“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.” –Princess Diana
Today, July 1, 2021, a statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, commissioned by the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex, will be installed on what would have been her 60th birthday. One of many memorials crafted in tribute to Princess Diana, the sculpture, created by artist Ian Rank-Broadley, will be placed in the garden of the London palace. Prince William and Prince Harry hope “the permanent sculpture will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to ‘reflect on her life and her legacy.'”
In 1995, Princess Diana stated in a TV interview with Martin Bashir (BBC) that she wanted to be a queen of people’s hearts. Twenty-four years after her death, “The People’s Princess,” [an endearment first issued by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair] has left a legacy that continues to resonate with people today. One of the most influential figures of 20th century, Diana is remembered for ability to connect with all people, valuing “authenticity over protocol, and humanity over prestige.”
Initially home-schooled, Diana began her formal education at Silfield Private School in Gayton, Norfolk, before enrolling in preparatory school at Riddlesworth Hall in Diss, Norfolk. She then joined her sisters at West Heath Girls School, in Sevenoaks, Kent. She also attended finishing school at the Institut Alpin Videmanette in Rougemont, Switzerland, which she left after just a few months in 1978. Returning to London that same year, Diana lived with her mother and began a number of part-jobs including nannying for an American couple and working as a kindergarten assistant at the Young England school in Pimlico. When she turned 18, Diana’s mother bought her a flat where she lived with friends until she began her life as Princess of Wales.
After her wedding, Princess Diana quickly became involved in many official duties: “Although the Princess was renowned for her style and was closely associated with the fashion world, patronising and raising the profile of younger British designers, she was best known for her charitable work. The Princess was president or patron of over 100 charities and did much to publicise work on behalf of homeless and also disabled people, children and people with HIV/AIDS.” Throughout her turbulent marriage to Prince Charles, Diana devoted her time to raising her children and supporting causes close to her heart. Even after her separation from Prince Charles in 1992, and subsequent divorce in 1996, Diana remained devoted to her charities and philanthropic efforts.
“Princess Diana’s humanitarian effort went far beyond what was expected of her as a royal…[She] breathed new life life into the monarchy’s involvement with charitable organizations. For Diana, the photos and stories that resulted from each humanitarian or charitable campaign she participated in represented a way of leveraging her own fame for the benefit of the causes she cared strongly about.”
Diana’s last official engagement was on July 21, when she visited the children’s accident and emergency unit at Northwick Park Hospital in London. Princess Diana passed away on August 31, 1997, from injuries she sustained during a car accident in the Place de l’Alma underpass in central Paris. The crash also resulted in the deaths of the driver, Henri Paul, and Diana’s companion Dodi Fayed. Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash. “The Princess’s body was subsequently repatriated to the United Kingdom and her funeral was held on September 6, 1997 in Westminster Abbey. Diana is buried in sanctified ground on an island in the center of an ornamental lake at her family’s estate at Althorp.”
At Diana’s funeral, her brother Charles described the connection she shared with so many individuals:
“Diana explained to me once that it was her innermost feelings of suffering that made it possible for her to connect with her constituency…And here we come to another truth about her. For all the status, the glamour, the applause, Diana remained throughout a very insecure person at heart, almost childlike in her desire to do good for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of unworthiness…The world sensed this part of her character and cherished her for her vulnerability whilst admiring her for her honesty.”
For additional information on Diana, Princess of Wales, explore the resources below:
- Diana: Her True Story (Morton, 1992)
- The Diana Chronicles (Brown, 2017)
- Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity, and Contemporary Media Culture (Shome, 2014)
- Diana, a Cultural History: Gender, Race, Nation, and the People’s Princess (Davies, 2001)
- The Life and Death of Diana, Princess of Wales (Academic Video Online)
- Diana: Seven Days That Shook the World (Academic Video Online)
- Where Were You. Death of the People’s Princess (Academic Video Online)
- Diana, 7 Days (Academic Video Online)
- Diana’s Mourning: A People’s History (Thomas, 2002)
- Mourning Diana: Nation, Culture, and the Performance of Grief (ProQuest, 1999)
- Diana, Princess of Wales (The Royal Household)
- Diana, Princess of Wales (National Portrait Galley)
- How Princess Diana’s Humanitarian Causes Have Fared, 20 Years On (TIME)
- Princess Diana (5-part podcast series) You’re Wrong About
50MINUTES.COM. (2018). Princess Diana: The tragic fate of the nation’s sweetheart. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com.
BBC. (2020, August 28). Princess Diana statue to be installed to mark her 60th birthday. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53947508.
Goodey, E. (2020, March 31). Diana, Princess of Wales. The Royal Family. https://www.royal.uk/diana-princess-wales.
Hallemann, C. (2018, June 6). Looking Back at Princess Diana’s Brother’s Controversial Eulogy. Town & Country. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a10350548/princess-diana-brother-eulogy/.
Hare, B. (2020, August 31). How Diana became known as ‘the people’s princess’. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/31/world/princess-diana-death-the-windsors-series/index.html.