Every time I return to my village, deep in northern Italy, the shop assistant in the local community supermarket talks to me about Prince Harry as if he were a close relative. “Yes, he is a bit wild,” she says every time. “But I do love his sincerity.”
Italians read everything to do with the royal family voraciously. When I trained at the main Italian news agency, Ansa, in Fleet Street, a lot of the work was scouring the British tabloids for every little tidbit on the royals. Italians love talking and are open about themselves, and the Windsors provide an unending, interesting conversation.
Before I came to live in Britain, 25 years ago, I watched the wedding of Diana, Princess of Wales, with my friends. I was an adolescent and dreamt, like her, of marrying my prince. She was then a character from a fairytale become real.
My point of view has completely changed now. It always amazes me, in my royal reporting for Italian magazines, how the Windsors are first of all an institution and only secondly global stars. Italians don’t know this and don’t appreciate this institutional dimension. They struggle to believe that the Queen works very hard, reading official documents for hours a day, and is far from a lazy aristocrat who doesn’t do much.
I have now developed a deep respect and admiration for the Queen, and look up to her as a model of morality and devotion to religious and family values. I also appreciate how difficult the job of a monarch must be and how it requires hard work, humility and a sense of vocation.
It seems to me that God has chosen the monarchy as an institution to give Britain identity and vision. Nowhere is this more evident than in the effect that Diana had. As if by divine providence, she accelerated the transformation of the monarchy, which was badly needed. Her death also brought back to the country a religious sensibility and practices which had been lost, like the cult of the dead.
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