When blonde icons of the 80s die, it seems to be form for the Establishment to forget the intervening years, to gloss over the fact that the women had become, again, outsiders. The Conservatives appear to have forgotten that it was they, not the electorate, who removed Thatcher. The Royal family were criticised at the time for not hurrying to drape Diana in the pomp and circumstance they felt she wasn’t entitled to.
No such mistake this time. I hope somebody does the research to show the learning. It’s true, Diana’s death was sudden, her funeral presumably not considered, while plans for Thatcher’s funeral have been in place for some time. (When these plans are criticised, the current government are quick to blame the last- standard operating policy- while not changing any of the plans. There’s not many plans of the last government that this one have chosen to honour.)
When Diana died she became “the People’s Princess” and there was a huge outpouring of national grief. It was fascinating. I was glued to the television, curious. Really? What on earth was going on with all the so called “reserved” English people? Thatcher’s death prompted street parties, the reserve all gone. Complicated, but somewhat crass. I’ll save my street party for the end of Thatcherism. I haven’t been watching, or listening. I won’t be watching the funeral. Normally, I’m not one to miss observing how the Establishment is choosing to display itself via what, for the rest of us, are essentially personal events. This time, I can’t bear it. It would be too much for my blood pressure. A protest of simply turning one’s back on the cortege has graciously been allowed by the police. There will be other protests at the amount of state money being spent on this, while we- those of us who aren’t millionaires- are living in an age of austerity
Thatcher is having a state funeral in all but name.
- coffin on a gun carriage. Tick
- hundreds of members of the military. Tick
- silencing of the bells of Big Ben. Tick
- obscene amounts of money. Tick
Remember this was not a well loved, cuddly, little old lady. This was not a monarch. This was a highly divisive, much hated, politician removed by her own party over 20 years ago.
Diana and Thatcher had much in common. They were outsiders to start with. They captured the public imagination. They were seen to personify an age, new ways of doing and being. They caused radical rethinking on the position of wives.
And when they left, the Establishment- not wider society- smoothed over the cracks, absorbed the lessons of image and carried on. Diana’s daughter in law dare not appear interesting. No political woman since has been allowed to have the power Thatcher had. The grocer’s daughter had crushed the post war consenus on mixed economy and welfare state, and was no longer needed. Status quo ante bellum, indeed.
The lesson of Diana’s funeral is that it’s the burial of a cipher, not that simply that individual. The funeral is defined by, and reinforces, the image.