Reflections on Princess Diana, Her Family, Prince Charles, The Queen and the People of the World’s Search for Humility
When will we find the courage to create a different experience? Interestingly, humanity has had minimal opportunity to embrace an alternative style since the global take-over by organized religion, which was created exclusively by men. From there we entered the Age of Reason, again the exclusive purview of men; moving from Religious and Mythological Patriarchy to Rational Patriarchy; the passion and energy associated with religion was supplanted with the cool, detached clarity of the rational, which has had a long run. Unfortunately, the lack of balance between the left- and right-brains has extracted a heavy toll – our ability to feel.
It feels like we haven’t given ourselves the opportunity of seeing what might happen as we re-integrate the feminine back into the game, eventually leading to a more balanced relationship with the masculine.
It’s important to stress that despite the collective suffering, we are in many ways a young species (if the earth is indeed 4.6 billion years old, then we have been here around 4 hours). We’ve been going through the birthing pains of the evolution of our species in the last few millennia. It’s been an arduous journey. Many of us are understandably medicating ourselves through the trauma.
Each one of us is at once birthing the next level while also being born into it. Clearly, this hasn’t been one of those rare, “easy” births. I was present at my daughter’s birth. The pain that my wife endured, the genuine moments of loss of faith and confidence, and her courage to go way, way beyond where she ever imagined she could go was quite something. And here we are.
Our lessons have been excruciating at times but this is the Hero’s Journey that we are on, individually and as a community, guaranteed to test us. We will keep asking for these difficult lessons until feeling becomes as respected and appreciated as thinking. Is it to be believed? It’s a mirage, isn’t it? I mean, can “good” really come of all this?
Ironically, the extremity and incongruity of our present moment is serving as the main fuel for the challenging journey through the maze to the netherworld: to reclaim our essence. We can make this trek alone, but it sure makes it easier and more enjoyable when we have company.
The way ahead is to look to those amongst us, increasing by the minute, who are more connected to our heart sides; to those who can mirror for us how we can be; how we can welcome the long-dormant empathy that is dying to come out and play.
Harry Patch was such a person, a guiding light; courage personified. There was another in the last 30 years in Britain, a figure so oozing empathy in its purest form that she single-handedly brought the country, and the world, to life. Princess Diana.
The tried, tested and true by-product of betrayal is the wall, and its accompanying fear and judgment. Maybe out of sheer desperation did Diana step out from behind her wall, her trauma laid bare for the world to see what they rarely get to see: a genuinely feeling person in a position of massive influence. The people’s empathetic balloon had been steadily, carefully expanding. Daring to hope. Daring to feel. Diana’s struggle, as she was marginalized and abandoned within the Royal Family, mirrored that of the people, perpetually betrayed by their leadership, by themselves.
Charles was betrayed by not being allowed to marry his love, Camilla. So, he played the game, married Diana and then betrayed her. Diana then betrayed Charles by having affairs. Then she couldn’t live with all the betrayal and lies, so she left. The Queen and the Royal Family felt so betrayed, especially by her openness with the media and the public, that it took them a full five days to make any statement regarding her death – despite the tremendous negative publicity they received.
Why the delay? Because while all Royal parties involved drank heartily of the betrayal soup, Diana’s betrayal was deemed the most egregious; because she had the audacity to confront it, within and without. Under the auspices of the Rational Man Project, personal betrayal is essential, while betrayal of sacred institutional conventions is an unforgivable sin. You are supposed to sweep it all under the rug.
How did Diana end up in such an unhealthy situation rife with systemic betrayal? Like many of us, she came from that very same place, only magnified under the microscope of a noble/privileged life. From an early age, her destiny was intertwined with that of the Royal family. She grew up on the Sandringham Estate, in a house leased from Queen Elizabeth II. As a child, she played with Princes Andrew and Edward. Her parents divorced when she was seven years old.
