The Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

I play it nearly every year around this time.

I didn’t have a huge interest in the British royals, though I’ve seen two movies featuring George VI (The King’s Speech and Hyde Park on the Hudson). His successor, his elder daughter Queen Elizabeth II, has been monarch for my entire life. The late Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the royal photographer, and QEII’s former brother-in-law (her sister Margaret’s ex), had his birthday on 7 March, as do I.

But it was impossible not to be aware of the wedding on 29 July 1981 between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. As I noted back on 2013-07-27, about a half a year after the event, my friend Jessica developed a parody skit of that event, a narrative accompanied by a slide show. The presentation was the Eighth Step Coffee House when it was still located at First Presbyterian Church, and it was hilariously irreverent. I played the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When Diana died on 31 August 1997, I thought it was most unfortunate. But like QEII, as portrayed in the movie The Queen, I did not realize what an outpouring of grief would transpire.

I know my ex-girlfriend (now my wife) was more affected as well. They were about the same age, among other things. I don’t know if she knew that the Spencers were related to her family, the Olins, at that time, though it’s been much codified since, so they are actually distant cousins.

Still, in my possession is a CD of the BBC Recording of the Funeral Service of 6 September, released on 30 September. I may have purchased it for someone else. I play it nearly every year around this time, and I find it quite moving. The tolling of the bells, the various hymns and readings, her brother Earl Spencer’s loving but bitter tribute, and of course, Elton John’s reworking of his song Candle In The Wind [listen]. Rerecorded shortly thereafter, it became one of the biggest singles of all time.

The royal connection

My wife and daughter, if you go back far enough, have common ancestors with the guys who are second and third in line to the British throne.

As I have alluded to before, my wife and my daughter are related to William and Harry and George, those UK royals.

It seems that:
Henry Spencer (b. 1353) married Isabel Lincoln (b. 1357)
They had at least two sons:
William Spencer (b. 1376) is a direct ancestor of Diana Spencer (b. July 1, 1961)
Thomas Spencer (b. 1378) is a direct ancestor of Susannah Spencer (b. 1680). Susannah married John Olin (b.1664) on October 4, 1708.

You may recall that John Olin, who was once a 14-year old cabin boy as an indentured servant, forced into service on the British ship Man-O-War, jumped off the boat heading for Boston harbor. He swam ashore, stealthily traveled inland for about a week, and ended up in the care of the Narragansett Indians for eight years. He became an indentured servant to a Samuel Gorton until 1700, when he became a free man.

John and Susannah had four known children, Joseph, John, Henry and Eleanor. Joseph was the ancestor, eight generations back, of my mother-in-law. Thus my wife and daughter, if you go back far enough, have common ancestors with the guys who are second, third, and fourth in line to the British throne.

This means, of course, that, as President of the Olin family reunion, New York/Pennsylvania branch, I ought to send the William and George (and Harry) an invitation to the annual event.

Royally exhausted

His royal highness Christopher Rupert Vwindemier Vlandamier Carl Alexander Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James is giving a ball.


My personal nightmare is over, and I won’t have to listen to the incessant stories about George Cambridge, which sounds like the name of a character actor in 1970s films, but in fact is what I’ve dubbed one baby born this past Monday, along with about 350,000 others worldwide.

It’s not that I have a particular antipathy towards the royals as much as I don’t much care. The overload of coverage, though, made me cranky.

I was at my physical therapist’s earlier this week, and NBC’s TODAY show was on TV. The hosts promised a royal-free zone in their vapid What’s Trending segment but did one non-crown story before devolving. Over the previous weekend, with no baby, the news organizations were reduced to reporting on how much time and effort news organizations were spending waiting for George.

Then the baby was born. Lots of even numbers, I noticed. 8 pounds, 6 ounces, 4:24 p.m. on the 22nd of the month. I suppose I, like some others, was hoping for a girl, if only to put that new primogeniture law to the test.

What, no baby name yet?! Wait a day, people! Names of royals always remind me that Diana muffed Charles Philip Arthur George’s name at the wedding, saying Philip Charles. It also brings to mind Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, specifically, “The Prince is Giving a Ball” – LYRICS and LISTEN:
Herald: His royal highness, Christopher Rupert Vwindemier Vlandamier Carl Alexander Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman
Boy: HERMAN?
Herald: Herman Gregory James is giving a ball.

The Wife, though, is more interested in the newest heir to the British throne, maybe because she is related. Nine generations ago, back in the 1690s, John Olin married Susannah Spencer, who is an ancestor of Princess Diana. Usually, I zip through the recorded news, but this week, I have to wait for her to watch the royal news, something I might otherwise have zapped through.

I’ve heard less about the desire of skipping over Charles (who’s only been waiting most of his life to become a king; don’t expect HIS mom to abdicate), and to install William, who is, after all, a tired new dad. Also, it seems that the hatred of Camilla has waned in the years since Diana’s death.

Speaking of the royals, about six months after Charles and Diana’s wedding back in 1981, my friend Jessica Lawrence developed a parody skit of that event, a narrative accompanied by a slide show. The pictures were taken at Westminister Presbyterian Church in Albany. The presentation was the Eighth Step Coffee House when it was still located at First Presbyterian Church, and it was hilariously irreverent. That’s Jessica as Diana and me as the Archbishop of Canterbury.