Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses
in a Real World: DIANA


Tobie Helene Shapiro

Once in a blue moon
Illustration by Angelbeybe's Angel Pictures

August 30, 1997

My dear friends and confidants,

I did not know until the moment I sat down to my computer and pulled up my first message, that Princess Diana and her new soulmate, Prince Al Fayed (he is a prince, yes? no?) were


involved in an automobile accident


in the hospital


This is how unconnected I am to what is happening to the very famous beautiful people in the world. I read no tabloids. I watch no television. I avoid the front page of most newspapers, as they are the pages that are assembled to sell the rest of the paper, and usually have little substance.

I don't keep up on your scandals and scuttlebutt. I am as lost as a fish would be if wrapped in USA Today.

But some things seep through. By osmosis, or magic, or magnetic impulses, or psychic obligato, my peripheral consciousness followed the sparklingly sad story of the Princess of Wales.

Doesn't it seem unreal?

And I wonder if there was ever anything that seemed real about her life.

I know we've all had our trials, the eras of our lives that taught us much and thank the Lord are over. At least we stumble over our stupid mistakes while few are looking, and even fewer give a damn.

But everything Diana did, she had to do as a Princess. I am sure that there is a shared insanity between all dazzling figures of the public's fascination. To argue with your husband at a dinner party, and read about it on the front page of the newspaper the next day. . . . . . .and to realize that, regardless of the truths involved, the public, whom you cannot know, has formed a passionate opinion about you, whom they cannot know. They take sides. They think they know you. You are trying, still, to know yourself.

Every day, you may follow or try to ignore the exciting, blasphemous story of your own life, as it is seen and devoured by that famous ship of fools. And you must try to keep track of your life as you know it, and keep the many stories separate. Yes, all four billion of us know what you said, and what he said, and what you said back, and we have a picture of the look on your face, as he told you that

it was over.

He didn't love you anymore.

There is speculation about the inflection in his voice as he announced this, and there are rumours about the other women. No need to hire a detective; you will know what you wish you didn't know, often before it happens. Psychic Natasia Q predicts that the Prince will dump you at the party tomorrow night. That, and you will bear the child of a friendly space alien before next fall.

With so many pictures being popped and so much light being shed, and so many spotlights flooding you with that hot white glare, you can't even cast a simple shadow.

We are the privileged many.

We acquire our wisdom in private, flounder anonymously. When our hearts are broken, it is by the light of the dying moon that we sweep up the million pieces, and we scurry off to heal where it is safe to cry.

When we split up with our spouses, we exorcise the bad bad photographs from our wallets, cut the poloroid shot in half, send our ex-spouse packing with everything we ever gave him, everything he brought with him when he arrived, everything that reminds us of him, everything bearing his lousy fingerprints. We sweep away the breadcrumbs he left so that he could find his way to us, we cross out his name in the address book; we cross it out with a laundry marker, and we do it with two thousand wretched, angry lines. The page is soaked in permanent ink.

And no one is the wiser, but perhaps ourselves, later on, when the lesson has caught up with us.

Diana suffered royalty's foolery naked and loud. The best she could possibly hope for in the midst of crashing to the earth with heart on fire, would be some small measure of dignity. What a laugh.

Diana, the papers say that the Queen doesn't like you anymore.

Do your children belong to the kingdom?

Because you are royalty, having the same trials as everyone else, is an embarrassment. You should be an example. Yet, here you are with your broken heart, your eating disorder, your cheating husband, your loneliness, your grief and confusion, your mangled youth. What do you have to say for yourself?

The damn paparazzi with their click click click flash flash flash.

Anyone in her right mind would flee, would sneak down this street and back up another, would skid wildly north, and then duck them demurely east. Just for a moment of peace with someone you wanted to love.

I am so sorry. I am so sorry for the children. I am so sorry for the new hope she never finished uttering.

They hounded the poor woman to death.

Goodnight everyone,

Love, and then some,


Berkeley, California USA
Tobie Shapiro has been firmly planted in the arts (nearly all of them) since she was three years old. Her formal training is in classical music (cellist/composer), but today, most of her creative energies go into writing. She is also a seriously dedicated (or deluded) artist. Tobie Shapiro has been a columnist for a number of newspapers. She is a diarist, and author of short stories, essays and a variety of ex genera compositions. You will find her journals excerpted in the book, "Fire in the Hills", a collection of works by the victims and survivors of the catastrophic Oakland/Berkeley hills firestorm of 1991.

She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband, the very fine physicist, and her ten year old twins, a girl and a boy.

Email Tobie

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