Diana, Princess of Wales. A study in confidence.

HRH Charles Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer were married on 29 July, 1981. It is an easy date for me to remember because my second child was due to be born then at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, and we were given a special telephone number to use in order to get a police escort through the huge crowds if necessary. In the event my son announced his arrival just before dawn two days later, and we drove to the hospital through deserted streets.

Nearly eight years later on 18 May, 1989, Princess Diana made a speech for the charity, Turning Point. The subject was what was then called substance abuse.

The princess starts speaking at 1:58. You will want to go straight there, because the introduction by Nick Ross is virtually inaudible and anyway chopped up and garbled in this video (which is a relief because the little we can hear is not as good as a professional should be).

Too much of this speech is a copybook example of ghastly talking-headism and also dreadful over-enunciation. She is reading a script to which she may have applied some editing, but which she almost certainly didn’t write because she is evidently unhappy with much of the phrasing. The script is mainly in written, rather than spoken, English; she is reading it very badly with much of the phrasing and emphases wildly awry; too much of her enunciation sounds as if every – word – came – individually – wrapped; and apparently no one among her armies of advisers even knew how she should manipulate the actual paper. It is disastrous; I feel very sorry for her, and want to give her advisers a good kicking.

Now let us fast-forward to 7 December 1995. The most telling context to that date is that less than two weeks later Buckingham Palace announced that The Queen had urged Charles and Diana to divorce. This time she is at Centrepoint, speaking about homelessness.

What a difference! From the bald opening onwards this is much more impressive.

Yes, it is still scripted, but I reckon she wrote this one personally because she is far more comfortable with the phrasing – so much so that she looks at it only fleetingly. It surges with passionate energy. She surges with passionate energy. Gone is the simpering bird in a gilded cage, we now welcome a new confidence. This is a woman not to be messed with. Look at the strength that emanates even from her eyes: she means what she is saying.

There’s a strong 10-element anaphora (“Young people …”) that begins at 1:00 and periodically permeates the rest of a good and telling speech.

The principle agent working for her here is her inner confidence, twinned with passion. I call it inner confidence, because it is more rational than mere bravado. Unless underpinned with some technical know-how confidence and passion can too easily be foolhardiness. I see areas where she needed a little more technical know-how, but let’s not quibble. This was very good.

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