Friday, May 8, 2015

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana and Me

Once upon a time, I loved Princess Diana. I loved her before she was a princess, when she was about to marry Prince Charles. I was already a budding angliophile, and I thought it was unfortunate that Prince Edward would never be able to marry me since I was Catholic. I would not renounce my faith, not even for him, which I thought was pretty heroic and might earn me a heavenly crown.

Needless to say, I was thirteen years old at the time.

I actually celebrated my fourteen birthday in England. Dear friends of mine--I used to babysit their children, but that doesn't begin to explain my love for them--had moved there, and I spent three weeks visiting them just when the country was getting all spiffed up for the Royal Wedding. All of my birthday presents that year were Royal Wedding souvenirs--Royal Wedding shortcake tin, Royal Wedding soaps, a limited-edition (because quickly recalled by the manufacturer) Royal Wedding horse brass in which Diana's nose was accidentally as long as Pinocchio's.

Back home on the actual morning of the wedding, I spent the night at my friend Julie's house, and, along with her, her sisters, and her mother, got up at 4 am to watch the actual wedding live. I loved Diana's dress (it's only as I type this that I realize how much my own wedding dress, 8 years later, resembled a simplified version of hers) and I loved the little pages and flower girls, and I thought the whole thing was actually the fairy tale it purported to be.

Sixteen years later, the mother of one tiny child and pregnant with another, I woke early to watch Diana's funeral live. My husband thought I was crazy. I told him that I saw the beginning and wanted to see the end. He still didn't understand. I tried to explain how I'd bought into the fairy tale, at age fourteen, and now, at thirty, was bidding it goodbye. Diana was a complicated person. I doubt I would have liked her, If I spent much time with her. Glamour doesn't sway me; I prefer my heroes real.

Which is why I've become a fan of Elizabeth. I never really disliked her, but she used to seem austere and cold compared to her effusive daughers-in-law. Yet Elizabeth has endured, and I give her points for staying power. I give her points for her daughter and her granddaughter, both Olympians in eventing, my tiny beloved sport. (For-real Olympians, also--Britain is an international powerhouse in the sport, which is hugely popular there, and the absolute consensus is that Anne and Zara both straight-up earned their places on the Team.) I give her points for being eighty-nine years old and still riding horses several times a week. I give her points for being nice to her mother and married to her husband (I give him points, too--read a bio of his life and you'll see why.).

Most of all, I love her for the side of her we saw at the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics. Playing herself parachuting into the Games with the latest James Bond--classic. I watched the Opening Ceremonies live in a hotel bar in Greenwich, along with the U.S. Eventing team--it was epic--and the roar that went up when we actually realized it was Her Majesty, dressed in an evening gown and tiara, climbing into a helicopter with her Corgis--

I like that the new princess is named after Elizabeth and Diana. I'm glad Elizabeth's name comes first.