Picture from The Guardian (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/theatre/2007/02/dead_overrated.html)
A lot of people seem to think that the inquest into the death of Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul in Paris over 10 years ago is a waste of time and money.
There appears to be a very strong prevailing view amongst Grauniadists and Istas that even discussing the incident is a low-brow Daily Express style indulgence and that, clearly, the crash was nothing more than a tragic accident. They say that Henri Paul was 'high on a cocktail of alcohol (twice the legal limit, which is 2 pints, isn't it?) and prescription drugs' - which is an excellent tabloidese cliche. Diana was not wearing a seat belt and the Merc, pursued by the baying hounds of pap rats (the stenographer's interpretations are being beamed on to a big screen, and occasionally, he or she must mis-hear the words) slammed into a concrete pillar in a Parisian underpass. End of. Anyone who suggests any form of conspiracy theory should don their tin foil hats and join the ranks of the feeble-minded, the UFOlogists and the like.
Many of these sentiments are couched in anti-royalist terms, along the lines of: "I didn't care then, and I don't care now. Why should this woman take up so much of our time and so much of the public purse when she is dead? She took up more than her fair share when she was alive."
I disagree. I am not (as many of my friends will attest) by any stretch of the imagination a royalist. My feelings towards the blue bloods are similar to my feelings towards the Church (I make the distinction between Catholics and Protestants in my views mainly on the grounds of attitudes towards birth control. Protestants are simply slightly less evil in my opinion) and its bloated oligarchy. Namely, that there should be no place for either institution in an enlightened society (not that we live in anything approaching an enlightened society) and, though I would probably stop short of advocating public physical violence against those in the upper echelons of either, I do occasionally daydream about it.
My feelings specifically on the British Royal Family are as follows. They are anachronistic leeches. They are responsible for maintaining the status quo; for helping to widen the gap between rich and poor in this country; for the disproportionate representation of a minority pursuit within the political system; and for fostering the hateful concept that some babies are born better than others (from Wikipedia: "The king or queen of the United Kingdom is one of the last monarchs still to be crowned in the traditional Christian ceremonial, which in most other countries has been replaced by an inauguration or other declaration.") They are shown extraordinary deference by seemingly intelligent people, and they are just so personally objectionable. Who could imagine sharing a pint with Prince Charles, or trying to have a conversation with the Queen? The whole thing is little short of ludicrous.
When I heard about the death of Diana, I was in bed, woken by a phone call from a friend to tell me it had happened. Though initially disbelieving, and then mildly shocked, I became quickly bored by the wall-to-wall coverage and very soon resentful that TV programmes I wanted to watch were being cancelled to make way for more live shots and 'analysis' of the event. The day of the funeral was the nadir for me (not that it was probably a high point for Diana, though many people in this country seemed to wallow in it) in terms of what it did to TV programming. I felt as if I was going insane. Around this time (by accident) I also found myself at Kensington Gardens, and was stunned to see the sheer quantity of flowers, and the outpouring of emotion, on display there. I had seen the kind of mawkish patriotism so prevalent in this country before, with the Queen's Silver Jubilee and the Royal Wedding - you know, people from the Wirral who wave Union Jacks and camp out overnight in the rain just to get a glimpse of the Queen Mum ("Ooh, she's a marvel!") but this was something else. It had been taken to another level.
Since then, events have become more interesting. Watching Liz and the others squirm around in their efforts to come across as normal people in their grief for Di was great fun, but was as nothing compared to the fantastic circus of Paul Burrell. The fencing of baubles, the 'dark forces at work in this country' quote and the allegations of Prince Charles raping a manservant contain elements of farce and high drama of which Joe Orton himself would have been proud.
Mohammed al Fayed has been a supreme irritant to the Royals, his rant to Keith Allen on Channel 4 rating amongst the best TV you could ever hope to see.
And that is the reason why I think the inquest should go ahead. With every question, noses are pried a little further into the rat's nest that is Balmoral, Buck House, KP, Sandringham, Windsor and all the others. Another chink in the armour is slowly inched open.
Even better, if there really was a conspiracy, what an excellent story it would be. I have been mildly castigated for finding allegations that Prince Philip ordered the murder of his daughter-in-law amusing, but I'm afraid that I do. The idea of brake fluid traces being found on the livery of one of the royal footmen, of equerries slipping out of sight in the Parisian night, is simply too delicious. I am watching the inquest with interest.