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29 August 2017

From Princess of Wales to Queen of Tat – the peculiar commercialisation of Diana

The psychics' princess. 

By Ed Jefferson

This Thursday will mark 20 years since the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales – as you may already know if you’ve glanced at one of several hundred Diana-related stories that have appeared in the press over the last two weeks alone.

The Princess died in a car crash after trying to elude paparazzi. In supposed memoriam, every aspect of her life and death has been freshly raked over by the world’s media. Absolutely anyone with any connection to Di has been rolled out: her chef, her astrologer, even her handbag designer. We’ve even heard from the Princess herself, thanks to various psychics who’ve continued to have the occasional post-mortem word with Di about her son’s romantic choices, Brexit and the possibility of a revolt against the crown

Derbyshire’s Psychic Rita even says she could have saved Diana – if only the Princess had checked her voicemail.

And then there’s fiction. Diane Clehane’s Imagining Diana, published this week, documents what could have happened had she survived the crash (spoiler alert: she eats lunch, flirts, and gives out awards). This isn’t even the first such novel – Monica Ali’s Untold Story did the same thing in 2011: neither sound as exciting as a suggestion on the Alternate History internet forums of a world where both Diana and Kurt Cobain survive, get together, have five kids, and then are sadly killed while visiting the World Trade Center on 9/11. 

Can’t read? Don’t worry, there TV Diana tributes a-plenty for you too: as well as umpteen documentaries, next week there’s “Diana & I”, a BBC drama about how we, the little people, coped with her death. Stay tuned for next year’s “Feud: Charles and Diana”, a definitely tasteful take on the last year of her life from the creator of Glee and American Horror Story.

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Obviously there’s 20th anniversary merchandise. Why not buy a collectible coin, the Diana comic book, or an extremely becoming t-shirt? Perhaps the greatest tribute possible took place on eBay last week, where someone sold a RARE Princess Diana doll. A strictly limited edition porcelain number by masters of tat Franklin Mint. The Princess is depicted smiling gracefully despite some mishap in the intervening years having resulted in the loss of her right arm, and most of her clothes. Sold for 25 dollars plus postage. It is definitely what she would have wanted.

On the big day itself, throwback mourners can use the latest technology to immerse themselves in the event. Stay tuned to the “Diana Day by Day Twitter” account to relive every horrible moment! Stick on a YouTube video of the fateful morning’s news coverage for maximum morbidity! Stand nude in the middle of your huge collection of Diana memorabilia, put “Candle In The Wind 1997” on repeat and start bellowing along: “GOODBYE ENGLAND’S ROSE!”

It should go without saying that what happened on 31 August 1997 was a horrible event – and given the scale of the original reaction, the level of interest 20 years on isn’t exactly surprising. Who gets to decide what the correct intensity of coverage of celebrity death anniversaries is anyway? 

Still, as someone who also lost a parent very suddenly in the summer of 1997, I do occasionally catch myself feeling a bit of sympathy for William and Harry. Even two decades on, it’s a shitty enough thing to have to deal with without the entire world nosing at it for no particularly good reason. Then I go back to supporting the anti-monarchy revolution Diana’s ghost is apparently so worried about.

Perhaps the solution is simply to expand the coverage, to include the people as well as the Princess. Upon the 20th anniversary of my own death, I want as many questionable press stories, commemorative coins and alternate history novels about my life as possible. The more tawdry, tacky crap in memory of me, the better. If there isn’t a nude, armless porcelain doll of me on eBay, every psychic in the land is going to hear about it.