Remembering Princess Diana: The People’s Princess

Princess Diana was an extraordinary woman. She not only captured the adoring eyes of the world with her beauty and royal stature, but she also became internationally admired for her compassion and charity for others. Although she certainly had a fascinating life, it was far from easy.

Meeting Charles

Princess Diana was born into British nobility as Diana Spencer. In her younger years, she worked in a pre-school, and as a children’s nanny, before meeting Prince Charles in 1977. Charles was apparently dating Diana’s sister Sarah at the time. The two began dating after Diana went to watch Charles play polo.

Prince Charles and Diana became engaged several years later in 1981. The engagement ring Charles gave Diana was considered large for a royal but it spawned copies all over the world. Diana’s son Prince William gave his now-wife Princess Kate his mother’s ring when they became engaged in 2010.

Becoming Royalty

Princess Diana and Prince Charles had a massive wedding that was at the center of much media speculation. People around the world watched the wedding unfold on television which was the first time a wedding called so much attention and interest. Diana wore a stunning dress that was probably most memorable for its massive 25-foot train.

At the time, the press went wild when Diana decided to forgo the line, in the couple’s otherwise traditional wedding vows, that said she would obey him. She was clearly taking a stand, as the bold woman that she was, as well as foreshadowing for the future of the relationship.

Injured While Pregnant

In 1981, the royal couple announced their first pregnancy – which of course turned out to be Prince William. While pregnant with William, Diana threw herself down the stairs. At the time, it was said that she slipped. However, years later in the book Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton, which was taken from Diana’s own taped accounts, it was revealed that Diana purposely threw herself down the stairs.

Apparently, she and Charles were arguing because the Prince often left to go hunting and fishing. She apparently flung herself down the stairs in order to get the attention of her husband. The Queen was also there when this took place. Luckily, the baby, Prince William, turned out to be fine.

Rumors About Second Pregnancy

A few years later Diana became pregnant again, and the royal couple had their second son Prince Harry in 1984. Diana said that her marriage with Prince Charles was at its best during her pregnancy with Harry. In later years, rumors also abounded that Prince Harry was actually the child of James Hewitt, a British Army Officer. Diana and James had apparently had an affair for nearly five years.

Rumors were rife especially because of the common red hair shared by Harry and James, however, according to those who surrounded Diana at the time, the affair did not begin until after Harry was born. Of course, Diana was not the only source of infidelity in the marriage.

Rocky Moments In Marriage

Diana rejected the traditional style of raising children in a royal family and decided to be much more hands-on with her two boys. She would even take them to school herself as often as she could. Although Diana remained extremely devoted to her two boys, her marriage was already falling apart. Shortly after their marriage, both Diana and Charles were engaged in affairs.

Diana had an affair with the aforementioned James Hewitt and Charles with his now-wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. In an interview with Martin Bashir, Diana famously said of the arrangement, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” The Princess also thought that Charles was engaged in another affair with the children’s nanny named Tiggy. Diana was apparently suicidal over the deteriorating marriage, which was recorded in the book by Andrew Morton. In 1992 the couple announced their official separation and by 1996 the divorce was finalized.

Troubled From The Start?

Even as early as their honeymoon, the marriage between Diana and Prince Charles seemed doomed to fail. The letters that Diana wrote to her personal secretary, Jane Parsons, during her honeymoon wasn’t of her gushing about being married and in love. In fact, she seemed rather bored already. “The honeymoon was a perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep,” she penned. Other letters that have surfaced, written by Diana to Parsons, include admitting that while traveling the world as part of the Royal Family, she just wanted to be home. “It’s marvelous to be home again and hopefully we won’t have to do any more traveling this year. Wishful thinking!”

Diana’s Demons

During the end of the relationship, Diana suffered from numerous personal demons that were only exacerbated by the stress of the relationship. At one point Diana even claimed that the nanny Tiggy was pregnant with Prince Charles’ child which she then aborted. Tiggy refuted this claim. Over the years many writers that spoke of Diana’s life discussed her various mental health issues.

Some of her biographers have asserted that she suffered from a borderline personality disorder which may have accounted for the many other issues she experienced. In 1995, Diana herself discussed her issues in a BBC Panorama interview. Diana discussed her struggle with depression, a lifelong battle with bulimia and also apparently had taken to various forms of self-harm. In an interview with Martin Bashir, Diana confirmed that she had caused injury to both her arms and legs.

