Tuesday Dec 6, 2022
Tuesday Dec 6, 2022

Princess Diana’s influence endures 20 years after her death


Nepalnews
AP
2022 Aug 31, 21:37, LONDON
Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, shakes hands and talks to school children during her visit to a new shopping centre at Aylesbury, Bucks., England on March 2, 1983. (AP Photo)

The shock came late on a summer evening: After an idyllic Mediterranean holiday, Princess Diana had been in a car crash in Paris. Her boyfriend was dead; she was hospitalized, condition unclear.

She died a few hours later on Aug. 31, 1997, plunging Britain into grief that lingers to this day. Twenty years later, the memory of Diana — a youthful mother cut down, leaving two children behind — remains vital, her influence still felt.

Time has blurred the memories, but people around the world still remember Diana as a young bride, so taken with Prince Charles, and as a glamorous trendsetter dancing at the White House with John Travolta. She was the fun-loving mom taking her two boys on amusement park rides, and the tireless charity worker who reached out to AIDS patients when they were shunned by much of society.

The sons Diana left behind — Prince William, now 35, and Prince Harry, 32 — are playing increasingly important roles in Britain’s national life as the public focuses on the next generation of royals, sometimes at the expense of William and Harry’s father, Prince Charles.

In this Aug. 9, 1987 file photo, Britain's Princess Diana of Wales smiles as she sits with her sons, Princes Harry, front, and William, on the steps of the Royal Palace on the island of Mallorca, Spain, where the British Royal family is on holiday with the Spanish King Juan Carlos and his family. (AP Photo)
In this Aug. 9, 1987 file photo, Britain's Princess Diana of Wales smiles as she sits with her sons, Princes Harry, front, and William, on the steps of the Royal Palace on the island of Mallorca, Spain, where the British Royal family is on holiday with the Spanish King Juan Carlos and his family. (AP Photo)

Morton’s 1992 book about Diana revealed the depth of her despair: her struggle with a serious eating disorder, attempts at self-harm, and what he calls the “deep unhappiness” of her union with Charles, which ended in a bitter divorce in 1996.

It was supposed to be so different. Charles was heir to the throne, and Diana’s entry into the royal family meant she was likely to become queen one day.

Theirs was perhaps a common story of infidelity and broken vows, but played out on an uncommonly public stage. Each used TV interviews and books by favored authors as megaphones in their bids for public sympathy.

Many saw Diana as a young mother wronged by a privileged older husband’s refusal to give up his lifelong mistress — even though the princess admitted to affairs of her own.

Refusing to fit the Windsor mold, she sought new ways to cope with fabulous wealth, worldwide fame, and sky-high expectations. She reached out and actually touched AIDS patients — a taboo at the time — and travelled to former combat zones to highlight the dangers land mines posed to civilians.

The Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Charles and Princess Diana leave St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London on Sept. 16, 1984 with their new baby son, Prince Harry who was born on Sept. 15. (AP Photo)
The Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Charles and Princess Diana leave St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London on Sept. 16, 1984 with their new baby son, Prince Harry who was born on Sept. 15. (AP Photo)

Many felt they could relate to her when she recounted her own battles with bulimia and talked openly of her disappointment and loneliness.

Some remember her for bringing a refreshing informality to the royal family — for example, taking young William and Harry in 1993 to Thorpe Park, a popular amusement center near London where they squealed and screamed along with everyone else on the water rides.

Carol Meredith, a nurse who recently visited the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park with her husband, said that in the past senior royals would have had the amusement park cleared so they could enjoy it without mingling with the public.

Today, she said, the royals aren’t like that.

Queen Elizabeth II was on vacation in Scotland at the time of the accident, and she remained there for several days. She declined to lower the flag atop Buckingham Palace to half-staff, citing protocol, as rare public anger mounted against the monarch.

Elizabeth seemed, publicly at least, unmoved by Diana’s death, even as the prime minister — media-savvy Tony Blair — coined a memorable phrase in describing Diana as “the people’s princess.”

The queen eventually relented and came to London to pay her respects. The royal family then took steps to regain public favor, in part by adopting the more people-friendly approach Diana had used.

Chloe Dyson, a secondary school teacher also visiting Hyde Park, said Diana remains an “inspirational figure” two decades after her death.

“She still obviously has a strong image in the British psyche,” Dyson said, adding that Diana’s accessible approach brought her closer to the British people than other royals.

“People felt they could identify with her,” Dyson said, remembering the impact of Diana’s charitable endeavors, including visits to hospitals and homeless shelters. “She was doing good work.”

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Princess Diana 20 years after her death idyllic Mediterranean holiday car crash Paris Royal Family
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