September 5, 1997
The reaction to Princess Diana's death has grown and astounded audiences around the world. Margaret Warner leads a discussion with five journalists about local reactions to her death.
JIM LEHRER: Diana, the Princess of Wales, will be eulogized and buried tomorrow in Britain. The reaction to her death in the United States, as well as Britain and elsewhere, continues to grow and astound. We will explore that with our regional commentators right after this update report from London. The reporter is Lindsay Taylor of Independent Television News.
LINDSAY TAYLOR, ITN: The tone for the Queen's address was set this morning as the royal family left Balmoral, Prince Charles at the wheel, Prince William and Harry sitting with their cousin, Peter Phillips, in the rear. Later, the Queen, accompanied by Princess Margaret, left the castle with Prince Philip at the wheel for the drive to Aberdeen Airport. At the airport the Prince of Wales and his two sons boarded their flight. The Queen gave special permission for them to travel together. Normally, they would be required to fly separately. After arriving at RAF Northolt, Prince Charles took Princes William and Harry straight to Kensington Palace, their mother's home. They saw for themselves the ocean of flowers in her memory. Spontaneous applause helped remove any sense of awkwardness. And there was a warm response to the people's desire to share in the grief and mourning.
WOMAN IN CROWD: Charles!
PRINCE CHARLES: Thank you so much.
WOMAN IN CROWD: William.
PRINCE WILLIAM: Thank you so much.
WOMAN SHOUTING: We love you!
LINDSAY TAYLOR: There was a hug for one well-wisher. Otherwise, it was hard to believe Princes Harry and William are just 12 and 15. By this time the Queen's convoy had arrived in London. As it swept up to Buckingham Palace, the limousine halted at the gates, and the Queen and Prince Philip got out to take in the mass of floral tributes. The crowd reacted warmly, applause where yesterday there had been criticism. The Queen and Prince Philip accepted bouquets and chatted to people in the crowd. They were said to be visibly moved by the tributes to Diana that engulfed them. Above the palace the royal standard was raised. Tomorrow, the union flag will fly at half mast for the funeral. Afterwards, the Queen went to St. James's Palace, where Diana's body has lain before the altar. Inside, she toured the areas where the books of condolence have been signed by so many people who've queued for so long. Then, another walk about into the crowd. Again, the tone was informal, despite the solemnity of the occasion.
MAN: She's our mother, if you like, and we were mourning without her. And now she's mourning with us.
LINDSAY TAYLOR: Outside Buckingham Palace crowds gathered as the Queen made her historic broadcast.
QUEEN OF ENGLAND: Since last Sunday's dreadful news, we have seen throughout Britain and around the world an overwhelming expression of sadness at Diana's death. We have all been trying in our different ways to cope. It is not easy to express a sense of loss since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings--disbelief, incomprehension, anger, and concern for those who remain. We have all felt those emotions in these last few days. So what I say to you now, as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart. First, I want to pay tribute to Diana, myself.
She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness. I admired and respected her for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys. This week at Balmoral we have all been trying to help William and Harry come to terms with the devastating loss that they and the rest of us have suffered. No one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of others, who never met her but felt they knew her, will remember her. I, for one, believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death.
I share in your determination to cherish her memory. This is also an opportunity for me on behalf of my family and especially Prince Charles and William and Harry to thank all of you who have brought flowers, sent messages, and paid your respects in so many ways to a remarkable person. These acts of kindness have been a huge source of help and comfort. Our thoughts are also with Diana's family and the families of those who died with her. I know that they too have drawn strength from what has happened since last weekend as they seek to heal their sorrow and then to face the future without a loved one. I hope that tomorrow we can all, wherever we are, join in expressing our grief at Diana's loss and gratitude for her all too short life. It is a chance to show to the whole world the British nation united in grief and respect. May those who died rest in peace, and may we, each and every one of us, thank God for someone who made many, many people happy.
JIM LEHRER: Now, our regional commentators and to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: And with me are our NewsHour regulars: Mike Barnicle of the "Boston Globe," Lee Cullum of the "Dallas Morning News," Robert Kittle of the "San Diego Union Tribune," Patrick McGuigan of the "Daily Oklahoman," and Cynthia Tucker of the "Atlanta Constitution." Cynthia, what do make of this outpouring of reaction not only in Britain but in this country, can you identify with that at all?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, Atlanta Constitution: No. I can identify with the level the reaction has taken on. It strikes me at this point as a frenzy, a kind of hysteria. And I'm not sure how closely that is related to Diana's death. I think this has become a huge international event that people want to be a part of, no matter how they felt about Diana. I think there's another level, however, with which many women perhaps identify. I think many women, despite the fact that Princess Diana lived a life that we could only imagine, identified with her trials and tribulations. And so I think in a quieter way many women were more deeply affected by her death, myself included, than we would have expected to be.
