Sat, 08 Oct 1994

Tempest in a castle

The recent publication in London of Princess in Love, a book alleging the Princess of Wales had a five-year affair with an army officer, has again implicated the British Royal House in a scandal. In a move not much different from its reaction to any negative news about the royal family, Buckingham Palace dismissed the book on Monday as "grubby and worthless".

Whether the book, written by Anna Pasternak in a reportedly gushing and sentimental style, is sensational or not, its first printing of 75,000 copies sold out on its first day on Monday. A second printing is underway.

One thing is certain, such topics can no longer be labeled tabloid hysteria because these latest revelations have won comments from major newspapers, such as the Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.

The Guardian said on Tuesday -- as quoted by international news agencies -- that the alleged adulterous relationship between the princess and Major James Hewitt, will serve to further damage the moral authority of the royal family. It also quoted a privy councilor as saying "it is making the royal family a world-wide laughing stock".

The alleged scandal is so serious that a Guardian editorial urged that in "name of sanity" the royal couple should be allowed to divorce.

Even in this age of globalization, we still tend to want to leave the matter to the British press. But we can't help commenting on the way Princess Diana and the British people in general have reacted to the frenzy.

Diana appeared in public on Tuesday with her stunning calm. The world's most photographed woman, whom many admirers say has a 10-megawatt smile, really looked unscratched by the book furor. Although the book says that neither the officer nor Diana was haunted by any feeling of guilt, the 33-year-old princess might expect public pardon for the scandal. After all her estranged husband, Prince Charles, the future king, was afforded public opinion pardon after he confessed he had been unfaithful to her, the mother of a future king, once it had become clear their marriage had irretrievably broken down.

But perhaps what seems the most surprising for us here is that the British people have not reacted with overt condemnation of such behavior on the part of their future king's estranged wife. Have the British not changed since the age of Henry VIII? And how about Prime Minister John Major's crusade on family values?

Had a palace crisis like this happened in Malaysia, Morocco or Japan, the people would surely have reacted more drastically.

Although the alleged scandal has no direct constitutional implication, the British people's inaction reminds one of the attitude taken by people living under Asian monarchies, who were mostly governed by adulterous royalty, up into the first half of this century. Those meek creatures simply accepted the fact that it was a part of the art of kingship that monarchs and nobles lived adulterous lives.

But in the East now moral values are being applied, along with traditional and religious values, even to those who sit on thrones.

Citizens of many a kingdom believe that their king or queen is a symbol of grandeur, unity and stability, even though, in some cases, such as that of the royalty of Thailand, their monarchs rarely, if ever, intervene in even serious political crises.

The British, who have contributed parliamentary democracy to mankind, perhaps believe that their guarded convictions concerning their royalty remain relevant in a modern society. And we would agree that the good name of Queen Elizabeth should be protected. It also seems reasonable that Charles, with all his composed attitude in the face of personal crisis, will someday evolve into a respected monarch in his own right.