Memories of Diana

7 September 1996

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Even though the polls in Britain seemed to confirm what some historians, experts and republicans have been saying for sometime, that the monarchy had become less consequential to the British people and as a result they cared less about what the royals did or how the royal family acted, yet many still adored the Queen and the Windsors. However, a newspaper poll found that fewer than 50% questioned said Britain would be worse off without a royal family, quite a decline over the past three years.

For many Scots, Welsh, Irish, even English and millions in Europe, the United States and indeed around the planet, the British royal family's embarrassments and foibles are regarded as good entertainment. They followed and follow the British soap opera loyally and avidly, almost insatiably and Diana was the super superstar. Diana, the Princess of Wales, was irreplaceable! Diana was simultaneously the exceptional outsider and royal.

The Americans, the world at large and the entire British people, I reckon, genuinely loved and adored her. I would not be altogether surprised if her sudden and tragic death would make the British royal family much less popular because the accident would add to the view that Diana was treated badly if not actually hounded out by the British royal establishment.

For most people, including the British, the "public and unique" send-off was no consolation. Diana deservedly merited more.

The fact that Prince Charles accompanied the body of his former wife home from Paris, and was at Westminster was touching, laudable, noted and appreciated by the icon's admirers all over the globe. I should think it never did once cross his mind that he would perform this unimaginable role in his life. What Charles did was honourable given the bitter open warfare between him and Diana following their unhappy union.

Diana's ripening beauty was admired by millions, including many good and gifted men of her time. Her fairy-tale romance and marriage to Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, now considered by many a diminished seat and her not-so-secret affair with former English Calvary officer, Major James Hewitt, gave this ripe beauty far more pain than happiness. The last one was with Mohamad Emad (Dodd) A1-Fayed, 41, an Arab-Egyptian Muslim.

Diana met Dodi Al-Fayed, heir to billionaire Mohamad Al-Fayed, owner of Harrods, the British prestigious store. During that short period she did appear to have found happiness in the company of the Egyptian. Then, as suddenly as they began, they met their brutal death - he instantly and she three hours afterwards, never regaining consciousness.

A1-Fayed was buried within 24 hours of death complying with strict Muslim beliefs that burial should take place as soon as possible. He was laid to rest at the Muslim cemetery in Brookwood, Woking where many British Muslims and other Muslims are entombed. Dodi was a nephew of the Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.

Chafing under the outmoded rules and the constraints imposed by the palace and court protocols, her marriage was doomed largely contributed by menage-a-trois, (a marriage wherein there are three parties). She was cast with insecurities, and became fragile as her health suffered. She obtained a divorce with a good settlement, and started to enjoy a lifestyle she had always wanted to pursue. But she was not destined to live long to enjoy the elusive love and happiness she thought she had at last found. The life of the world's truly superstar was quite brief; her superstardom lasted just 16 years.

Diana was a good role model for young women for she was breathtakingly fresh, unconventional and unconforming by any standards. She epitomised youth, vitality and the mode of her time. And she was very devoted to whatever she undertook to do and proved it by taking real personal risks in pursuit of her different causes: AIDS, land mines, children, and homeless people, to mention just a few.

She insisted her two handsome sons - William and Harry - be raised as normal as possible and one can observe that the two princes really enjoyed being together with their mother during their various outings and vacations.

Diana said she wanted to be a Queen of the Hearts and she achieved it in life as well as in death with her wide following throughout the globe. She has captivated millions as no one has this century. Her beauty, easy manner, warm heart and her ability to connect naturally and empathetically with peoples of all stations were legendary.

My wife and I consider ourselves privileged to have met this beautiful and caring princess. Diana was easily the best known goddess of this century who was always concerned to reach out to people in trouble and distress.

Diana was passionate in whatever she did. She did not do things simply for photo opportunities, and I like to remember her as a modern princess of great beauty and charm.

I have never seen anything like this in my life: the most visible outpouring of profound international grief. I feel, like every one else, that a beacon of light has been brutally and suddenly extinguished.

Sweet sleep, dear princess, and farewell! You will always be famous for simply being Diana. You will live for a thousand years to captivate millions with your legacy of good living and legend extraordinaire.

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the
United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )