Diana: The People’s Princess Who Led A Life Full of Compassion, Grace, and Warmth
Princess Diana could have easily sat back and lived a life of luxury and leisure after marrying into the royal family without a concern in the world. She nevertheless made it her mission to use her fame to aid as many people as she could, emerging as the face of international fundraising initiatives. Diana was an inspiration to individuals from all walks of life, and her passing sparked an international outpouring of grief. She had it all and was willing to share it with as many people as she could. One of Diana’s most well-known phrases, “Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to go, doing what I can,” best captures her personality.
Diana Spencer was born on July 1, 1961, to Edward John Spencer and Frances Ruth Burke Roche. She was raised in an aristocratic family and became Lady Diana after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. She is said to have played with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward as a child.
In 1977, she met Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, who was 13 years her senior. Soon after, she graduated from high school, relocated to London, and began working as a kindergarten teacher. Throughout the late 1970s, Charles’ courtship of Diana sparked widespread public interest and was extensively covered in the media.
On July 29, 1981, the couple married in what was dubbed the “wedding of the century.” The ceremony was watched by an estimated 750 million people around the world on television.
Diana and Charles were parents to two children. Prince William was born in 1982. Prince Harry was born in the year 1984. Despite the fact that Diana and Charles divorced in 1996, she was still considered a member of the royal family, according to her Buckingham Palace biography.
Princess Diana quickly became a symbol of elegance and glamour. She had natural charm and charisma, used her famous status to support a number of humanitarian causes, and set fashion trends with her ever-changing haircuts and outfit choices. However, the princess and prince’s marital issues were escalating behind the scenes. Diana suffered from severe postpartum depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and the growing stress of being relentlessly chased by both the tabloid press, particularly the paparazzi, and the official media royal-watchers.
The pair formally separated in 1992 when the marriage started to fall apart amid accusations from both partners, tell-all memoirs, and admissions of infidelity. Diana explained her position in Andrew Morton’s contentious book Diana: Her True Story (1992) and in an incredibly open televised interview in 1995. The divorce between the two became final on August 28, 1996, following protracted talks that resulted in Diana receiving a monetary settlement but not the title of Her Royal Highness.
By now, Diana had become increasingly popular for her humanitarian efforts around the world. She had advocated for causes such as homelessness, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, children’s welfare, and opposition to the use of land mines. In fact, she spent the last month of her life doing charity work, visiting land mines in Bosnia.
She gained the moniker “the People’s Princess” thanks to her warmth, humility, and accessibility.
Her personal life, including her romance with Egyptian film producer Dodi Al-Fayed, remained in the public eye. On the night of August 31, 1997, the couple was visiting Paris when their car was pursued by paparazzi, resulting in a high-speed crash. Princess Diana died as a result of her injuries, as did Al-Fayed and the driver, who was found to have a high level of alcohol in his system. She was 36 years old.
Flowers began to pile up outside Buckingham Palace as word spread. The royal family broke with precedent by planning the globally televised royal funeral, seemingly taken aback by the extraordinary outpouring of sadness and by criticism of their emotional restraint. The picture of Prince William, then 15, and Prince Harry, then 12, walking gravely behind Diana’s coffin in her burial cortege with their father became iconic.
The world mourned the princess’s death, with 2.5 billion people tuning in to watch her funeral on television.
In a populist age of media stardom in which Diana herself was a key figure, Diana’s life and death split national sentiment about the current monarchy (and, in a way, about British identity), which appeared archaic and emotionless.
Prince Harry, who was just 12 years old when Diana passed away, remarked in the HBO documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, “I was wondering to myself how is it that so many people who have never met this woman, my mother, can be crying and displaying more emotion than I am?”