I hope you will indulge me a bit today as I go a little bit off the genealogy trail to share this treasure, for today I am thinking of July 29, 1981.
I had been married myself only a few weeks when Lady Diana married Prince Charles in St. Paul's Cathedral. I was one of millions who awoke at 4:00 am to watch the festivities. I had begun my "Diana" collection a few months earlier, quite innocently enough. Newly engaged, I was watching the CBS Evening News when a brief report began picturing the Prince of Wales and a beautiful young woman dressed in a brilliant blue suit. As they were shown strolling hand in hand, the story went on to describe their engagement and gave the woman's name as Lady Diana Spencer. The next day in the newspaper, a photo from that press report appeared and I thought it might be nice to have a copy of it for my "wedding scrapbook" to show something that was going on in the world during the time of our engagement. I thought it would just end at that, but, boy was I wrong!
Lady Diana, the lovely, young, kindergarten teacher caught the imagination of the whole world and "royal wedding" fever began to spread. I decided to start a scrapbook about the wedding itself and there was no shortage of items with which to fill it. One scrapbook turned into two, three, four......
I also starting buying other souvenirs; plates, dolls, stamps, books and the tea towel pictured above.
After the majesty of the wedding, came the "baby watch" and the births of Prince William and Prince Harry. But, it was soon quite obvious to everyone that the royal marriage was not a happy one. By the time of the official announcement of their impending divorce, no one was surprised, although it was very sad. Now, we watched Princess Diana begin a life as a single woman; much wiser and no longer the innocent young lady she was when we first came to know her. When she spoke of the fears she had prior to her marriage, she said her friends had told her she could not back out of the wedding because "her face was on the tea towels". I have to admit when I read those words I felt very sad. How trapped she must have felt by the expectations of the entire world.
When Diana died in Paris that Labor Day weekend, I cried my heart out. Her funeral took place during one of my regular work days and those of us in the office sat around the television and watched. There were several "twenty-somethings" who worked with me and they expressed confusion as to why Diana's death was "such big news". We had lost famous people before. Why was Diana so special?
I can only speak for myself, but this is what I think.
My generation, maybe more so than any other, was raised on the fairy tale. The story of the beautiful princess meeting her prince, falling in love and living "happily ever after" was a staple in our lives. We had the Disney "Big Three" in Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. In the 1960's we were even given Rodgers and Hammerstein's brunette version of Cinderella in the form of Lesley Ann Warren. (Who was my special favorite!) So, when Lady Diana appeared, it was almost like a fairy tale come true. It was even spoken in their marriage ceremony, I believe by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said, "This is the stuff of which fairy tales are made. A Prince and Princess on their wedding day." We wanted to believe it was true love. We wanted to see the "Happily Ever After". So, when it ended so cruelly, so abruptly, it was truly painful. We felt like we knew her. We were pulling for her to be happy because she had been treated so unfairly and her death was almost too much for people to take. Maybe that's why the emotions were so great.
My scrapbooks became larger over those weeks as I concluded Diana's story. I'm glad I started my collection almost 30 years ago now, and I don't think I could ever part with any of it. It's a remembrance of a special time and it truly is one of my "treasures".