When she died on Aug. 31, 1997 in a car crash in Paris, the whole world did not want it to be true. Diana, the Princess of Wales endeared the Royal Family to the British people, who until that moment, could have taken or left the Royal Family. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period was cut short, and for a people reputed for their stiff upper lip, they displayed emotion not seen since, or before. 32.1 million people watched the televised funeral. Tributes and statements flowed to the woman, and the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, called her “The People’s Princess”.
But what made Diana so popular? Perhaps because she presented herself in all her humanity, with her strengths, her weaknesses and her struggles. And strong, she was. She defied the Queen when she told Diana to do “something more pleasant” with her charity work.
Indeed, she wasn’t one for choosing so-called glamourous or socially palpable charities. She was the highest member in the Royal Family to de-stigmatise AIDS by shaking hands and hugging AIDS-sufferers. And she did not do it for the buzz; these were causes she believed in and her actions were prompted by love and compassion. On HIV, she said, “HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it…”
As well as HIV, landmines, leprosy and others, she was also involved with a number of children’s charities. One of those included the Child Bereavement UK, which her eldest son, Prince William is now the patron.
As he said during the 21st anniversary dinner of the charity, “What my mother recognised back then – and what I understand now – is that grief is the most painful experience that any child or parent can endure.”
Heartache was something that Diana experienced, as does every human being. But in her case, where a stoical approach would have suited her title as the Royal Highness, she refused to do it. In regards to her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, she said, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
But above all else, Diana’s charm laid in the fact that she wasn’t a wallflower, and she held her own in regard to the Royal Family. She refused the cohort of nannies, and as far as her schedule allowed her, was often seen with her boys, having fun or visiting AIDS clinics or homeless shelters.
The outpouring has died down since the death of “The People’s Princess” on that fateful day of the Aug. 31, 1997, but her legacy lives on, as her two boys continue, with the same love and compassion, the work she started all those years ago.