On the 25th anniversary of the Princess of Wales’ tragic death, we take a look over Diana’s legacy, and why she’ll always have a place in the public’s hearts.
It’s one of those events that we remember where we were when we heard the news. On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris, leaving behind young sons Prince William and Prince Harry, aged only15 and 12 respectively.
The heartbreak and outpouring of grief felt up and down the country — and indeed, the world — was palpable. We mourned in a very open and emotional way as we never had before and members of the public adorned Buckingham Palace with a cornucopia of flowers in tribute to the late Princess.
If there’s one thing Diana should be remembered for, it was her humanity and ability to connect with real people. Who can forget her visit to Harlem Hospital’s paediatric AIDS unit, where she hugged a little boy suffering with AIDS? At a time where people believed the disease could be spread by casual contact like this, the act was one of many examples of her influence, kindness and care, and was something that went a long way in dispelling many of the myths around HIV and AIDS.
At the time Dr Margaret Heagarty, paediatric director at Harlem Hospital, told Diana, ‘’Your presence here and in Great Britain has shown that folks with this disease can be hugged, can be cared for.’’
Indeed, Diana was someone who above all cared for others. During her marriage, she was president or patron of over 100 charities, including Centrepoint, English National Ballet, Leprosy Mission and National Aids Trust.
Though her relationship to Prince Charles was famously tumultuous and unhappy, and she struggled for many years with an eating disorder, she still struck a powerful figure, standing out as a woman who was happy to speak her mind and do things her way, often in the face of strong opposition from the rest of the Royal family.
Her relationship with sons William and Harry brought her the most happiness, and she redefined what it meant to be a Royal mother. Eschewing nannies and taking the children to school herself, she also attended events like sports days, navigating motherhood as ‘normally’ as she possibly could.
“She would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible,” says Prince Harry. “And being as short as I was then, there was no escape, you were there and you were there for as long as she wanted to hold you… All I can hear is her laugh in my head and that sort of crazy laugh, where there was just pure happiness on her face.”
Her on-the-go style while dropping the kids at school or going to the gym also helped turn her into a style icon. We can all picture the image of Diana in her grey roll neck Harvard jumper paired with black cycling shorts and ‘dad’ trainers. Or her navy jumper with Fly Atlantic written across the chest and teamed with orange shorts.
She often used her style to make a statement. Her red knitted jumper with white sheep — and one prominent black sheep — was surely a message about how she felt within the family. As well as her casual style, she knew how to wear a formal dress to great effect, too. Her ‘revenge’ dress comes to mind; a gorgeous off-the-shoulder Christina Stambolian number that she wore to a Vanity Fair gala, the same day Prince Charles told
the world in a TV interview he’d been unfaithful to her with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Initially planning on wearing a Valentino dress, she made the lastminute switch as a show of strength, power and courage.
It’s for these characteristics that we won’t forget Diana. She was flawed, yes, but she was beloved for many qualities. She will be remembered for her strength, kindness and ability to love against all odds.