Today is 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Diana’s death and the public perception of how the royal family handled it provoked a storm of protest. It also raised the question of the relevance of the monarchy. But in the intervening 20 years, this ancient institution has come to be viewed as an oasis of stability in an uncertain world.
At the time, the British public's outrage and criticism of the monarchy and of the queen herself was unrelenting. Yet now, at the age of 91, she is one of the most admired people in the world, according to the global polling organization, YouGov.
This popularity embraces other members of the Royal Family, most especially Diana’s own sons and daughter-in-law. In fact, a separate poll conducted in 2015 showed that some members of Britain’s royal family, enjoy greater popularity among Americans than nearly all of our U.S. politicians.
The 20-year milestone of Diana’s death has however resulted in a precipitous decline in Prince Charles’ and wife Camilla’s popularity. Leading royal commentator and author of a new biography Camilla, The Duchess: The Untold Story, Penny Junor, downplays the impact of the negative findings, commenting:
“We’ve moved on 20 years …. He’s become a much happier, more relaxed and more confident Prince of Wales … He knows that he did all he could to try and make his marriage work and he failed.”
Another well-placed voice, the queen’s former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, lends a valuable behind the scenes perspective arguing that Charles’ personal qualities will serve him very well as king: “When he ascends to the throne, he will be the best-prepared monarch we’ve ever had, and probably ever will have. Charles has been in training for 60-odd years, and the queen has been grooming him for his very public role ever since he left the Navy in 1976. It is time we learned to cherish him.”
While these voices of support for Prince Charles bode well to offset recent media reporting of his current drop in popularity, the legacy and character of his mother the queen over the past 20 years as well as her example for those who will succeed her is a powerful element to restoring the esteem of the monarchy.
Since 1952, Queen Elizabeth has been an adviser for 13 prime ministers — from Winston Churchill to Theresa May, But unlike elected officials, the queen, who has navigated adroitly as a constitutional monarch, serves independent of the political winds. Essentially, her advice is even more valuable considering it is immune from external influence and guided only by her robust morality and historical perspective.
Public opinion has once again turned robustly positive for the monarchy because Queen Elizabeth has always put her role above herself. How has she done it?
Journalist and author Charles Moore indicates: “By statecraft, which is subtle, but also by her faith, which is simple … It is almost unique in the whole history of the world to have lived under such a sovereign for as long as most people can remember.”
Notwithstanding the whims of the public polls, Charles will one day succeed his mother, and then Diana’s son William, will, in turn, succeed his father. There is great reassurance and comfort in the dynastic stability, particularly juxtaposed to a shifting volatile world. In Queen Elizabeth II, both of them will have had the perfect model for their own respective destinies.
And when Prince William accedes the throne, with the support of his beautiful wife and children, they will end up being Diana’s most enduring legacy.
Amanda Bowman is founder of The Anglosphere Society, whose mission is to promote the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom and to affirm democratic values, including the rule of law, free speech and the protection of religious liberty.
Lee Cohen is New York director of The Anglosphere Society, spent years advising the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Western European affairs, and was founding executive director of the House of Representatives United Kingdom Caucus.