Her Charity Work

Princess Diana’s legacy is particularly memorable for her charity work. While she supported a number of charities, she is possibly most remembered for her work with those suffering from AIDS. Some other notable charities she worked with include The Leprosy Mission, the National AIDS Trust, and the British Red Cross Anti-Personnel Land Mines Campaign.

She also teamed up with Nelson Mandela and his Children’s Fund in order to help those with AIDS. Mandela said about Diana, “When she stroked the limbs of someone with leprosy or sat on the bed of a man with HIV/AIDS and held his hand, she transformed public attitudes and improved the life chances of such people.”

Pop Culture Moments

Princess Diana became a pop culture favorite and was written about countless times in mainstream media and in tabloids. She also became a fixture in the celebrity circuit, becoming a celebrity in her own right. She became friends with many celebrities including the legendary piano man Elton John, who subsequently penned a song in her honor after her death.

She even famously shared a dance with actor John Travolta, who later declared the moment to be a highlight of his life. Diana was attending a gala at the White House. Unbeknownst to many she also shared a dance with actor Tom Selleck during the same night, but all of the notoriety was placed on Saturday Night Fever star Travolta.

Diana’s Loves

After Charles, Diana was engaged in a number of love affairs. One notable love was the heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. Diana’s friends thought he was the actual love of her life. The two were apparently in a secret relationship for over two years, until 1997.

Soon after, Diana began a relationship with Dodi Fayed, son of Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed who is the owner of Harrod’s Department Store and the Hotel Ritz in Paris. When Dodi and Diana began seeing one another, he was still engaged to another woman, a model named Kelly Fisher. After it was revealed that Diana and Dodi were in a relationship, Kelly filed a breach of contract suit. She stated that Dodi, “led her emotionally all the way up to the altar and abandoned her when they were almost there. He threw her love away in a callous way with no regard for her whatsoever.” She later dropped the law suit.

Paparazzi

It was Princess Diana’s relationship with the paparazzi that first brought the photographers into massive public scrutiny. And many blamed them for her death. Years after her death a public inquest was held and Diana’s driver and the paparazzi were found to be responsible for the death of Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed.

In France, charges of manslaughter were filed against nine photographers who had been chasing the vehicle that fateful night. While none of them were found guilty, a decade later three photographers were convicted of invasion of privacy. To this day, the paparazzi are highly criticized in their perusal of celebrities. Although out of all the countries in the world, France has adopted what is considered relatively tough laws against paparazzi.

Tragedy In Paris

On 31 August 1997, Princess Diana was involved in a horrible car accident that took place in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. Princess Diana was in a black Mercedes Benz with her lover Dodi Fayed, the driver Henri Paul, and her bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.

The vehicle was traveling at nearly 65 mph when the crash occurred, and the driver apparently lost control of the vehicle and violently slammed into a concrete pillar. Dodi and Henri were pronounced dead at the scene. Trevor is the only one who survived the accident. None of those inside the vehicle had been wearing seat belts, which proved to be a horrible mistake.

The Scene Of The Accident

Diana was alive initially and was said to have uttered the words, “Oh my God, what happened?” At the time, there was a media whirlwind concerning the paparazzi, which were apparently chasing Diana at the time of the crash. They were also among the first on the scene of the crash.

Allegedly, some of the photographers rushed to help the victims, while others remained in their profession and took photographs. There was later a French judicial investigation which found the accident’s blame lay on the driver Henri, he was said to have been driving too fast and also was under the influence of alcohol at the time.

Attempts To Save Her

Diana was still initially alive at the scene of the accident. Paparazzi were the first on the scene, and those who first saw her stated that she was bleeding from the nose and ears. One photographer even alleged that he tried to remove her from the vehicle but her feet were stuck.

He claims that he said to her that help was coming soon and to stay awake and she only blinked in response. Dr. Mailliez was the first physician to see Diana, and he happened to be driving by the scene of the accident. He did not know she was Princess Diana at the time.

A Tragic End

Dr. Mailliez administered aid until authorities and the ambulance arrived on the scene. He said Diana had no outwardly major injuries, but supplied her with oxygen as she was apparently in shock. Shortly after the police arrived the seven paparazzi were arrested. As soon as Diana was removed from the vehicle at 1 AM, she went into cardiac arrest.

She was given CPR and her heart started beating again. She was taken to the hospital and apparently again went into cardiac arrest. Doctors went through desperate attempts to save her, including massaging her heart, but her injuries were too severe. Princess Diana passed away at 4 AM that morning.

The Royal Funeral

The entire world expressed massive outpourings of grief over the death of Princess Diana. Her funeral was held at Westminster Abbey and three million people in London alone gathered. The funeral was also televised and reportedly two and a half billion people watched the coverage, in over 200 different countries.