In the ensuing custody hearings, Diana’s grandmother, Baroness Fermoy (‘Woman of the Bed Chamber’ and confidante to the Queen Mother), betrayed her own daughter, Frances, Diana’s mother, by testifying against her in court (she had committed adultery), resulting in Diana’s father obtaining custody of all the children (Baroness Fermoy herself had endured the serial womanizing of her husband Lord Maurice Fermoy, which yielded at least two illegitimate children). The difference is Baroness Fermoy stayed in her adulterous marriage because that is what you are supposed to do. Frances, Diana’s mother, not only flouted the unwritten masochistic rule, she did so with a commoner, which was beyond the pale. Hence, she incurred her mother’s wrath – and lost custody of her children.
Meanwhile, Edmund Roche, the son of Baroness Fermoy, and brother to Frances, Eton attendee and suffering from long-term depression committed suicide at the age of 45.
With Frances and her husband, Viscount Althorp (“Johnnie”) Spencer, producing two girls, the pressure was on to produce a son to ensure the family inheritance.
“His young wife would go through six pregnancies before the heir arrived… Their hopes seemed to be fulfilled when they had their first son, John, in 1960. However, it was immediately apparent that John was deformed and he was rushed out of his mother’s room immediately after birth. ‘In cruel repression of feeling that reflected the paternalistic nature of obstetrics at the time, Viscount Althorp decreed his wife must not be allowed to view or hold her son. Years later, Frances recalled the chilling scene of how she struggled out of bed and banged frantically on the locked door’ (Brown, 37). He died just 11 hours later, without his mother ever seeing his face (Beddell Smith, 1999). The chasm between Johnnie and Frances widened as he subjected her to multiple humiliating fertility tests to determine why she could not produce a male heir. Soon after John’s death, she became pregnant and miscarried, but did not tell her husband. When Diana was born, 18 months later, her parents and extended family were so disappointed by the arrival of another female child, they did not bother to register her birth, and she is the only one of her siblings who was not given a royal godparent. They did not even give her a name her until a week after her birth.”
This is the multi-generational warped energy into which Diana was born. She was the third girl; unwanted, especially after the bitter disappointment and trauma of losing a boy – the much vaunted heir. Diana grew up an afterthought. So, after experiencing her parents’ divorce, Diana, aged 9, was then placed in Boarding School, the same school attended by her mother and grandmother. And, of course, Diana’s children were also sent away to Eton.
As with many of the privileged, for both Charles and Diana, marrying for love was unlikely, to say the least; impossible actually for Charles, who has been seen as a heel for his role in the Diana affair. But let us manage to scrape together some empathy for a boy who was sent away to Boarding School, grew up saddled with the incredible pressure of a future kingship, was forced to marry a woman he didn’t love (while hiding his affections for his true love), had to endure the fallout from said marriage, then Diana’s death. Meanwhile, for decades it has been suggested that he’s actually missing that kingly quality.
In keeping with tradition, infidelity has also been a feature of Diana’s brother’s life. Charles Spencer is now three-times divorced.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Diana had been playing the game for too long. She just couldn’t do it anymore, just like so many of us who are barely coping. But while many of us remain on the hamster wheel, understandably afraid to make a change, Diana took the terrifying plunge. And she was beloved for it. She was an inspiration because through her immense compassion and empathy, she showed us what humanity is. All of this from a most unlikely source: a British Princess. She became an island unto herself, surrounded by a rational and frigid structure that could not contain her; could not understand her; could not feel her; and felt threatened by her.
The sheer power of her vulnerability crashes through the screen – easily misconstrued as weakness when it is actually profound courage.
Despite overwhelming pressure, especially with respect to her boys, she went with her heart. Some will contend that she was selfish for choosing to live a life that did not entail self-betrayal. Some will say that she chose herself over her children. But her soul was dying and she knew it. She knew that if she stiff-upper-lipped-it and did the ‘right’ thing – as any self-respecting Royal and Brit would and should do – she would have become a shell of herself. What good would it have done for her children to witness and feel her abdication, her resignation? That would have been devastating for Diana and the young princes.
In an airplane, if the oxygen masks come down, we are told to put our own mask on before helping children and others – which sounds counter-intuitive. The reason we are told to do this is that our mind can instantaneously make a logically convincing and contrary case that we should help our children first. Why? Because of our over-trained left-brains. Intuition, which is deep knowing, is found more on the right. It can only be known via feelings.
