It has been 20 years since Princess Diana showed the world her smile
She was known as The People’s Princess. She had hoped to be the Queen of people’s hearts.
When Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, England and the rest of the world it seemed, gained a new princess.
The shy 21-year-old bride captured the hearts of everyone when her wedding was televised to the nation. It was her iconic wedding dress and signature short haircut that made Diana a fashion icon. Her powerful effect on the industry would continue for years, with designers fawning over the opportunity to dress the princess.
Diana used her position in the royal family to champion numerous causes throughout her life, many of which have been assumed by her sons. Perhaps her most known cause was her work with HIV/AIDS, where Diana was photographed hugging children and patients stricken with the disease. She was the first British royal figure to have physical contact with AIDS patients. Diana’s work with children was at the forefront of her missions and during her time as a royal, she was patron to more than 100 charities.
What seemed like a fairytale romance on the outside was anything but on the inside. Although their marriage had been over for years, Charles and Diana officially divorced in 1996, leaving the princess only one year to legally enjoy her life outside the royal family. On Aug. 31, 1997, the princess, who was now styled as Diana, Princess of Wales, was fatally injured in a car crash in Paris’ Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Diana’s sudden and tragic death at the age of 36 broke the hearts of millions around the world. A true light and lover of life, Diana’s flame was extinguished forever.
Not a single person could forget the image of thousands of bouquets and candles that overtook the gates of Kensington Palace, or the painfully solemn walk behind her coffin during the funeral procession made by Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh; Prince Charles, 15-year-old William, now the Duke of Cambridge, 12-year-old Prince Harry and Diana’s brother, Charles, Earl Spencer.
Now 20 years after her death, Diana remains a constant presence in British culture as the image of her blue eyes and trademark glance towards the sky resonate with so many people. William and Harry have organized several tributes to their mother this year, including a special sunken garden at Kensington Palace and a fashion exhibit that chronicles Diana’s life and includes some of her most iconic dresses. In July, on what would have been Diana’s 56th birthday, the princes joined family members at a rededication service at their mother’s grave at Althorp House on the Spencer estate in Northamptonshire. Among the dozens of television specials dedicated to the late princess, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy was a true tale of heartbreak, told from the point of view of William and Harry. The documentary film was broadcast in the United Kingdom by ITV on July 24. Diana, 7 Days, which airs four days before the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, includes tributes from many people who have rarely opened up since the princess’ death, including her brother Charles, and sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale.
Permanent memorials to the late princess include the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, London, opened by Queen Elizabeth II; The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk, a circular path between Kensington Gardens, Green Park, Hyde Park, and St. James’ Park, London and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens, London; the Flame of Liberty, which was erected in 1989 on the Place de l’Alma in Paris above the entrance to the tunnel has also become an unofficial memorial to Diana. Figurines, stamps, coins and even a flower, the Rosa ‘Diana, Princess of Wales’ flower were all in tribute to the late princess.
In her short 36 years of life, Diana’s mark on the world will forever be remembered. Her legacy and belief in all things good and pure is something that we will forever be indebted to her for. Rest in peace, Lady Di.
—Duchess Jennifer Fauci