MARGARET WARNER: And what do you mean, yourself included?
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Well, you know, I'm not a stargazer. I'm not a particular follower of royalty. I don't care about the monarchy. And while I certainly read People Magazine every now and then, I wasn't particularly interested in Princess Diana. But when I heard the news of her tragic and sudden death, I found myself lying awake, thinking about her, thinking about a woman who seemed to have come to a point in her life where she was finally coming into her own, perhaps going to achieve some personal happiness at long last, coming to a sudden end, and it did strike me as very sad.
MARGARET WARNER: Lee Cullum, do you--do you share that? Do you think that her life said something special to women?
LEE CULLUM, Dallas Morning News: Oh, absolutely, Margaret. I certainly do. It said something to all of us who are women. You know, in her life we found our own lives and in her failures our own failures. And in her survival we found our own hope for survival. So, suddenly, when she didn't survive in this life, I think it was deeply disquieting. And people are trying to regain their emotional footing now. And that's why they're so obsessed with this loss and with this drama. And remember what Aristotle said about drama. Its purpose is the purging of pity and fear. And that's what's going on now.
MARGARET WARNER: Mike Barnicle, what was your reaction and what's your reaction to the reaction?
MIKE BARNICLE, Boston Globe: Well, my reaction, I think, was, you know, quite similar to Cynthia's. I found myself struck by how long I dwelled upon the passing of a woman who I certainly didn't know. But I think there are some interesting aspects to her death and this entire past week is sort of a cultural phenomenon. I absolutely agree that women are more touched by this than men, and I think maybe because she became in part of her life one of the world's most prominent and public victims of spousal abuse. She was married to a terribly inward human being, who was cheating on her.
She had obviously made a bad choice in an arranged marriage. She was living in the same house with a quite cold, austere mother-in-law, who certainly gave her no comfort. She was trying to raise two children under difficult circumstances, although many of us can't relate to the wealth involved. But I think a lot of women related to her position in this marriage. And I think that many of us became hooked into this past week's events because in this transient society of ours Princess Diana arrived via the mailman or the television or People Magazine or the daily newspapers. And we felt--many of us--I think that we probably knew her in some ways better than we know our next-door neighbors, who we never see, never speak to, but we felt that we knew a piece of Princess Diana.
MARGARET WARNER: Bob Kittle--
MIKE BARNICLE: It's bizarre, but I think that's maybe part of what's going on.
MARGARET WARNER: Bob Kittle, do you share that--did you see a similar difference between the men you know and the women you know?
ROBERT KITTLE, San Diego Union Tribune: Well, I think it's probably true that women identify more with the travails of Diana's life perhaps than men did. But I think the key is that whether you're a man or a woman we have experienced the ups and downs of Diana's life for the last 16 years. She was, after all, a captive in a cage created by the news media. And in this era of very intrusive mass communications we all experienced the intimate details of her life. So it was hard not to feel that we knew her in some way, even though, of course, we had never met her and even though her life was very different on a sort of global scale than the lives that most of us lead.
We could identify with the human side of Diana. And that's why she stood out, I think, among the members of the Royal Family. She showed her feelings. She showed her human side in a family that even today I think we've seen the rest of the Royal Family, the rest of the Windsors have a great deal of difficulty articulating their feelings in public.
MARGARET WARNER: Pat McGuigan, your reaction and your reaction to the reaction.
PATRICK McGUIGAN, Daily Oklahoman: Well, I think there's a lot of obsession in the media, in particular. People out here--the reactions I've heard have been very interesting, and one of the harshest reactions about Diana's life that I've heard actually came from a woman, and in the same conversation her husband was sticking up for Diana and defending her behavior in difficult circumstances. I think that Americans have always been--because of our historic special relationship with Great Britain--have always been fascinated by the Royal Family. But times have changed and I don't mean in the institutional or constitutional sense. I mean times have changed in that the media and the television medium requires warm personalities. Otherwise, you come across as cold. And the stiffer upper lip sort of approach of the traditional approach of the British royalty is not as functional in this day and age, maybe as it was in another. And Diana went against that personality type. She was warm and loving and engaging and was easier for people in the television age to relate to. I think that's part of it.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, though, staying with you for a minute, Pat, as Cynthia said, that there's something a little untoward about this reaction, or that it's somehow undeserved?
