Diana, Princess of Wales died 10 years ago on Friday. In an interview with DW-WORLD.DE, Prince Eduard von Anhalt, Duke of Saxony, talks about the late princess and her lasting influence on royal structures in Europe.
Princess Diana died following a tragic car accident in Paris in 1997
Prince Julius Eduard von Anhalt, Duke of Saxony, is the head of the House of Anhalt-Ascania and a member of Germany's higher nobility. As a cousin of Prince Charles, he is directly related to the British royal family. Prince von Anhalt works as a journalist, mainly as a commentator on European nobility.
DW-WORLD.DE: Ten years after Princess Diana's tragic death on Aug. 31, 1997, the world is still fascinated by her. How do you explain this ongoing interest in Diana?
Prince Julius Eduard von Anhalt: In my opinion, Princess Diana was a revolutionary. She had a huge influence on all monarchies, of which there are 10 in Europe [ Editor's note: Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden]. Diana completely changed the relationship between the royal families and the common people; how the heirs to the throne, royal regulations and upbringing were viewed. Later, when she was no longer a representative of the House of Windsor, she took on much significant charitable work. As such, Diana had a wide-ranging effect on the world and was a personality known in all corners of the world. You don't forget someone like that so quickly.
But Princess Diana was also an ambivalent figure. She was a fairy tale come true, but at the same time, a very tragic person. How does this contribute to her appeal?
Prince Julius Eduard von Anhalt regularly reports on Europe's nobility
She was the fairytale figure of our time. Diana occupied every facet of that fairy tale and played with this image, too. She was always someone else when she appeared in public. You never saw her twice in the same dress. Diana appealed to everyone, especially young people who weren't otherwise interested in the monarchy. They saw that yes, she was a princess, but she was modern. She really touched the people and was the greatest icon that ever lived worldwide.
Diana gave the public much more insight into her life than any other royal in the past, in particular through her dealings with the press. What role do the media play in keeping the image of Princess Diana alive?
The media, of course, actually plays the decisive role. When I first met Diana, before she married Prince Charles, she was a shy child, you could say. You didn't expect anything more than for her to comply with the old existing regulations of the royal family. Then, she saw they're no different from anyone else and prince charming is also just a man. So, initially out of frustration, she started to use the opportunity of her public image to confront all of these conditions. And she noticed, aha, the press is playing along.
Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981 seemed like a fairy tale come true
So she then dealt with these issues through the media -- and manipulated them. Diana knew every editor, she knew precisely who to call to make her difficulties and her ideas public. She also became an economic factor for the media. During her lifetime, the entire industry lived off of her. But she sometimes went too far, and I would reproach her for that. Although she truly did a lot for her children to make their lives easier, she also sometimes overdid it with the press and her children suffered because of it. For example, she allowed so many intimate pictures of her with her lovers to be published, which were in turn a burden for her children. Although she did have a great deal of positive impact on the world, she also had a negative influence in terms of her internal family structures.
Of all of the royal families, the House of Windsor is the most fascinating for the European public. Do you think Germans have a particular relationship to England's royal family?
I'm always amazed by the strong and often much exaggerated reactions to any sort of occurrence in the English royal family here in Germany. In some ways, the Germans have a love-hate relationship to monarchy. This is understandable when you consider that our politics are not exactly the most colorful and interesting. So the people look for this color and glamour in England.
The media are closely following Prince Harry and Crown Prince William's lives
But what is really astonishing to me is that a royal family which lives across the channel on an island has more moral influence on the Germans than their own politicians do. I was amazed that the divorce between Prince Charles and Princess Diana created such a fuss here while at the same time, when a German chancellor gets married four times or a foreign minister five times, I never heard a moral outcry. [ Editor's note: This is a reference to Germany's former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.]
There are dozens of magazines here in Germany which report on Europe's monarchies. German public television channels stand still to broadcast live on a royal wedding. What is keeping this strong interest in monarchy alive in Germany?
I think precisely because of Princess Diana that a large interest in European monarchy has grown in Germany. But there is another aspect. I just read a study that a growing number of young women in particular are being attracted to far-right groups here. I don't think it has to do with right-wing extremist thinking, though, but rather a longing for conservative traditions. This is an advantage of these constitutional monarchies. In spite of all the political squabbling in England, Holland or Sweden, the people can always turn to their royal families. I think this is what Germans long for: someone who stands above all of this political squabbling and also adds a bit of color. They want tradition, something continuous. Of course, no one here wants an autocratic monarchy with a Kaiser at its head and everybody has to dance to his tune. But there is a longing for an overriding institution, which stands above the squabbling of grey political life.
In view of the next generation in the House of Windsor, are we going to see a new "People's Princess" in England in the near future?
I think Prince William and Kate Middleton have surprisingly found each other again. He really noticed how much he missed her after they split up. By the way in which she is accepted by the British public, I can imagine that she has all the qualities to become the next "people's princess."
Sabina Casagrande interviewed Prince Julius Eduard von Anhalt.