Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Borrowed Monument

Paris is full of memorials and monuments, but this one is particularly interesting. It's a monument called the "Flame of Liberty" that commemorates the French government's donation of the Statue of Liberty to the US. But its location has caused it to be turned into something else. It sits at the Place de l'Alma, just above where Princess Diana's car crashed 10 years ago. So, it has become an informal, impromptu monument to her. You can see the picture of her plastered to the side of the pedestal and the flowers, notes, pictures and other mementos left there by admirers. I'm sure there are always things which people place there in memory of her, but given that this is the 10th anniversary, they've probably been putting more things there than usual.

It's interesting to think about how one monument has been co-opted and appropriated for a completely different purpose simply because of its location. I'm sure the fact that it's a monument to the concept of liberty helps since many people thought of Diana as a "free spirit," especially after her divorce from Prince Charles. Had this originally been a monument to Polish volunteers in the French Revolution or Protestants massacred on St. Bartholomew's Day, it would have been harder to borrow for the purpose of remembering Diana. But whether through fortunate coincidence or simply the happenstance of geography, this place -- as close as you can get to the location of her death without traveling in a car through the tunnel -- has become the pilgrimage site for those who want to remember "the people's Princess" when they visit Paris.

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