PATRICK McGUIGAN: I don't know about--I don't know about that. I wouldn't be too critical of Diana Spencer.
MARGARET WARNER: I didn't mean her. Excuse me. I didn't mean--
PATRICK McGUIGAN: I think it's important to consider her--to consider her in her cultural context, not only her background but then the one she had to live in, and don't be too critical of us because, you know, at a time that only 20/25 percent of the American people are even reading newspapers it's quite understandable that the television medium will tend to drive what people care about. And that's the case here. Television is obsessed with this, and, therefore, to some extent Americans are.
MARGARET WARNER: Bob Kittle, do you agree that a lot of this is media-driven and that it's a sort of celebrity--sort of attraction to celebrity?
ROBERT KITTLE: There's no doubt about that. A lot of it is media-driven. But, yet, let's also realize that this is a very compelling story--the life of Lady Diana. You know, it was a situation that was filled with pathos, with stardom, with conflict, all of the elements that intrigue us. So her life was a very interesting life. I think it's natural that the news media gave it saturated coverage. And I, in fact, find it hard to think of another person in public life, whether a starlet or a head of state, who for the last 16 years has been the subject of such intensive scrutiny by the news media. So, of course, it's a creation of the media to some extent, but, yet, her life itself was also a fascinating story.
MARGARET WARNER: Cynthia Tucker, let's go back to a comment Mike Barnicle made, where he said he thought that in a way she became a symbol of--the term he used was--spousal abuse. Do you think that's true?
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Certainly spousal emotional abuse, and, yes, I think it is true that many women could identify with Diana's trials and tribulations in her love life, even the mistakes she made. When she found herself trapped in a loveless marriage, with a man who was carrying on a long-term affair, she apparently committed adultery herself. But she had the misfortune of turning to a man who was such a cad that he later wrote a tell-all book about it. So the poor woman did have her share of tribulations. And these are the kinds of tribulations--the cold, uncaring mother-in-law, the struggle to make life very pleasant, as pleasant as possible for her children, and to shield them from her misfortunes--all those things are things that women especially can relate to, I think, which is not to say that men cannot. But certainly around my office there was a marked gender distinction. Some of my male colleagues, in fact, made fun of the women's interest and fascination with the Diana story.
MARGARET WARNER: Lee Cullum, did you find that?
LEE CULLUM: Oh, yes, of course. And, you know, I want to say this about the media and about this--this whole phenomenon. You know, it's not anything new. It's been going on for centuries. People have always projected themselves onto figures larger than they are. In the middle ages it was the saints and people from religion, and then kings and queens, and then heads of government. In our own day it's generally movie and sports stars. And now, with Diana, it seems that we're back to the royals. But in a way she was beyond being a princess. I think that she for women embodied the aspirations of an age when the old discipline had given way to agonizing opportunity. So her struggles were the struggles of women. And it's quite natural that this projection would take place. And it's not anything new. It's just been magnified by the media.
MARGARET WARNER: Mike Barnicle, do you agree with that, that this has been going on for a long time, or do you think this is something larger now in terms of this media-driven nature of it and attraction to celebrity?
MIKE BARNICLE: Well, I think the past week has been, you know, nearly totally media-driven. I think it's--we're crazed by celebrity in this culture, not just here in this country. And much of the coverage of the funeral is certainly media-driven, and much of the attraction to the coverage is because it's so media-driven. And an odd thing happened today. If you believe in God, or a higher being, it's almost as if God tapped the news media around the world on the shoulder at about 1 o'clock this afternoon and said, "It's time to straighten your priorities out. Mother Teresa is dead."
For five straight days we have been making Princess Diana larger than life. She seems like a very wonderful woman, a nice woman. She was 36 years of age. A woman died in Calcutta today who spent all of her life touching the poor and helping the poor. And I'm going to be interested, and I think many Americans would be interested to see if Peter Jennings and Dan Rather and CNN and Tom Brokaw go to Calcutta.
MARGARET WARNER: Cynthia, would you like to comment on that briefly?
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Well, yes. I had a very similar reaction. I thought when I heard of Mother Teresa's death, it's as if God has a sense of humor. What are you going to do with this on the very same weekend as Di's funeral?
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Thank you all very much.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, the Senate's campaign finance investigation, Shields & Gigot, and the death of Mother Teresa.