In the absence of this balancing, feminine insight, we delve further into the masculine maze of the left-brain. The masculine energy is the doer; it is the action and penetrating force that launches itself beyond. Outside. It looks to others for validation, comfort, strength. It lives in incessant binary comparison; jealousy; insecurity. All to do with other; with what is outside of us. This is what we’re most familiar with. Hence, the reason many of us would automatically put the mask on our child first.
Taking care of ourselves first isn’t selfishness. It’s intelligence. This only sounds counter-intuitive from an RMP perspective. We don’t know that we can and should be taking care of ourselves first. That is how we will be better parents and human beings – not by sacrificing ourselves at every turn.
Despite Diana’s ever-present connection with her heart, her decision, and the courage that entailed, was actually practical and wise, which was indicative of her increasingly balanced mind and being. Her acute sensitivity (which is generally deemed a liability in our culture, attached as it is to hysteria – the hysterical woman in particular) could not brook further committing the ultimate betrayal – of herself.
Though there would undoubtedly be serious repercussions, the charade was no longer tenable. During her marriage to Charles she cut herself repeatedly, and suffered from bulimia. By her own admission, she had, like her uncle, attempted suicide on multiple occasions, including throwing herself down a flight of stairs while pregnant with William.
This was the boarding school of her adult life. She did what almost every boy and girl who is dropped off at Boarding School wants to do; what so many of us wish we could do at this very moment. We want to live. We want to be. We want to believe. We want meaning. We want things to feel right – even as our resistant conditioning and culture hammer into us that we are naïve to think things can be any other way; that tells us we are unsafe; that we are not enough; that the ultimate arbiter, the solution, is more, more and more of the same, just a glossier more photo-shopped version. Stay the course. The alternative path is so unknown, so intangible, so fluffy. Do not look to your left or right. Hair straight back. Full steam ahead.
Diana made the intangible real. The world stopped in her presence. She represented that place within all of us that yearns for a fuller experience. She represented the ascendant feminine. She was the personification of the huge adrenaline-filled needle that is jammed through the chest cavity right into the heart to bring someone back to life; straight into the heart of humanity.
“Her death became a world-wide public event with millions who had never met her feeling a personal bereavement… For a full week, this single news story dominated all media outlets to an extent that is rarely seen under any circumstances. Diana’s death received more media attention than any event in history. It was the biggest story the BBC had ever carried…”
In a time of zero social media, almost 50% of the adults in Britain watched the funeral. A record 2.5 billion people (out of 5.9 billion) around the world watched the funeral. A staggering 42% of the world tuned in because she was the most beloved human being in history – per capita and total.
She was more beloved than Jesus, Mohammad or anybody else in history. A woman steeped in compassion and empathy. Party, religious and club affiliations became meaningless to her. Her appeal was boundless because she was proof that we need not be slaves to the Rational Man Project, even and especially when you are an elite representative. It is akin to a child growing up in a Ku Klux Klan family and town and knowing nothing other than extreme prejudice but somehow managing to think and feel for themselves and transform into a lover of humanity and becoming the most appreciated human of all time. That is how you get 2.5 billion people fascinated by you. “People left public offerings of flowers, candles, cards, and personal messages outside Kensington Palace for many months” after her death.
It is axiomatic that we are an energetic match to the people and things we are attracted to – good or bad. Her legion of admirers felt her struggle, because energetically she represented their own challenges. We are all steeped in cultural, familial and multi-generational betrayal. She did not set out to represent the pain and hopes of the people. That just happened. It’s likely what saved her – and possibly was her undoing.
This is what privilege looks like at the highest levels: an endless sea of trauma and betrayal. How do these people endure such heartbreak? How do any of us? In 2004, when audio tapes were released of her telling biographer Andrew Morton about her life and one of the attempts at taking it, she said:
“I threw myself down the stairs bearing in mind I was carrying a child. Queen [Elizabeth] comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking she’s so frightened … and Charles went out riding.”
How do so many of us deal with our various levels of torment? The way Charles did, by going out riding. Grin and bear it. Avoid feeling it at all cost. Deny the severity of the trauma. That is the left-brain RMP way. Because to really feel it is too daunting. Instead, we dull our pain, often through our coterie of addictions and make it not such a big deal. After all, there are millions of others around the world enduring greater suffering than you. It’s all good, right? RMP binary tells us so. So, bury those feelings. They are not worthy of our attention.
