19 Years Since Princess Diana's Death - Still Loved, Still Missed
Princess, Mom, International Role Model
Where Were You August 31, 1997?
The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on August 31, 1997 was my generation's equivalent of the death of John F. Kennedy. There was a slew of people, all of us watching the footage of the crumpled vehicle that had once contained Diana, hearing at first that she had merely broken her arm.
Once news broke that one of the world's most beloved figures had died, it seemed unlikely, like the spin doctors at Buckingham Palace were trying to come up with a secondary story for some bizarre reason. Yet, she was gone, dying in a car crash like so many people have done.
There are few people of note in this world whose deaths hit us like a sledgehammer. For so many, the death of JFK conjured the instant question of "where were you when he died?" Diana's was the same. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing, and while my own activities at that exact moment are worthy of little comment, I remember being stunned to the core that she was somehow gone, and feeling so sad for her then-young sons, William and Harry.
Perhaps part of Diana's magic was the fact that she was so indescribably human. She was not afraid to be who she was with people, although royal etiquette certainly encouraged her to do otherwise. She fought tirelessly for the rights of others, something her boys do even today. She was obviously pained by her divorce from Prince Charles - a union that, to be honest, I never really understood, mostly because of the apparent lack of attraction between Charles and Diana.
She was relatable in so many ways, and the world loved her. She had that intangible quality that was so innately appealing, but I think what it is about Diana is that people could have seen her sitting across from them, enjoying a cup of coffee or tea and talking about life. She had two busy boys, and she had help raising them as a part of her position, but in reality, the world saw her riding rides with them, or going skiing, or doing anything that any other regular parent would have done.
Diana was also fiercely protective of them, and justifiably so. William certainly looked more like her than Charles, and as next in line to the throne after his father, the press was always hungry for photos of William and Harry, as well as Diana in her role as doting mother. She wanted to ensure the boys had a relatively normal life, too, so she ensured that the cameras stayed away from her boys once they were safely ensconced in school.
William and Harry were 15 and 12 respectively when she died; both were just shy of their birthdays, and both were grieving heavily in the public eye at the loss of their mother. One couldn't help but feel for these two boys; bad enough to have their mother die when she herself was fairly young, but to be unable to have a private memorial, free of the public's glare had to be devastating.
But this was Diana - William and Harry's mom, but the people's princess. And now, 19 years later, there are those that still grieve.
Royal, but Real and Human, too
Diana Wasn't Just Royal
Diana ensured she was royal - and relevant - right up to the time she died. She was probably the most photographed woman in the world, though that scrutiny was probably not always wanted. Whether it was while she was attending the funeral of designer Gianni Versace or attending a film festival where Sir Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) was in attendance, she transcended all areas of our popular culture.
One of her passions, though, was children. It did not seem to matter whether it was her children or children from Third World countries; Diana loved them. What was interesting was that she inspired in her boys a love for helping those less fortunate than themselves. Harry has established Sentebale, a charity designed to help vulnerable children in Lesotho have the resources they need to have healthy lives. William, on the other hand, helps the charities he's interested in through The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the offspring of the charitable organization that Princes William and Harry previously established in 2009, prior to William's marriage to Catherine Middleton.
One of the best legacies any mother can give is to see her children continue the example that she herself established, and Diana would certainly be proud of her boys. She may have been in the public eye for much of her 36 years, but she wasn't just royal; she was as real as they come, in spite of all the publicity (wanted or not) that she acquired throughout her time with us.