A man with Aids said he would have been dead two years ago had Diana not touched him; a three-year-old visited by Diana while in a coma had a miraculous recovery and has now left his best teddy outside Kensington Palace; a nine-year-old treated for heart disease said that Diana had visited her ten times and had offered to do the family’s washing if they’d just drop it round at the Palace. For some, a world without the Saint was too much to bear: there were reports of at least two “Diana-related” suicides.
No one could doubt the sincerity of the people’s reaction. But their sincerity did not make it any less repellent. The supposedly reserved, bloodless Brits had, like the Princess, swallowed wholesale the vocabulary of American Oprahfied psychobabble, a depressing enough prospect. But they had fused it with the brutish vulgarity of modern British mass culture to create a truly horrible mutant: aggressive empathy. Their message to their Sovereign was in essence: If you can’t come out and feel our pain, we’ll come in and give you some of your own to feel.