Thursday, February 15, 2007

Welcome to the Queen

Author's note: This post, written about my "mountain man" (from the Ural Mountains of Russia) was originally posted at

I must admit to being a fan of English royalty and I’m thrilled that Her Majesty will join us in Jamestown later this spring. We here in Virginia are forgiving folks and take quite a bit of pride in our ties to the United Kingdom. Those of us with Scots Irish anchestry don't care a bit that our anchestors might not have been huge fans of the Crown. We're a welcoming people and I for one am glad she's coming to visit with us for a spell. As they say in far Southwest Virginia, we're excited that "company's comin' ". Too bad some of the folks in the Middle East can’t let bygones be bygones. The Brits have forgiven us as well. (I guess our having helped to keep British citizens from having to hang out their washing on the Siegfried line during WWII might have mended relations quite a bit).

I’ve always found it amusing that at the State Capital of Virginia there is a room paying tribute to Confederate heros, and in the same room they keep stored some sort of scepter which is apparently carried into the opening ceremonies of the General Assembly. From what I remember about it, some member of the General Assembly bought it in England a while back. They had to buy one because all of the old ones, which symbolized Virginia’s loyalty to the crown, were gathered up and melted down by the colonists during the American Revolution. So here in Virginia we seem more ready to forgive and forget the American Revolution than to move on from the Civil War. Hmmmmmmmm. Don’t ask me to explain that one.

I just went to see the movie, “The Queen” and I’d highly recommend it even to people who don’t care about British royalty for the sole reason that it is a highly insightful portrayal of the political skills of Prime Minister Tony Blair. It should be required viewing for any political junkie. In case you didn’t already know it, it’s about Blair’s enormous influence upon the British royal family during the days following the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I’d imagine that Her Majesty would rather the whole mess go away, but since the media has dredged it up again, and the British government has an ongoing investigation which has yet to be completed, I thought I’d share something I wrote about my perspective on Diana’s death a while ago and how it interweaves with global political and cultural events. If you want to read it here it is…..

The Princess in Perspective
Copyright 2007 by April A. Cain

Later this year will mark the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The summer also marks my younger son’s tenth birthday. Despite the passage of time, there seems to be no end to the media’s preoccupation with her tortured life and the unfortunate accident in Paris which ended it prematurely. Her death, and his birth, will be forever connected in my heart and mind. In the wee hours of the morning one day in August of 1997, I sat in my pajamas on my next-door-neighbor’s couch as I and about ten other pajama-clad women ate crumpets and Stilton Blue Cheese with our tea and said a tearful goodbye to Diana. We cheered and hooted as her brother, Earl Spencer, defiantly announced to the royal family that Diana had needed “no royal title” to be Queen of all our hearts.

My fascination with the deceased Princess of Wales developed very slowly after her engagement and subsequent marriage to Prince Charles, but was due in part to the fact that I lived in Exeter, England during the summer of 1981 when the marriage took place. I was studying at there for the summer, and didn’t intend to take the night train into London for the festivities. At the time I wasn’t that interested in the British royal family. But at about 11:30 p.m., friends from my dormitory shook me awake. They warned that I was missing out on a piece of history if I didn’t drag myself out of bed and stumble to the train station with them. So I did.

We arrived into London in the pre-dawn hours, and camped out on Fleet Street to await the procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was terribly sleepy. But as the crowd began to swell and the handsome bobbies lining the street gave out candy and flirted with us, I began to feel better. My friends and I took turns getting on one another’s shoulders as the carriages containing the wedding party clippity-clopped by, and we retired into a nearby pub for cake and champagne as we watched the ceremony on the pub’s television set.

At the end of that summer I left for home with lots of Diana-kitsch packed safely into my luggage. I still have the tea towel and mug, and “first day cover letter” sent to me by the local post office. The envelope displays the famous stamp of the couple upon which Charles seemingly towers over his new bride (He actually had to stand on a box for the photograph to achieve this effect.)

I was surprised at myself when I became a closet Diana fan. As a young woman I of course loved her sense of style, but as she and I both matured and the truth that her marriage was a sham and that she was desperately unhappy was revealed, I began to relate to her on a deeper level. Diana was Everywoman to me, and to countless other women.

But on the morning of her funeral, as I sat transfixed and grieving that she was gone, halfway across the world another silent, unheralded tragedy was taking place. A tragedy unknown to me. I didn’t know until a year later that as I and the world mourned Diana, our second child, sweet Sasha, had just been born in a Russian maternity hospital. He had become one of the hundreds of thousands of children who are abandoned and in state custody in Eastern Europe. Our dear little one spent the first year of his life without a mother or father. We returned from Russia with him just after his first birthday and right before the first anniversary of Diana’s death.

As newborn Sasha lay there with no one to hold or rock him, no one to feed or change him (except on a preordained schedule), and no one to coo and smile at him, hundreds of thousands of wreaths were laid at Kensington Palace in Diana’s honor, and millions like myself cried for her passing. No one gathered to cry for Sasha. No one printed a story about his loss or his precarious place on this planet. I thought about all this a year later when I realized the two events occurred within weeks of each other. It seemed to put Diana’s death in its proper place and made it less of a tragedy. She had a privileged life, with much sorrow, but also with great happiness. While she was able to cuddle and hug her own children, countless children around the world will never know the joy of a loving human touch. But for the winds of fortune, Sasha may have never come to us or to any family, and his amazing joy and love would have remained locked up forever.

I do not belittle Diana’s loss, or that of her children. It’s just that when compared to the suffering of the world’s children the tragic nature of her death is forever blunted to me. Many children die before ever knowing what it is to be loved or to love. I doubt Diana would be offended by this perspective.

I don’t know if those who have passed on really wait at the pearly gates to greet newcomers. If they do, perhaps Diana is still working her magic. I'd like to think that if she's there, she might be welcoming all the innocent children who weren’t as lucky as our precious Sasha.

April A. Cain is a writer, attorney and mother who lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a native of St. Paul (Wise County)in far Southwest Virginia

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