When Diana died in 1997, I was 18. In May I had voted for the first time and by August it was just a few weeks before leaving home and heading to university.
For her family, Prince William, 15 and Prince Harry, just 12, on 31st August, their lives changed forever. Clear from the outpouring of grief, lives were also changed for many many people who never knew her but felt they did.
Last night, like millions of others, I watched the BBC documentary about Princess Diana with footage from the news breaking to her funeral and recollections from her brother, sister, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and of course the Princes.
Many people are critical of either members of the royal family or just the very idea of it. This is of course fair enough. I will confess here to being a royalist (although if I think too deeply about being a ‘subject’ it’s a little uncomfortable) and the dedication of the Queen is incomparable.
But, last night hearing William and Harry talk about needing their ‘game faces’ to not cry in public at their own mother’s funeral was so very sad. Even worse was the way they were comforting members of the public on their walkabouts out of ‘duty’ when as William said; all he wanted to do was hide in a room and cry. In the end he had to make do with his fringe as some sort of public shield of his private grief.
It was still shocking to see and hear the level of press intrusion Princess Diana received. Yes, she courted it for publicity; most of it charitable but getting in a car; walking through an airport, enjoying time with your children she was surrounded by mostly hostile men who as William commented shouted at her, and even spat in her face. Why? To get a reaction. A reaction meant a good picture. A good picture meant a hefty pay cheque.
I have been driven through that fateful tunnel in Paris, and you can’t help but see how the accident, which we must remember killed three people and seriously injured another, was so very possible if driving at speed. To hear Prince Harry say he knows the chasing paparazzi took pictures of her as she lay dying and that she probably would have known they were doing so was the most upsetting part of the program. Proof, if any was needed, that Diana was as her brother Earl Spencer stated at her funeral – hunted.
Princess Diana was truly an icon. It’s hard to believe it has been twenty years and I am now older than Diana was when she died. This gives a new perspective to the absolute waste of life it truly was and the life events where she will be missed.
Elizabeth Hill-Scott - Editor
Read more about Princess Diana