The world's princess Diana in death: 'Unique funeral' will reflect a life without precedent.

September 02, 1997

SHE CROSSED the sky as a meteor, burning not for 15 minutes of fame but 16 years. Hers was a life with with more to live, a story with more twists to take, when the meteor flamed out in the brutal crash of an armor-plated Mercedes, driven by a drunk security specialist fleeing the ever-invasive photographers in a dark road tunnel in the City of Light.

The "unique funeral for a unique person" in Westminster Abbey on Saturday will reflect the world's interest, the British people's affection and the Labor government's insistence, a not-quite-state affair greater than any, followed by private burial as a Spencer on Spencer land. There was no category into which she wholly fit, or which encompassed her.

Diana was a daughter of the aristocracy when, too young and untutored, she was taken into the Royal Family. They taught her their duties, at which she excelled them. Finally, someone royal only by marriage wanted the royalty without the marriage, and nearly carried it off to the consternation of her in-laws. More beautiful and more contemporary than they, she wore clothes better, lured the spotlight to causes more effectively, touched the hearts of the poor and the sick more palpably.

Her brother, Earl Spencer "always believed the press would kill her in the end." But she played the media like her instrument, abhorring only those who crossed the lines she drew. Information from the French police suggests that it was the protection -- afforded by the Paris hotel owned by the father of her new friend -- which killed her.

Where her romance with Dodi Al Fayed would have led, no one knows. His father, Mohamed Al Fayed, with his own place in and BTC grievances against the British establishment, had ideas of the possibilities. She was a threat to the future of the royal household primarily because so many self-appointed experts said she was. The Prince of Wales is heir to the throne, subject to Parliament. Nowhere is it writ that he must be happier or more faithful than his subjects, though some insist on it.

Now the position of the royal family can be attended without the rival magnet of Diana. Her effect will remain frozen as is, just as her private life and political words were starting to undermine it. Most of the sadness expressed worldwide is sincere. All sympathy is due her sons and family, and those of Dodi Al Fayed and driver Henri Paul. She was more royal than any celebrity, more celebrated than any royal. In the media that made her and that she made, she will live eternally, age 20 to 36.

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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