In London, public signs of mourning Emotional: The princess' death melts the Brits' stiff upper lip -- and sends it trembling. Their caring matches hers.

Remembering Diana

September 02, 1997|By Michele Nevard | Michele Nevard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LONDON -- Princess Diana is dead and Britain is in mourning.

But we don't normally grieve this way, so overwhelmed that we can't hold back our tears.

We're British. We don't show our feelings.

But this time, we've been caught off-guard.

Centuries of the famed British "stiff upper lip" have stood us in good stead until now. But something has slowly crept up on us and taken us by surprise.

So, what's happened?

Sunday morning and the country wakes up to the news of the death. Friends of mine hear their neighbor's television blaring through the wall and can't believe what's being reported. Rushing to their radio, they tune in to the news and are left shocked and speechless.

Only last week we were all out to dinner, and of course Di and Dodi came up in the conversation. I say "of course" because that was what it was like with her.

Ever since we all watched the fairy tale princess marry her prince in good faith, we have been entranced. It seems as though every day since then we have followed her life, her sorrows, her struggles. And now, finally, her death.

Who else but our nearest and dearest have we seen through such tormented times? We lived through Diana's bulimia, her self-inflicted wounds, her betrayal by the prince she put so much trust in, and lately, what seemed to be the blossoming of newfound love.

Last week the entire country was talking about this woman who had seen so much tragedy and who finally had found some happiness and love. And we felt for her.

We had watched Diana over the years pour out her feelings for sick children and take such human issues to her heart. And maybe this is the crux of the matter. The British like the underdogs, we champion their cause.

So when this young, impressionable girl married into the Royal Family of Great Britain, we wanted it to work. We wanted it to work because, for the first time in living memory, here was a member of the Royal Family who simply didn't subscribe to the stiff upper lip.

Diana was warm and caring and showed us a human side we'd never seen before in such circles. She took us unaware. She wasn't supposed to be this way, but once we warmed to it, we liked it. She showed the nation a human face, and in doing so, opened a floodgate of emotion at her death.

Never before have I seen people openly crying on the streets of London. Not just outside Princess Diana's Kensington home, but on the underground -- subway -- and in coffee bars. People are flocking the streets blocks away from Kensington Palace with floral tributes in their hands, their upper lips trembling.

In America, where people wear their emotions on their sleeves, it may be hard to understand how truly revolutionary these days have been.

For us, the British, who busily talk about the weather in place of our emotions, this sort of grieving is a strange and unusual experience.

And because there will never be another Diana, it may be something we'll never experience again.

British-born Michele Nevard works in The Sun's London Bureau.

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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