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Diana was an ideal princess and there is no doubt about that. It is not only that she had a youth very similar to a fairy tale, but also that she managed to demonstrate the value of the monarchy in politics and fulfilled everything that politically any person in a position of power should fulfill.
This July 1, Diana would have been 60 years old. However, on August 31, 1997, she died as a result of a car accident inside the Alma Bridge, on the north bank of the Seine River, in Paris, France.
Many people have wanted to show a weak and victimized Lady Di. The reality is that she was a demonstration of what it is to be a brave, strong, courageous, intelligent and determined woman. She did not allow anyone to tell her what to do, on the contrary, she literally made the world follow her agenda.
For example, she imposed many daily guidelines on the media and this was demonstrated at the time of her divorce. She also became such a relevant voice that when she spoke, everyone had to listen to her.
Princess Diana in politics
History proves her political influence. It was Lady Di who decided what cover she gave the media in 1997 when she walked in fields full of landmines or when she wore that black dress in New York to show that despite what she was going through, with her separation from Prince Charles, she was standing tall.
Precisely for her decision to walk in fields full of landmines, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, with Diana as one of the people who gave the initiative worldwide relevance, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Beyond the media significance these actions may have had, they undoubtedly also generated reactions in the political world. Even after her divorce, she still had an impact on the world of politics. It is clear that Lady Diana Spencer became a princess who transcended in society. It is no exaggeration to say that she brought stability and modernity back to the monarchy. She demonstrated that this institution is more than a tradition and that it has a fundamental role in the lives of citizens.
Her gestures, which were genuine, are what many politicians now do just to fulfill an electoral campaign. She did it because she was born to do it, because that’s what she was raised to do: to be a princess. In that sense, in April 1987, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Diana inaugurated the first HIV/AIDS unit in the United Kingdom at the London Middlesex Hospital, a space that would exclusively treat patients infected with the virus.
The photographs of that event demonstrate her social vocation. In one of them, she is holding and hugging a man with HIV. This at a time when many believed the disease was transmitted just by touching an infected person.
“She was the first high-profile person who was prepared to shake hands and touch people with HIV, which at the time was considered a risk,” said Ian Green, chief executive of the HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, in a 1997 interview reviewed by Vanity Fair.
In the late 1980s, the Princess of Wales became popular for her support of humanitarian causes. She helped poor children in Africa, appeared alongside personalities such as Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa of Calcutta and chaired numerous charitable foundations.
Diana was clear about her legacy. She knew that her role was to be an important voice to help citizens. She acknowledged in an interview with Martin Bashir in 1995: “Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny.”
Her influence on society was such that any woman wanted to wear her haircut or dress like her. They felt represented in a woman who demonstrated, with every appearance, her intelligence and cunning. Her reference in fashion was a demonstration that she was the people’s princess. With that virtue she gave the monarchy, as an institution, the value it deserves for society.
Although it is possible to think that she lived an easy life for being part first of the aristocratic class of the United Kingdom and later of the royal family, the certain thing is that throughout her life she had to overcome a series of difficulties. When she was very young her mother died, which made her childhood complicated. She also married very young in a dream marriage, but that ended in scandal.
In 1995, Diana gave one of the most famous and controversial interviews in the world to the BBC. She admitted to have suffered from bulimia and constant harassment by photographers, paparazzi and journalists. She also referred to the little support she received from the royal family.
The perfect princess?
In that interview, she once again proved that she was a princess who understood her job and her legacy. When asked about the possibility of becoming Queen of England, she confessed that it was not an idea she had, as she wanted rather to be the “queen of people’s hearts”.
Two years after that interview, Diana died in that terrible accident in Paris. Even after her death, she continued to prove her importance in the world. Not surprisingly, despite members of the royal family refusing to allow her to receive a state funeral, citizens pushed for what they called “a unique burial for a unique person”.
The body was flown on Sunday, August 31, 1997, to London from the French capital. Simultaneously, thousands of citizens had laid bouquets of flowers and letters of condolence on the railings of Buckingham Palace. Upon arrival, it was transferred to the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace, the official residence of the Prince of Wales, where four books were set up to allow all visitors to convey their condolences.
After the funeral, the coffin was taken by road to St. Mary’s Chapel in Great Brington, two kilometers from Althorp House, the mansion where Diana grew up. The body was buried like those of the other deceased members of the Spencer family, in a strictly family ceremony.
It was reported that the mortal remains of the princess would be placed on an artificial island located in the gardens of the property, consisting of 14,000 hectares. A memorial was erected in the form of a temple with two inscribed marble headstones and an image of Diana.
After 23 years, Diana’s imprint is still alive. Her life is a demonstration that she was born with the capacity to be, as defined by Aristotle, a political animal. With only 36 years she made it clear that she was an ideal princess as Niccolo Machiavelli describes the perfect princess.
In fact, this Thursday, in Kensington Gardens, a statue was unveiled in her honor. The image was unveiled by her sons, Princes William and Harry. The long-awaited sculpture, commissioned and funded by the princes, will now preside over the Sunken Garden. This was one of Lady Di’s favorite spots when she lived at Kensington Palace, in the confines of Hyde Park.
The bronze statue, which represents 1.25 times life-size, shows Diana surrounded by two children to symbolize the universality and generational impact of her work.
It is evident that Diana Frances Spencer was an empowered woman who, without victimizing herself, knew how to read the times. Moreover, she was loved by her subjects, merciful and had the virtues of an ideal princess.