Reading about the death of Prince Phillip today — something that, with the best will in the world, can hardly be described as a tragedy; he was 99 years old and had been in poor health for a number of years, with recent photographs of him genuinely looking as if he was rotting already — I find myself remembering the strange way the world felt when Princess Diana died, more than two decades ago.
I’m far from a monarchist; if I’m honest, I don’t really have any strong feelings about the British Royal Family — nor, indeed, the royal family of any country — one way or another. It’s a ridiculous concept that doesn’t make much sense to me, but I could and have said the same about countless other things, so it very much falls into the “eh, whatever,” category for me despite others’ very strong feelings on the matter.
Despite this, I remember feeling very unnerved by things about Diana Spencer died. It wasn’t her death that upset me, as much as it was the strange calm that descended upon the city I was living in the aftermath; I remember with surprising clarity walking through the streets in the afternoon after her death was announced, and it being supernaturally quiet, with newspaper pages floating along the sidewalks as if I was walking in some kind of shitty movie.
There really was a feeling of, if not genuine grieving, then a depressed loss in the days that followed, as if some kind of existential shift had occurred; it wasn’t anything that made sense, especially for those of us who didn’t buy into the hastily constructed myth of the “people’s princess,” a phrase as meaningless as it seemed on first listen. It was a very strange thing to be surrounded by, this manufactured grief, and something that felt unnatural and alienating in ways that still don’t really feel explainable now.
I wonder if that’s the mood in the U.K. right now, or if everyone is instead moving on to more sensible responses — like, to be honest, almost anything of actual importance at all, really.