The 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death is more than a disturbing picture, it's a stark reminder how her life still influences us today. The public's obsession over Diana started with her fairy tale wedding in 1981 and never ended when she left Buckingham Palace in London. “Americans were at her wedding fascinated by the fairy tale aspect of her romance with Charles,” Arianne Chernock, a historian on the monarchy and associate professor of history at Boston University, explained to Newsweek. “And then, of course, the tragedy of that fairy tale, and her in some ways very American commitment to being candid and questioning traditions and undercutting traditions, probably also appeal to American audiences.” Diana had a lovely spirit and had a way to communicate with those suffering. It's no wonder why she reigns as the princess of our hearts today.
She exposed her kids to a non-royal life.When Diana took her sons Princes William and Harry to a McDonalds in London, we were stunned because royals shouldn't eat at fast food restaurants or be involved with the public. This never stopped her. She also took her sons to homeless shelters, taught her kids to wait in line and allowed them to wear baseball caps. "She very much wanted to get us to see the rawness of real life," William told ABC News in 2012. "And I can't thank her enough for that, cause reality bites in a big way, and it was one of the biggest lessons I learned is, just how lucky and privileged so many of us are — particularly myself." Diana also sent her kids to public school and this was another first for a royal.
She loved people.She was called "The People's Princess" for a reason. She was the first royal who truly related with people and engaged in countless public relations and charity actions. In turn, she was praised for her compassion and sacrifice. "I don't go by a rule book because I lead from the heart, not the head, and albeit that's got me into trouble in my work, I understand that," she said in 1995. "But someone's got to go out there and love people and show it." She was phenomenal with people, and when they saw her they connected with her genuine kindness. When pictures were released of her holding hands with an HIV/AIDS patient, this shattered the fears surrounding HIV/AIDS in the early days. "HIV does not make people dangerous to know," she said, "So you can shake their hands and give them a hug: Heaven knows they need it."
She enjoyed serving others.Diana dedicated herself to 100-plus charities and was touted for her humanitarian work. She visited hospices, attended charities and fundraising galas. Visits included traveling overseas to Bosnia, India, Egypt and Pakistan as well. She had a heart for those who were dying and those who lost loved ones. Diana would spend hours with the sick. "I make the trips at least 3 times a week and spent up to 4 hours at a time with patients holding their hands and talking to them. Some of them will live and some will die, but they all need to be loved while they are here. I try to be there for them," she said regarding her trips to London hospitals.
She talked about her troubled personal life.Diana remained troubled about her failing marriage to Charles and revealed it in the book, Diana: Her True Story. She explained her husband was cheating on her for years with Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana said she was devastated and went to the Queen for advice regarding the affair. “I went to the top lady, and I was sobbing, and I said what do I do?" Princess Diana said. "And she [the Queen] said, 'I don't know what you should do, Charles is hopeless', and that was it." The Queen eventually sent the couple a letter urging them to divorce.
She spoke about mental health.Another no-no of being a royal was to air personal feelings or reveal problems to the public. Again, Diana broke protocol when she talked about mental health. Diana shared in an interview about her struggles with bulimia and her mental health. She described it as a secret disease. "You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable. It's a repetitive pattern which is very destructive to yourself." She laid the foundation for her sons and daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton, to combat the stigma encompassing mental health by speaking to the public about it. Prince William said many families could have been helped if they had found it easier to talk openly about mental health challenges in the home. "I have been really disheartened to learn that even with all the progress made in recent years, many parents would still be ashamed if their children had a mental health problem."
She reinvented herself.Diana gave up working as a nursery school teacher after she married Charles and admitted she did lose herself in the marriage overall. But after her divorce, the solemn and once shy person found peace and recaptured her sparkle. She vacationed, dated, danced with John Travolta at the White House and continued to captivate the public with her charms.
Diana was not the run-of-the-mill royal princess who would cut ribbons and make occasional appearances at charity events. She got on the level with people, broke royal protocol and empathized with those in pain. Today, her life continues to touch people through her sons who carry out her legacy. Diana Frances Spencer will continue to reign in our hearts because of her poise, courage and the ability to go against the grain.