. While the news portrayed that the world was grieving the loss of the “People’s Princess” or the “Queen of Hearts,” I knew my grief felt more than just that. But during that conversation with my brother, I could not pinpoint exactly why I was grieving differently.
And then came that morning that my husband sat next to me and watched Diana’s funeral. We watched Princess Di’s procession move through the streets of London, much like it did sixteen years before on the way to her wedding. This time, however, the horse-drawn carriage carried her casket adorned with flowers and topped with a card addressed to “Mummy.” We felt our hearts go out to Prince Charles and the Princes William and Harry as they walked that last mile behind the carriage to the Abbey. We held each other as I sobbed throughout Elton John’s heart-wrenching version of “Candle in the Wind.” We cheered for Diana as her brother delivered that brutally honest eulogy to the people of England and to the rest of the world. And afterwards, in my husband’s arms, I finally felt some peace.
I realized at that moment that I was grieving something that “should have been.” Diana’s life should have been longer, should have been more blissful. She should have been able to have a successful marriage, should have lived to see her son become King. She should have had that happily ever after that fairy tales were made of. But she didn’t, and instead her life ended much like a bad Shakespearean tragedy.
Diana’s death made me realized that all is not a fairy tale. That even though I could dream about having a life like a princess, it would never “just happen.” Fairy tale endings needed to be earned, achieved, and worked at diligently. Then, once obtained, cherished fervently. And of course, I found out that happily ever after literally did not mean forever.
It was at that moment, with my own Prince Charming sitting next to me, that I finally felt a personal closure. I remember kissing my husband at that moment, vowing to make my very own fairy tale end happily ever after.
It’s been 11 incredibly wonderful years with you …
You’re definitely my “Happily Ever After!”