Last night I got hooked into watching The Queen with Helen Mirren playing Her Majesty. I’ve never watched it before, and missed a bit of the start, but it brought back a lot of memories. The day of the election of 1997 was my first day in England. The 2 May I went to the front of Buck House to see the changing of the guards (as you do) and both John Major and Tony Blair presented themselves to the Queen. One to get his golden handshake and the other to be invited to take on the job.
I was in London when Diana died. I slept on the Mall the night before her funeral. There didn’t seem to be any other place to be, really. I remember talking to so many Welsh people who’d driven down to pay their respects. Lovely people, saddened they’d lost a woman they’d claimed as theirs. It’s the ‘being claimed’ that was their reason for why they mourned so openly in public. The People’s Princess.
I remember debating whether it was appropriate to photograph the funeral procession. I rarely go anywhere without my camera. I’d taken photos of the flowers at Kensington Palace, Buck House, and Westminster Abbey. I wasn’t sure the procession of the casket was something I should be snapping at, more I should stop and bow my head and focus on prayer. I had an interesting discussion with an Irishman about it. He thought I was nuts to be troubled about it – said ‘this is history’. I’m still not sure to this day, but I did take photos. I feel like I invaded the family’s privacy – even though it was there for all to see. Such sadness, such stoic propriety, such an intense atmosphere.
I remember the comments about the family not coming down, the media full of poisonous judgement. But the Princes did come – Andrew and Edward. They walked up to Buck House and were mobbed with people thanking them for being there. Thanking them for being with the British people. Extraordinary times.