Today (August 31), the world commemorates the 20th death anniversary of Diana Princess of Wales. Princess Diana appeared on the British socio-political landscape when news of her romance with Britain’s heir to the throne Prince Charles broke and her fairy-tale wedding which was watched by millions across the globe in real time.
It was also a time when Britain was going through a period of depression with its economy in tatters and austerity measures taking their toll on the public. British society was in a state of socio-political tumult.
A time when Britain’s ‘Iron Lady’ Ms. Margret Thatcher, also known as, ‘Thatcher The Milk Snatcher’ for her role in overseeing the abolishing the government programme providing free milk to school children, was Prime Minister.
A time the British establishment literally killed Irish freedom fighter Bobby Sands - making no effort to prevent his death when he went on a hunger strike to highlight the plight of the Irish population.
It was a time when Britain’s unemployment stood at 2.5 million, a time when striking workers forced the British government to withdraw plans to close down the country’s coal mines which would have led to thousands more workers being out of employment and literally thrown into the streets.
It was a time when British society was disunited, divided and in disarray. With two female leaders – the Queen and Prime Minister Thatcher, who had left their youth far behind them, were distant, cold and out of touch with the masses of their country.
It was into this bleak scenario the youthful, down-to-earth, beautiful, young and vivacious Diana appeared on the scene -- a breath of fresh air sweeping across a broken nation.
Though Diana herself had hardly done anything to inspire such inspiration… the fairy-tale wedding was a welcome distraction to the nation.
But fairy tales unfortunately, are merely tales and cover darker secrets. And so it was with Diana and her fairy-tale marriage to the heir apparent of the British throne. The fairy-tale marriage unravelled in a glare of ugly publicity, when Diana learned her prince charming was two-timing on her with an old flame -- Camilla-Parker Bowles by name.
Though emotionally devastated, Diana was a hands-on mother to her two sons, as revealed in Prince William’s interview on the BBC documentary “Diana, 7 Days,”
She also gave a human touch to the British monarchy normally cold and distant from its subjects. She walked among her people, stopping to chat with the old and aged. Visiting schools where students from underprivileged backgrounds studied, helped fund charities to help victims of landmines and those suffering from the AIDS virus. She visited the slums in India with the iconic ‘Mother Theresa’.
Diana also stood apart from other royals as she threw herself into the charities she helped fund and found. Not one to sit back and simply help collect funds needed to help the charities in their field work, Diana visited the sick and the suffering rather than avoid them. Legendary photos show Diana embracing AIDS patients.
She literally showed the world it was safe to interact/embrace persons suffering from AIDS in an era when the victims were shunned by society.
She went fearlessly into lands being cleared of landmines wearing an armoured vest bearing the legend ‘Halo Trust’. She walked among those risking their lives to clear the landmines.
And wherever Diana went, the press was sure to go. The publicity she received helped raise the millions needed for the causes she championed. Diana and the press needed each other. Anything Diana did was newsworthy and the press hunted her.
And so it was on August 31, 1997 chased by a pack of pressmen, Diana died in a horrific car crash which shocked the world and devastated her countrymen. Even today, 20 years after her death, an unsavoury recording made by a close associate is being made public.
Though Diana almost single handedly popularised Britain’s fading conservative monarchy with her humanism, the royals paid her back by stripping her of the title ‘Her Royal Highness’ when she divorced her cheating husband. Another instance of a woman punished for the infidelities of a man. The cheat remained heir to the throne while Diana was publicly humiliated.
The life and spirit of ‘Diana Princess of Wales’ was aptly summed up in Elton John’s musical oration at her funeral, “A Candle in the Wind” and we call on the media to let Diana who was also referred to as the ‘People’s Princess’ to Rest In Peace.