June 29, 2011

{Was Diana the New Age Princess?}

[Reprint of my article featured on the UK's New Age Blog]

How did Prince William’s mother not only change weddings for the generations that followed her own glittering wedding spectacle in 1981, but also made it possible for William to marry Kate, the beautiful ‘commoner’? The world would have never heard of Catherine Elizabeth Middleton without Princess Diana’s “palace revolution” that began 30 years ago; however, Catherine, the new Duchess of Cambridge, the poised bride that recently captured the hearts and admiration of the world—a future queen of England—is not Diana’s only legacy.

My upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: Princess Diana, the Princess Myth & a Royal Legacy for All Women, takes the incomparable, world-stage life of Diana Spencer Mountbatten-Windsor—with both its light and shadow sides—as well as her sudden mythological death, and shares the unexpected ways she affected world change. Even with her immaturity, unhappiness, neurosis, hunger for attention and approval, Diana plumbed the depths of her own sympathetic heart and showed the world the loving effect of both hands-on parenting and hands-on compassion to the sick and dying. All the while, and not always with “grace and favour,” she introduced a more personal, open-heart approach to the British monarchy, preparing it for a more equalitarian world and enlivening its archetypal outreach.

{Princess Daydreams}
Diana’s little-girl dreams were to be rescued by a prince. As a teenager she indeed attracted a prince who courted and married her—and she appeared to be living out her dream. So what happened? Diana became a real princess on her wedding day, yet later declared that being a princess wasn’t all it was cracked up to be! So why is the modern wedding industry as well as fantasies of many little girls still all about “being a princess”? It seems the “Disney Princess” enterprise, established in 2000 and now a $4 billion ‘tinsel and tiara’ phenomenon attracting little girls worldwide, hijacked this natural daydream and turned it into a “you’re not okay just the way you are” materialistic nightmare. (Disney even recently premiered their own “princess wedding gown” collection for brides.)

Of course, the Disney Princess franchise is not the only culprit. Peggy Orenstein, in her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, writes about the current pink-tinted, sexed-up girlie-girl princess marketing machine that’s not only taken over a generation of little girl’s self-image, but also “fosters a desire for lots of cheap sparkly stuff.” Is this a backlash to the positive girl-power movement of the 1990s or did the intoxicating Disney dazzle simply overpower the “damsel in shining armour” model that was growing? Has the momentum shifted back now, however, and are we emerging into an even more vibrant, universal rhythm of Oprah-inspired girls and women who live Beyonce’s 2011 anthem, “Run the World (Girls)”?

The energy of the new millennium, “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” holds female aspects that support the rise of feminine and nurturing characteristics. (Is this the true “kinder and gentler” world promised?) It was no accident that the timing of Princess Diana’s life landed at this pivotal crossroads of human development in general and the re-emergence of women’s leadership in particular—perhaps the beginning of the next matriarchal culture. With this new energy, we are entering the era of deeply connected relationships.

“This is how spiritual partnerships work,” Gary Zukov states in his 1989 book, The Seat of the Soul. “You begin to set aside the wants of your personality in order to accommodate the needs of your partner’s spiritual growth, and in doing that, you grow yourself.”

{Rescuing Damsels}
Thirty years ago this July, Diana’s wedding extravaganza resurrected the bridal industry, inspiring the society-style celebrations with their “refined Martha Stewart shaped details” that we know today. But the change in “all things wedding” was only the beginning of her influence on women's lives. Diana tapped into something deeper and more intimate. By allowing her life to be exposed in ways that were not always the most attractive or flattering, she put the spotlight on what was missing in modern relationships.

“We are at the end of the fairy-tale bride,” my book declares. The end of the belief that a woman needs to be rescued and that a man’s job is to come to the rescue. Although we may continue to be enchanted by long ago folktales featuring these “damsel and knight” stories, this archetype hardly serves the deeper desires of women and men for happy and fulfilling relationships if women are portrayed as “lesser than” in any way. The damsel and knight fairy tale always ends at the “point of rescue,” noted author Dr. Caroline Myss in a 1998 article in the New Age Journal magazine following Diana’s death. “Indeed the shadow side of this fairy tale is that the woman is taken from one form of containment—her maiden palace—to yet another form of containment—the knight’s palace.”