Diana’s friend and music legend re-wrote a version of his song Candle in the Wind and performed it at her funeral service. Diana was buried holding a rosary that had been a gift from Mother Teresa. Shockingly, Mother Teresa herself passed away only one day before the Princess’ funeral was held.

The World’s Reaction

Some have said that the reaction, particularly in London, was in response to Diana representing a different kind of royal family than had been seen in the past. Many criticized the royal family for adhering to a strict presentation instead of showing emotion and grief over Diana’s death. Especially because of her two sons, who were still quite young when she passed away.

Over one million bouquets were left at Diana’s home, and ultimately, they had to ask people to stop bringing them as the flowers were already five feet deep. Multiple celebrities and other notable people attended her funeral. Including the United States First Lady at the time, Hillary Clinton, Bernadette Chirac, the wife of the French President, Elton John, and the recently departed George Michael.

Hasnat Khan Speaks Out

After Diana’s death, Hasnat was questioned by police. He said he had tried to call her on the day she passed away, but wasn’t able to get ahold of her. While both had moved on to new romantic interests, it appeared that Hasnat still remained the love of her life. According to Yahoo Style, Diana’s butler said, “Does the world realize her romance with Dodi was only 30 days from beginning to end. Not two years, as was the one with Hasnat. Hasnat Khan was the love of her life.”

When asked about their relationship Hasnat said, “It is impossible to tell whether we would have got together again, but depending on what would have happened between her and Dodi, it could have been a possibility in the long run.”

Diana’s Last Words

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Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Time was running short after the accident and french doctors and firefighters rushed to help Diana. French doctor Frederic Mailliez told the Times of London that she was in a great amount of pain just before she slipped into unconsciousness.

Firefighter Xavier Gourmelon was one of the first responders who helped free Diana from the car wreck. He wasn’t allowed to speak to media about the scene, but later revealed what happened to The Sun. Just before the Princess went into cardiac arrest, Gourmelon recalled her saying, “My God, what’s happened?” He then performed CPR and stabilized her before she was put in an ambulance. Gourmelon thought there was a good chance she’d survive the accident but instead, tragedy struck.

Diana’s Sons Today

Princess Diana’s two sons, William and Harry, are now grown men. William, the heir to the throne, went on to marry Princess Kate Middleton in a world-renowned wedding, challenged only by that of his mother and father. They have had two children, a boy named Prince George and a daughter Princess Charlotte.

Before marrying, William served in the Royal Air Force and worked flying helicopters primarily for search and rescue operations, and also works operating a helicopter for air ambulance operations. Diana’s younger son Harry has also gone on to military duty. He served in the British Army and even did a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Harry has recently announced publicly dating American actress Meghan Markle who stars on the show Suits. In 2017 it was announced that the couple would marry the following year.

Prince William recently made headlines when he and his wife, Princess Kate went to visit a bereavement center to visit with the families there. Child Bereavement is one of the main causes that the Prince has taken up.

During this particular visit it was notable that William reached out to comfort a young girl who had recently lost his father. He told her, “Do you know what happened to me? You know I lost my mummy when I was very young too. I was 15 and my brother was 12. So we lost our mummy when we were young as well. Do you speak about your daddy? It’s very important to talk about it, very, very important.” Prince William has only more recently started openly discussing the loss of his mother. The royal couple also helped the children to make memory jars to keep and remember their family members.

Conspiracy Surrounding Diana’s Death

Many people, including Dodi Fayed’s father, believed that there was a conspiracy to kill Diana and Dodi. He believed that the crash was purposefully caused. Mohamed Fayed said that the crash was carried out, following the directions of the Queen’s husband Prince Philip. He said the motive was because the authorities would not stand for Diana to marry a Muslim.

Mohamed also said that the two were about to be engaged and also claimed that Diana was pregnant. Mohamed even took his claims to the authorities and were ultimately heard in a French court. However, no conspiracy was found. A British police inquiry also found no evidence to support the claims.

Princess Di Remembered Today

It has almost been 20 years since Princess Diana’s untimely death at the age of 36. She is still fondly remembered today. Her two sons have grown to become honorable men, both following in her footsteps and devoting themselves to a variety of charitable causes.

If the Princess was still alive she would no doubt be extremely proud of them. Many remember Diana as a new kind of royal, one who was more hands-on and empathetic to the people. The Princess of Wales certainly left a lasting mark on her home country and the entire world and will always be known as The People’s Princess.