Book Excerpt: 'Diana and Jackie'

Two international icons of the 20th century are the subject of Jay Mulvaney's latest book — Diana and Jackie: Maidens, Mothers, Myths. Diana, Princess of Wales, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — England's princess and America's queen — came to fame 20 years apart, but were alike in many ways, according to Mulvaney's book. Read the introduction from Diana and Jackie: Maidens, Mothers, Myths.


They were two of the saddest rituals of the modern age, the funerals of a President and a Princess, and at the emotional core of each event were two women.

They were two women who stilled the world's heartbeat for a moment, one walking majestically behind the caisson of her slain husband, the second's flag draped coffin rumbling over the cobblestone streets of an ancient city, bearing a floral tribute hand addressed to "Mummy."

They were two women who took center stage at these rare moments of global communion - that exhilarating experience of sharing a sense of purpose and desire with millions of faceless others.

Diana, Princess of Wales and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Two women who have been subject to intense public scrutiny for many years — in turn enchanted and reviled.

There have been women throughout history who have captured the imagination of their times and retain a vivid presence to this day — Cleopatra and Joan of Arc are two — but their lives were separated by centuries. It's rare when two such women overlap on the world stage. Diana and Jackie were two very different women, yet they led two very similar lives.

From their youth as daughters whose lives were shattered by divorce, to their marriages to complex men, then their lives as unmarried women, through to their untimely deaths, an omnipresent media made us feel we knew them as we have never known public figures before.

Jacqueline Kennedy entered the public arena just as television was coming of age as a means of communication with an instantaneous global reach. She was the first "First Lady" of TV and as much a master of the medium as that other TV first lady Lucille Ball. Jackie used the medium to draw attention to those of her interests that she deemed important and worthy of public notice, most famously the restoration of the White House. Jackie also used television to project the image of herself that she wanted the public to see her as, moving through life in the iconoclastic fashions of those times, without ever saying much, like a silent movie star.

Twenty years later, when Diana Spencer arrived on the scene, television had matured and spawned an insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip. Where once there was restraint, there was now unending revelation. What had once been kept quiet — the sexual peccadilloes of the President of the United States — was now fodder for round the clock media exploitation, from the early morning talk shows to late night comic monologues. It wasn't until the last months of her life that Diana began to use her hard won knowledge of the media for selfless promotion of a worthy cause — the anti-landmine campaign. (An example of her power: the white hot media glow she brought to the campaign focused the world's attention on the landmine issue, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for Jodie Williams.) For most of her life Diana didn't use the media to project the image of herself she wished us to see. She searched through its lenses in search of a self she could identify with.

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