Diana’s Legacy: A Reshaped Monarchy, a More Emotional U.K.

As an example, Mr. Freedland pointed to the queen’s brief, witty appearance in a film for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, in which she greeted the actor Daniel Craig in his guise as James Bond and then appeared to parachute with him into Olympic Stadium (the first part was real; the parachuting was done by a stuntwoman.)

The new generation — namely Diana’s two sons, William and Harry, and William’s wife, Kate — has put a youthful, modern (at least by their standards) spin on what it means to be a royal person in 2017. They exude asexual wholesomeness (in the case of William and Kate) and bad-boy cheekiness (in the case of Harry), and give the appearance of working alongside, not in opposition of, public opinion.

They present as both curiously formal — Harry and William in their tailored suits; Kate in her dress-and-hat combos that make her look 20 years older; the royal children’s nanny in an amusingly old-fashioned uniform — and relatively normal, considering how not-normal their lives are.

Diana was considered disloyal and unhinged, an unguided missile, when she went on the BBC in 1995 to talk about her emotional distress. (“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”) In a sign of how much things have changed, William and Harry are marking the anniversary by speaking publicly about their mother — with royal approval.

Her death also marked a turning point in the history of Britons’ relationship to their own ids, ushering in an era in which people have new license to express themselves and feelings can weigh more heavily than reason, Mr. Freedland said.


British tabloids after Diana’s death accused the queen of heartlessness.

Associated Press

“The reaction to her death is a preview of the Brexit landscape, in which emotion trumps expertise,” he said. “It was a shock to people — we didn’t think it was part of the British mind-set — and now, after Brexit, you can see there was something growing there, a willingness to give two fingers to the experts.” (Instead of using their middle fingers, Britons use what is known as a two-fingered salute.)

Public opinion polls suggest that nobody is particularly fond of Prince Charles, who at 68 is still waiting for his chance to become king. But they also show that the royal family, led by the seemingly indestructible 91-year-old queen, endures as a comforting unifying thread, providing a constitutional underpinning for a nation whose quirks include the fact that it has no written constitution.

“The royal family is key to our constitution,” Geordie Greig, editor of The Mail on Sunday, which publishes its share of royal-related articles, said in an email. “It provides a permanent and historical foundation going back more than 1,000 years.”

The pomp and circumstance of its spectacles — the weddings of Charles and Diana and of William and Kate; the funeral of Diana — unify the country “with a familial heartbeat that also resonates around the world,” he added.

At the very least, the royal family provides a gossipy distraction for a nation fretting about where it belongs and where it is going in this fraught era of Brexit. When is Harry going to propose to his girlfriend, Meghan Markle, and does it matter that she is Canadian, describes herself as mixed race (and is an actress)? How disappointing is it that, at the age of 35, William has already lost much of his hair? How expensive was Kate’s sister’s very big, very fancy engagement ring?

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