In the interview with Martin Bashir (a total betrayal for the Royal Family, but where she actually held back so much) she speaks of the difficulty of her first pregnancy (without mentioning the suicide attempt), and goes on to say that prior to her marriage, pregnancy and post-partum experience she had not experienced depression. After what you have read about her life doesn’t it sound like there were many incredibly depressing times? Was she being disingenuous? Likely not. When you don’t have any other frame of reference; when the crazy world around you reflects the madness of your own life; when all those terrible things are nothing other than… normal; and when you have been trained from an early age to bury the only thing that can provide some clarity – your feelings – you might very well delude yourself into thinking everything is just fine.
What does it take to bring our disowned pain and shame to the surface? Invariably it’s something dramatic. A death in the family. A suicide. A life-threatening illness. Or marrying the future King of England and becoming the most watched person on the planet; by joining and becoming the most visible member of the most pressure-packed family on the planet; by realizing you are married to a man whose heart belongs to another.
All of this taken together was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A lifetime of downplaying her suffering was no longer possible. She was broken open. She almost didn’t survive, until she turned to the people. In Roman Mythology, Diana was known to be the virgin goddess of childbirth and women. Her name means ‘bright sky’ or ‘daylight’. She was a sun unto herself, cutting through the RMP clouds, shining a glittering light on humanity’s path towards the netherworld – setting the emotional foundation for humanity to birth our next level of consciousness. The mythological “Diana was also considered the protector of the lower classes, especially slaves.” How perfect is that?
So, how does the RMP view Princess Diana and her death? Well, we saw the response from the Queen and the Royal Family. Interestingly, at the outset, the Queen greatly approved of Diana as a match for the future king. Why? (1) There were long-term family connections (as already noted, Diana’s grandmother, Lady Fermoy, was the Queen Mother’s confidante); (2) She was thirteen years younger than Charles, so she would be obedient; (3) She was beautiful; and (4) She hadn’t even managed to pass her ‘O’ Levels and she was working as a nursery teacher’s assistant. In other words, she wasn’t too sharp, so she wouldn’t pose much of a challenge to Charles and she would do what she was told, that is, perform her Royal duties as required. Perfect.
So how did Diana become the Queen’s worst nightmare? How did the Queen make such a miscalculation for the ages? And how did she follow up and compound that mistake with her enthusiastic support of Prince Andrew’s disastrous choice of wife (from the Royal perspective), Sarah Ferguson? Actually, as we can see, when we look back at the history of the Royals and most privilege families, we find a repeating pattern of awful decisions, made for all the wrong reasons, ad infinitum.
As it has been suggested, effective leadership and decision-making requires fluid access between the logical and emotional mind. Stretching back for centuries, the Royal Family and the generationally privileged could not be any more entrenched within the left-brain. In a parallel universe, if the Queen had been more balanced in her approach, after a few visits with Diana, she might have felt that something was not quite right; that maybe it wasn’t such a perfect match after all. She might have noticed that Diana had that same independent streak that was present in her mother, Frances, who went to incredible lengths to secure her freedom from her husband, while losing her children in the bargain.
Sadly, with so little access to the wealth of insight and information available in the right-brain, the Queen’s calculations used the same faulty algorithms as Mr. Blair employed in approaching Mr. Patch and going into Iraq. There is an inherent arrogance and entitlement that comes with RMP leadership, which fuels chronic underestimation and erroneous judgment of people and situations. From Mr. Blair’s perspective, he was the Prime Minister for God’s sake. Who is going to refuse a picture with the goddamned Prime Minister, and be disrespectful to boot! If Mr. Blair and the Queen had been able to really feel what was before them they both might have made different choices.
The Harry Patch incident is, and was, little more than a side-note. The problem of this persistent cranial and emotional imbalance in our leadership – and society – is that when this mode of decision-making is applied to complex and grave circumstances, the results can be disastrous – as with Brexit. Not because Brexit shouldn’t have happened but because it was not the intended result. Britain and Europe were not ready for Brexit. It was apparently such a slam dunk that the Remain Camp would prevail, that no planning was done, you know, just in case.
