Sunday, 28 February 2010

Diana, a tragedy in the real sense

And a distant, odd episode in the history of Conductive Education

A bit of self-indulgence last night: a couple of hours in front of the tele, to watch two consecutive documentaries on channel More 4, about the UK's incomparable Royal Family.

One was on HMQ's annus horribilis of 1992, the other specifically on Diana, Princess of Wales. Whatever you think of the BritishRoyal Family, they have offered extraordinary fascination as a soap opera, perhaps never more so that over the course of the events picked over by these two intersecting programmes.

As for me, these two programmes dealt with the only time in which, however peripherally, this saga has involved me and those around me at a personal level, because it involved the time in which Conductive Education and Princess Diana were marginally entangled.

It was a strange entanglement, ending with my boarding a coach very early in on the morning of her funeral, along with a sleepy collection of children and parents, adults and carers, staff and associates, from the Foundation for Conductive Education, to drive down to Chelsea Barracks in West London. There we would be assembled into the procession of charitable tributaries and trophies that would follow her gun carriage to Westminster Abbey. For my pains I was given a good seat in the Abbey, just behind the Great and the Good (a pity for me that most of them are also rather tall), but I did all the same have a most privileged experience of this whole public spectacle (which, no surprise, did not seem in reality quite all that it has been described).

Last night, for the first time, I was able to perspectivise Diana's life as a classical tragedy (that is a tragedy in the real, Greek sense of this now hideously devalued word). One day, perhaps it will make great drama (again, original sense). Distance does lend perspective...

And to be honest, I enjoyed sitting there on the qui vive, watching every shot, just in case...!

Diana: a life and a legacy

This morning I visited a local jumble sale. On the first stall, just inside the door, there was a mint copy of Anthony Holden's saccharine photo-biog Diana: a life and a legacy. It was only a couple of quid (now less than the proverbial price of a pint of beer) so I bought it. There on page 84 was one of the familiar photos by Rosa Monkton taken at the 'official opening' of the Foundation's National Institute of Conductive Education.

Why buy it? Habit, I suppose, from years of picking up all sorts of scraps from jumble-sales and second-hand bookshops, jig-saw pieces to be presented to Gill Maguire on the next working day, jigsaw pieces unimportant in themselves but to be classified and catalogued into an archive that one day...

Ah well, old habits die hard.

This afternoon I checked Internet book dealers,Abe Books. It looks like that, if not two a penny, copies of this book have come on to the second-hand book market is quite some numbers. I could pay up to ​27-odd quis for a copy Diana: a life and a legacy, but I could be pretty lucky for just 0.66p.

This makes me wonder about other Princess Di CE-memorabilia out there – like the philately that we helped create – and this in turn reminds me of my doubts at the time about the two-way flow of benefit between celebrity patrons and their 'good causes', and any net benefit that might result.

Now there's a good subject for critical TV documentary.

See the two TV documentaries

The Queen
(Series 1, Episode 4)

Di's Guys
Does not appear to be on line.


Holden, A. (1997) Diana: a life and a legacy, London, Ebury Press


  1. One of my favourite Princess Diana books is The Diana Chronicles, published in 2007 by Century and written by Tina Brown, who originally wrote The mouse that roared about Diana and her circle in the early 1980s - before she was famous.

    And it has not a single picture in it.

    Thank you for the reference to the documentaries.

    And also there was a photo-biography made by somebody Whittaker, from the Daily Mail or Daily Express. It was done in 1998.

    I take your points about 'tragedy' and 'drama' in their Greek theatrical sense.

  2. And I don't know if you know anything about this site at all:

    Spaghetti Gazetti

    I went there to look for pictures.