Heartbreak Hotel

Heartbreak Hotel

Heartbreak Hotel

What the foreign papers are saying.
Sept. 2 1998 3:30 AM

Heartbreak Hotel

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The first anniversary of the death of Princess Diana dominated headlines worldwide. The British press credited her untimely demise with the greatly increased popularity of the monarchy in Britain today. The dramatically diminished shows of public mourning compared with a year ago were generally interpreted--though without any evidence--as a sign that grief for her had not declined but had become "private." Turning mystical, the conservative Sunday Telegraph said in an editorial that "she restored to royal life the quasi-religious ideal of the exalted coming down among the meek. ... Without knowing it, Diana revived and modified the medieval tradition of the 'royal touch,' bringing hope if not healing to the suffering and the dying."

Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, the Sunday tabloid News of the World, said "the princess who would not go quietly has humbled an arrogant, remote dynasty. ... Now the time for mourning is at an end, but those in high places should never forget--the time for learning goes on." Scotland on Sunday rejoiced that "the hounding of the Queen" has ended and that "instead of demanding that the Queen be made to dance to the tune of the mob, the country appears to be taking its lead from her and her family." On Monday, the Financial Times noted "a growing impatience with the attempts to turn her [Diana] into a secular saint" and pointed out that Prince Charles' "popularity rating is now equal to that of Tony Blair, the prime minister who so adeptly expressed the nation's grief a year ago."

The anniversary was the subject of massive press comment around the world, with even an austere newspaper such as Le Monde of Paris devoting three whole pages to it Sunday. On the cause of the princess's death in a car crash in Paris, Le Monde rejected all conspiracy theories and said the French investigating magistrate has already concluded it was fundamentally a banal road accident. The paper published full page profiles of the two chief custodians of the Diana cult--her brother, Lord Spencer, and Mohamed al-Fayed, the father of her boyfriend Dodi. Both were portrayed as thorns in the side of the royal family.

In Milan, a front-page editorial in Corriere Della Sera titled "The Memory of Lady Diana in Ashes" sought to explain why "the river of tears has slowed down and the dissenters from the myth have become bolder and more numerous." Unlike other still powerful icons such as Evita Perón and Mother Teresa, "Lady Diana has left nothing behind ... not a word, not a phrase that might give nourishment to her worshippers, that might render her myth lasting, or at least a little more lasting," the paper said. "Through his songs, even Elvis Presley has left behind an infinite number of memorable words, and 20 years after his death, his fans are battling strenuously to save from the bulldozers the theater in which he last performed." In contrast, the followers of the dead princess are "groping about in silence" and losing "the faith which seemed so solid only a year ago."

Overlooking President Clinton's visit to Russia this week, the Pioneer of India ran an editorial Monday about his "homecoming" to Washington after his vacation in Martha's Vineyard, saying he is sure to be comforted by Robert Frost's lines "Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/ They have to take you in." The daily drew a parallel "between the Clinton-Saddam standoff on the one hand, and the Clinton-Lewinsky affair on the other," suggesting that "both are adventures of convenience activated by unprecedented power that makes one unmindful of consequences." Monica Lewinsky is useful "as a palliative for personal boredom," while Saddam Hussein is useful "as the excuse for the continued American presence in West Asia and as a regional bully to checkmate fundamentalist Iran's geopolitical ambitions" (which had been why the United States "deliberately stopped short of unseating Mr. Hussein" in 1991). The editorial concluded by saying Americans might refuse to put the Lewinsky affair behind them, "especially if they have daughters who could be interns in the White House, or any other house for that matter."

A reader's letter Monday in the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong blamed Kenneth Starr's determination to crush Clinton on sexual envy. "Ken Starr, it seems by all accounts, unlike Mr. Clinton, was never any great shakes with the ladies," the writer said. "Unlike Mr. Clinton, Mr. Starr is not exactly what one would describe as charismatic. He is not the sort of guy who would light up a room when he walked inside."

In an editorial headed "A sorry summit in Moscow," London's Financial Times said that neither Clinton nor Russian President Boris Yeltsin "is in any position to help the other" and that the best to be hoped from them is that they will arrange the closest possible cooperation on security issues because of the danger in Russia "that political weakness at home might lead to adventurism abroad."