COVER

CANADA'S PRINCESS

RUTH ABRAMSON,DANYLO HAWALESHKA September 8 1997
COVER

CANADA'S PRINCESS

RUTH ABRAMSON,DANYLO HAWALESHKA September 8 1997

CANADA'S PRINCESS

COVER

The memory, for many, lives on. Diana captivated Canadians during three extended royal visits to Canada with her former husband, Prince Charles. The first was an 18-day tour in 1983-two years after the couple's storybook wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral-that saw the country succumb to "Di-mania." That visit to Atlantic Canada, Ot-

tawa and Edmonton, was not without controversy. On one occasion, reporters demanded to know if then-New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield, an avid monarchist, had been drunk when he gushingly toasted the royal couple with the words “Let the flame burn, for yes, the flame is love. A toast to love, the Prince and Princess of Wales.” But the late premier’s enthusiasm was shared by thousands more. “She was a person that made you feel good to be with,” says Jack Boone, 58, the former mayor of St. Andrews,

N.B. During the couple’s six-hour visit to his town, Boone recalls, “I always had the feeling that here’s a girl who’d like to have her jeans and a plaid shirt on. I never felt that she was comfortable with the intense pressure she was under.” Three years later, the Prince and Princess of Wales were back, this time for an eight-day tour of British Columbia—the longest visit by any member of the Royal Family to a Canadian province. Diana was clearly the star as thousands gathered for a glimpse of the couple. Well-wishers showered her with flowers during the gruelling tour, which included the official opening of British Columbia’s Expo 86 in Vancouver and visits to other parts of the province.

“Her pictures did her justice, but in person she was beautiful," remembers Vancouver health-care worker Rod Wylie, who saw the princess at Expo. But the hectic schedule took its toll.

Concerns about Diana’s health mounted when she fainted after touring Expo's U.S. pavilion, and Buckingham Palace was forced to issue a statement saying that the princess was in perfect health.

That was not the case. As later disclosed by Diana, 1986 was the year she began to develop the eating disorder bulimia nervosa —a reaction, she said, to the fact that her marriage was disintegrating behind closed palace doors. By the time of her last visit to Canada, a week-long tour with Charles in November, 1991, speculation was rife about the state of their union—and Charles’s frustration over his wife’s ability to steal the spotlight. The couple was already leading very separate lives, and the final visit to Canada reflected that. It was, in fact, more a case of two separate tours: Charles focused on business and environmental concerns; Diana on the social and medical issues that came to dominate the last years of her life.

Graceful and charming as always, casual when the situation called for it, she also moved John Flannery with her compassion during a visit to the Toronto AIDS hospice, Casey House. “She was amazing,” recalls Flannery, the institution’s executive director. "She was entirely comfortable with the residents—she really made an effort to spend time with them and their families to talk about what it is like to live with HIV.” Casey House, Flannery said, has a candle that is lit for 24 hours in memory of a deceased resident or friend of the hospice. On Sunday, that candle burned for Diana.

RUTH ABRAMSON

DANYLO HAWALESHKA