By George Cook
It has been 20 years since the death of Princess Diana. Many argue it was an event which changed this country’s identity and the way we express ourselves with displays of unthinkable grief. It was, rather surprisingly given their prominence now, almost the end of the Monarchy as we know it today. But it was so much more than that. This was the tragic death of arguably the most recognisable person on the planet. A person, who throughout her short life, was unselfish in her pursuit to help others.
Unfortunately, I am too young to have had the pleasure of experiencing her life while it was still personified and at its brightest. Like many others, I have experienced Diana only through history books, documentaries and YouTube videos. It gives me a sense of sadness that she has been confined to the history books at a point that was far too premature. Her two boys, Princes William and Harry, have endured a childhood without their mother and not only that, but it has been under the intrusion of the very same press who played a part in Princess Diana’s death.
Through the endless charitable work, Princess Diana became an icon for many social movements. Most notably, her efforts for victims of HIV not only gave them great comfort in a time of need, but they altered people’s attitudes towards those with the infection. Let’s not forget, that at a time when adverts were being shown on TV about the dangers of interacting with someone who has HIV, Princess Diana held hands with a victim without wearing gloves. It has long been commonplace for Royalty to wear gloves when on public duty, but for her to break the mould was a turning point in social attitudes. Speaking candidly about the struggles for those with HIV earned Diana numerous admirers, eventually contributing to the status which she still retains today.
Despite her determined efforts to help those most in need, Diana had problems of her own. After admitting to suffering from depression and rampant bulimia, she suggested she had hurt her arms and legs. It is melancholic that someone who bought so much happiness to the lives of others faced so many difficulties of her own. Perhaps this was her biggest strength, whilst at the same time her biggest weakness. I feel that her campaign work was her way of erecting a barrier to hide what she was experiencing knowing the media storm that would subsequently unravel. This was the beginning in the transformation of attitudes towards mental health. However, it has been a process that has endured for too long and for me, there is little doubt that society would have been more sympathetic and adept at dealing with mental health issues many years ago if Diana’s life did not end so tragically. The powerful voice for which she possessed provided an unrivalled contribution.
Princess Diana’s memory has been and will continue to be honoured in many ways. Through the upcoming statue of her at Kensington Palace or Prince William and Harry’s charity work, her legacy will be remembered and it is one that desperately needs to be. Diana’s kindness, compassion and humanity serves as a reminder that those radiant qualities cannot always overcome the darkness of sadness, despair and sorrow.
Sadly, one day a time will come when the memory of Princess Diana’s life will become too distant to seem as relevant as it is today. Whilst she is still prominent in people’s hearts and minds, in a few decades those feelings will fade as those who are too old to remember her loving life and the tragedy of her death, will too pass on.
Diana, forever the People’s Princess.