Helping to break apart the “princess myth” and “damsel and knight” fairy tale that has stifled women’s self-esteem and personal growth for years may indeed be Diana’s most powerful contribution in reframing how women and girls see themselves. But is the origin myth of these stories actually an empowering message for women? Did the stories and fairy tales get twisted in the retelling by the overly sentimental Victorians, a suppressive society for women, covering up their more enlightened meaning? Perhaps the ‘being a princess’ desire is simply an echo of a woman’s true goddess nature and Diana’s death reopened the pathway to this forgiving and loving ancient goddess-era spirit. Perhaps the “rescuing damsel” stories were actually about honouring the female essence.

It’s natural for women (no matter our age) to fantasize, play dress up, and love romantic fairy tales, pageantry and weddings (royal or otherwise.) In my upcoming book and new blog—through stories and musings told against the backdrop of Princess Diana’s life in a “things are seldom as they seem” approach—I explore how the lives of women and little girls can be enhanced and strengthened, not only by using our intuition plus naturally nurturing and relating instincts, but also by paying attention to fairy tales, childhood dreams, mythology, romance and ritual, and our unbridled imaginations.

{Diana's Requiem}
Being a photogenic princess gave Diana the spotlight; but opening her heart gave her power. The appeal of her warmth and vulnerability made her “the people’s princess,” but her deep sense of having a bigger life purpose gave her courage to make a difference around the globe.

Diana was not the first naïve young woman to fall in love with a dashing image instead of the man; nor the first suspicious bride-to-be who wanted to call the whole thing off on the eve of her wedding. Neither was she the first camera-pleasing beauty to marry a prince in a splashy fairy-tale wedding and become a tabloid princess; nor the first young wife to turn into a needy, manipulative shrew. Diana was not the first media-sensation celebrity to cover-up unhealthy, addictive habits; nor was she the first deeply sensitive woman to develop an empathetic healing touch. And she was not the first famously charismatic princess to die an early accidental death and become even more legendary.

Nonetheless, Princess Diana was singularly the most famous woman in the world in life and death, blowing open the heart chakra of the planet to a degree not really known or even understood, but as part of a divine plan to ready us all for a new millennium of major global shifts. During the week between her death and memorial service, she held the world’s attention in a mysterious, alchemical pause—like a redemptive, ascending prayer. Inside this startling and mournful global meditation, we found something of ourselves once thought lost or simply long forgotten. Then like a goddess of Avalon—some say even as the reincarnation of the Roman Goddess Diana herself—her body was peacefully laid to rest amongst familial trees on an ancient island in an oval ancestral lake in the heart of England.

{The Legacy of a Princess}
Whatever part Diana’s wedding and life and death played in illuminating the stories of deep heart connection that honor feminine beauty and strength; the lineage of women (both the light and dark aspects); the bride’s rite-of-passage; the power of a nurturing spirit; the potential of a child’s daydreams; the expression of spiritual lessons we’re to learn during our time on Earth; the devotion of motherhood and lighthearted parenting; the healing power of loving touch; being in service to others even when we feel inadequate ourselves; the miraculous results of forgiveness given and the stinging results of forgiveness withheld; and all of life’s rites-of-passage including life into death—we thank her for her role in this divine plan. Paraphrasing editor and Jungian analyst Jane Haynes in the book When a Princess Dies: From Diana’s wounding and our subsequent healing, a flower-harvest of possibility was born.

One possibility that already has come to pass—and created an opening for many more—is the marriage of her elder son which represented and fulfilled everything Diana wished for. “He has found the woman who would bring him the personal contentment she lacked,” shared Diana biographer and Newsweek editor-in-chief Tina Brown after William and Kate’s wedding. And it just may be that “Princess Kate”—now Her Royal Highness and a Queen Catherine to-be—could set the pace for a whole new paradigm of women’s equality and, along with her prince, showcase a world-view platform for being a true partner in marriage and relationships. (“Hurray, Diana!”) ~


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