It's hard to believe that Diana Spencer and Prince Charles were married 30 years ago when I was (gasp) twenty-five. Now here we are, with young William marrying Kate Middleton. This wedding is a strange flashback for me, and while I'm not really a royal watcher sometimes I can't help but get caught up in the lives of people I will never know. In the three decades from that wedding to this, so much has happened to those who roam the halls of Buckingham Palace.
I had the strange experience of being in Paris the night Diana was killed. My company was organizing a conference there and I was in my hotel bed, hard asleep, when wailing sirens woke me. The noise was so severe, in fact, that I turned on the television to see what was happening and learned that Diana had been in a car accident. I watched for a short while and then shut the set off, assuming she would recover. When I got up the next morning I was stunned to learn she was dead. Breakfast downstairs was surreal. Like September 11, all of us were of one mind, rubbing our foreheads at the incomprehensible. Could it be?
Not only was I in the same city at the time of Diana's death, but I was in the hotel where she and Dodi were scheduled to attend the wedding of a mideast princess. The hotel staff had been prepping for the wedding all week and was buzzing with gossip after the accident, with wedding-goers insisting Diana and Dodi were planning to announce their engagement and her pregnancy at the event. Like everybody else in the Princess Diana media swirl, I never knew the truth about the rumors, and never will. But whatever the situation, I thought of her with an aching heart, and without envy of her fame. How awful, to be pursued by photographers to your death, and how weird that I was only blocks away when it happened. That morning, August 31, 1997, I bought a Paris newspaper and tucked it in my suitcase, a macabre memento I suppose, and proof that I was there, within earshot when poor Diana left us. Her wild ride began with a magnificent dress, walking down the aisle in front of 750 million television viewers. It ended in a Paris tunnel. With sirens.
I extend best wishes to Kate, who I hope knows what she's in for; and to William, who is almost painful to look at, so much does he resemble his mother. May they fare better in both their public and private lives than those who came before.