Neil Seeman, Canadian businessman and expert on the collection and evaluation of data says:
“Brexit and Trump — and Twitter’s success (launched 10 years ago) — stupefied the overwhelming majority of experts in politics and technology, respectively… On Brexit, the usually accurate prediction markets for binary events, where people invest their own money on the outcome, were wrong. Expert influencers – from Christine Lagarde of the IMF to Mark Carney of the Bank of England to Nobel Laureate economist Paul_Krugman – did not influence. The average of public polls, polls usually being reliant on non-random survey respondents – that is, self-trained political pundits – were wrong, not just right before the vote, but through many of the prior months. Behemoth financial institutions, privy to sophisticated private research, did not take trading positions that would suggest any information edge… That Leave would win was, especially among academic and media elites, as preposterous an idea as the early notion that Mr. Trump would win the Republican nomination… Socrates and the Stoic philosophers were correct. The only true wisdom is that you know nothing. From that premise of humility stems the basis of the pursuit of reason, and, ultimately, intelligence. ‘Intelligent’ machines — spirited forth through the current generation of the Internet of Things and the so-called Semantic Web — are only as intelligent as the humility and self-doubt of those who write the code… Yet we humans are a self-assured lot; we assume ever more data sets will lead to the Holy Grail of prediction — while history teaches the opposite to be the case… In the field of prediction, this manifests itself in the failure to probe for potential confounding variables, and, ceteris paribus, our intellectual reach shall exceed our grasp. Not understanding confounders that have unintentionally crept into enormous data sets can result in flawed conclusions…The next era of prediction, then, lies in factoring humility into our models. Without this, machine learning will only take us so far. This time it was Brexit that the machines failed to predict. Next time it could be an eventuality more serious.”
Each of the people Mr. Seeman mentions are deeply embedded members of the Rational Man Project. While Mr. Seeman, a Harvard alum, is cut from the same cloth, he has hit on something interesting. Humility is a mainstay of the neglected right-brain, and the opposite of arrogance. What are some words associated with humility? Humble, modest, gentle, easy-going, peaceful, compassionate, sharing. Mr. Seeman could not be more right in his assessment. For our leadership – for us all – how identified are we with the aforementioned words describing humility?
Alas, though arguably presented as such by Mr. Seeman, humility does not lend itself to being turned into simply “another” criterion to be added to the many others. True humility unites us with our very essence; to the best of us. It’s not a box to be ticked. It is encompassing; as are all the elements concerned more with the feminine. The extremely logical, structured mind has trouble containing and appraising those criteria because they simply will not be pigeon-holed and manipulated. Humility cannot be faked. False humility changes nothing or causes more damage. True humility, a la Diana, can move mountains.
Post-Brexit, our leadership, governmental and corporate, have not given any signs of shifting the approach. It’s business as usual. Responsibility is being avoided by all. Blame is being placed on the most vulnerable, as usual. Adjustments are to be made on the fly. Passions on all sides will dissipate. The people will forget. They will get back to the same-old-same-old. Moving right along. Nothing to see here. Or maybe not. How many warning bells must we here before we are yanked out of our RMP stupor?
If we are to make better decisions, personally and politically, a good place to start is to take the time to move beyond an intellectual understanding of humility to actually ‘feeling’ it; to feeling anything really. What does it feel like in the body if we allow humility to wash over us? How does that feeling affect the way we engage with the world – and ourselves? Can we feel the genuine frustration and confusion on the part of poor and disenfranchised in the Leave camp? If we could just allow ourselves to feel humility and compassion… This is a new direction. This is the opportunity.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
You can read more of his work at: www.empathyrising.com.
Here are the other sections of this work:
Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Part 3 – Reflections on David Cameron and Boris Johnson: Boarding School, Systemic Betrayal and the Subjugation of the Feminine as Outgrowths of The Age of Reason
Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Part 7 – Reflections on Donald Trump, Ridicule as a National Pastime, The Sheer Scale of Humanity’s Endless Trauma, The Continuation of Global British Influence and the Troubling Legacy of Winston Churchill
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