Memories of Diana Reflect Britain’s Yawning Generational Divide

For Britons too young to remember Diana’s death, “she’s basically like Grace of Monaco, but more recent,” said Mr. Power Sayeed, who has spoken to more than 50 people about their memories. “They don’t register just how much it matters, or how much she mattered.”

For those at least 30, however, Diana’s death remains a cultural touchstone. “Apart from people in their 20s or younger, it’s something that we all share,” Mr. Power Sayeed said. “Everyone wants to tell me about the moment they heard she died.”

Recent research by YouGov, one of Britain’s leading pollsters, appears to support part of Mr. Power Sayeed’s thesis. YouGov found that Britons over 50 were most likely to remember Diana for her reputation — as “the People’s Princess,” as she was branded by Tony Blair, Britain’s prime minister at the time, in the days following her death.

By contrast, those 18 to 24 were most likely to know her simply as someone who had died in a car crash.

The same generational disconnect was visible in last year’s referendum to leave the European Union, when exit polls suggested that 75 percent of voters 18 to 24 had cast ballots to remain in the union – against 39 percent of people over 65. In Britain’s general election in June, over 60 percent of the 18- to 24-year-olds were estimated to have voted for the Labour Party, the left-wing opposition, compared to less than 30 percent of the older group.

This generational gap is also defined by a difference in economic opportunity. Younger Britons, for example, find it far harder to buy property than their parents did at their age. The average cost of a home in Britain is now 7.6 times the average annual salary — a ratio that has more than doubled in the past two decades.

Diana’s death occurred just as many of these economic tensions began to emerge, said Shiv Malik, the co-author of “Jilted Generation,” a book documenting the challenges faced by British millennials. British house prices began to balloon in 1996, while free university education ended in 1998.

“It was almost at that moment,” said Mr. Malik, in a reference to Diana’s death, “that life chances started to diverge.”

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Source: New York Times

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